Another Review at MyShelf.Com

Soniah Kamal

Allison and Busby
18 July 2019 /US edition out 4 February 2020/ ISBN 9780749024567

Reviewed by Rachel A Hyde


Alys Binat and her family have been invited to a most impressive society wedding. Once the Binats also moved in such exalted circles, but now down on their luck, it is a once-in-a-lifetime chance for the five daughters to at last find husbands. Eldest daughter Jena falls in love and hopes her feelings are reciprocated, but Bungles’ best friend Valentine Darsee is not impressed by the embarrassing antics of loud Mrs Binat and certain of her children. But maybe Alys can reveal another side to Mr Darsee?

I’m sure the above outline sounds familiar and it is; Pride and Prejudice no less! But this time set in fairly modern Pakistan. The names have been cleverly altered to resemble the ones in the book but be Pakistani, and life there in 2000 (when the book is set) is revealed to be very similar in many ways too. I don’t know enough about the country to know why the book was not set in contemporary times but I did enjoy reading about what life was like in both rural and more urban locations twenty years ago. The story shows the immense pressure on young women to marry, and takes a look at how class-obsessed everybody is. Nothing has changed much in over two hundred years and much of it applies anywhere today as well, making it all seem very fresh and relevant. Reading about a different culture is always interesting and the author manages to create a setting that seems very real and authentic (not that I can comment on it with any authority) by weaving many details into the story and avoiding the dreaded infodump. What is lacking is any real feeling of actual romance, as Jena pines a lot for Bungles without having spent much time with him and Darsee is barely there at all, with very few rather brief meetings between him and protagonist Alys. Ageing the two girls to be 30 and 32 was a good idea, and the relationship between Sherry and the man she marries departs from the book but has its own point to make. Jane Austen herself might have been a bit keener on weeding out superfluous passages and eradicating any repetition; there are certainly some areas that would have benefited. Likewise an extension of the time spent between the various couples. But this is a minor complaint in what is otherwise a most enjoyable book, and as I don’t usually enjoy romances, this is praise indeed! Ms Kamal is clearly an author to watch out for.

Reviewed 2019