ARC Review: Unmarriagable by Soniah Kamal

Publication is set for January 15, 2019. If you liked Pride & Prejudice, you’ll want to make this a belated Christmas gift to yourself.

39926661

Alys Binat teaches English Literature at the British School Group of Dilipibad. Her students both admire her dedication and pity her singleness. Alys, on the other hand, not only doesn’t regret being single but has no plans to marry. But she does attend the most anticipated wedding of the year.

During the first of several days of festivities, her sister Jena falls head over heels for Bungles Bingla, despite the thinly veiled insults bandied about by his sisters. Alys also sees a handsome face in the crowd, but when she overhears Valentine Darsee disparaging her and her choices of reading material to Bungles, she decides he’s not quite so handsome after all.

Unfortunately, as the wedding festivities continue and Jena spends more time with the Binglas, Alys is forced to spend more time with Darsee. Everyone thinks he’s such a catch, but Alys can see beyond his wallet to his snobbish pride and has deemed him unmarriagable.

#

This is billed as Pride & Prejudice in Pakistan. It doesn’t disappoint. The general plot follows the original, but with a distinctly new flair. There is a line in the book that talks about mixing scones and samosas and that is a pretty good way to describe the story itself.

Our favorite sisters are all present; the beautiful and kind Jena, the flirtatious and boundary-pushing Lady, the reserved and pious Mari, and the artistic Qitty. Set in 2000 and 2001 Pakistan, the Binat family once again serves as a commentary on societal expectations of women and the double standards they face. But there are some new changes that I found interesting, too. For example, Qitty spends much of the novel being fat-shamed by Lady. In the original P&P, I found Kitty to be more of a prop or a throwaway character. Here Qitty holds her own and gets the proper ending that Kitty never did.

Another new aspect of the story is the mingling of different religions and cultures. Before the familial falling out that sentenced the Binats to live in Dilipibad, Alys attended international schools and mentions the influence they had on her worldview. There is a mix of Hindu and Muslim traditions, and even the celebration of a Christian holiday by a beloved aunt, as well as a scene that incorporates the closing of the border to India. And don’t get me started on the wedding events. I need this to be made into a Netflix film ASAP just so I can watch the party scenes.

There were a couple of things that brought me out of the story a little, however. There is a lot of exposition. Anything that was necessary for a non-desi like me to understand what was happening from a cultural perspective, I understood. But there were a few instances, especially early on as she covered the family backstory that info dumping slowed the story down quite a bit.

The other down for me was the head-hopping. The story is in the third person omniscient, but it still pulled me out of the tale to slide from Mrs. Binat’s thoughts to Jena’s to Alys’ to Darsee’s in the span of a few sentences.

I have seen a couple of other reviewers who said they found Alys militantly feminist and unlikeable and they thought the Binat sisters too cruel to each other. I, however, would disagree. Given the cultural contexts of each story, the characters are spot on. The original Bennet sisters were quite cutting and judgemental of each other, especially Lydia and Kitty. And I think that Elizabeth would have been thrilled to see her reincarnation in Alys.

Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed the story. The visual created by the setting gave the story new life. I stand by my opener, go ahead and make plans to give this to yourself as a belated Christmas gift. You won’t regret it.

Book Review: Courting Cate by Leslie Gould

512xvvgkfsl-_sx322_bo1204203200_

When Pete Traeger moves to Paradise Township in Lancaster County he meets the lovely Miller sisters, Cate and Betsy. Though each sister is pretty, Betsy is sought after by most of the bachelors in the county, where Cate’s fiery temper and preference for books over people keeps most of them at bay. Their father has decreed that Betsy cannot start courting until after her elder sister is married. So when Pete seems drawn to Cate’s sharp wit, the other bachelors are quick to convince him to start courting Cate. But Cate knows what the local male population thinks of her, and she becomes immediately suspicious. It’ll take more than sweet words and romantic buggy rides to win Cate Miller’s heart, but Pete might just be the man to do it.

#

I read a lot of Fantasy and Science Fiction. The kind where the main characters get into bloody battles and empirical political machinations rule the day. Some of my favorite secondary characters often end up dead or horribly injured. It can leave me with a book hangover. I’m sure you know the kind. When a book has ravaged your emotions so much in the best and worst ways that you have trouble recovering.

It is then that I love to deploy the palate cleanser. A nice story. Where bad things might happen, but nobody dies and the ending is almost guaranteed to give you the warm fuzzies. It helps balance me out.

I also love a good Shakespearean tale. So Courting Cate by Leslie Gould was right up my alley. It is an Amish Romance take on Taming of the Shrew. Even better, it is the start of a series, all based in the same Amish community, of Shakespearean retellings.

If you are not into clean reads and retellings, this will not be the book or the series for you. There are no curse words, sexually explicit scenes, or instances of bloodshed–at least not the dangerous kind.

The biggest drawback to the story, however, is a lack of representation. If you are hoping there might be POC in this Amish community or the neighboring Englisher (non-Amish) community, you’re going to be disappointed. I have found this true with the vast majority of Amish fiction, though, so I was less than surprised.

Overall the story was cute and I enjoyed the take on the old tale. It was just what I needed to wash away the emotional turmoil of the last book. It was also a quick read, one night rocking a sick child will cover it. I can verify that.