Soniah Kamal’s ‘Unmarriageable’ Puts A Pakistani Twist On ‘Pride and Prejudice’

"Unmarriageable" is Soniah Kamal's second novel.
"Unmarriageable" is Soniah Kamal's second novel.
Credit Penguin Random House

In her novel, “Pride and Prejudice,” Jane Austen begins, “It is a truth universally recognized…”  Atlanta author Soniah Kamal believes in the universal truths of Jane Austen’s writings. Kamal has written a clever retelling of Austen’s “Pride and Prejudice” set in modern Pakistan. The book is called “Unmarriageable.”

Kamal wanted to write the story as a standalone novel for those who hadn’t read “Pride and Prejudice.” She also wanted to appeal to those who had a love for Austen’s work.

“One of the things that took me by surprise were readers who read ‘Unmarriageable’ for the first time and then go on to read ‘Pride and Prejudice’ or Jane Austen. Honestly, I never expected ‘Unmarriageable’ to be a gateway to Austen,” said Kamal.

Many of Kamal’s characters are juxtaposed to one of Austen’s characters. It’s a parallel retelling, so all of the Binat (Bennet) sisters show up in the novel. Elisabeth Bennet becomes Alysba Binat, Jane Bennet becomes Jena Binat, Mary Bennet becomes Mari Binat, Catherine “Kitty” Bennet becomes Kitty Binat, and Lydia Bennet becomes Lady Binat (which is a nod to Austen’s pseudonym.) Plus, Fitzwilliam Darcy becomes Valentine Darsee.

“All of the sisters have their distinct personalities, and they’re warriors in some way or another for having an independent life in which they can lead on their own terms,” said Kamal.

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