Unmarriageable: A Novel

UK edition Allison and Busby

Dear Reader

Most women, and men, around the world have been told that marriage is a huge part of life, if not the purpose of life. Can this possibly be true? If it is true, then how do we go about finding ‘marriageable material’? Should we be looking for friendship? Money? Family compatibility? Are all these criteria equally important? Or should love alone be the determining factor? And if so where does this leave arranged marriage?

Can there be any tale more emblematic of Pakistani morals and manners than Pride and Prejudice?  Thankfully, unlike in Regency England two hundred years ago, women in contemporary Pakistan no longer depend on marriage for financial survival and so I appreciated the challenge of a faithful retelling. I relished Islamizing Austen’s names and adapting characters and situations while keeping true to the original. I hope my novel makes you laugh as you meet Mrs. Pinkie Binat whose purpose in life is to be a good mother meaning she must marry off her daughters to Princes, and ‘third culture kids’ Alys Binat and Valentine Darcee as they tussle over books and looks, and Sherry Looclus who has to choose between her best friend, Alys, or marrying Mr. Kaleen, a man Alys does not like.

If you’ve ever felt unmarriageable or wondered why you should get married just for the sake of ‘getting married’, then this story is for you. Come explore love, friendship, frenemies, betrayal and loyalty within marriage and other relationships with the five Binat sisters and their parents, Pinkie and Bark Binat.

I had so much fun writing this novel! I hope you close Unmarriageable with a huge smile and a hot cup of chai.

Thank you

Soniah Kamal.

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Endearing… Kamal’s story seems to have all the ingredients that make Pride and Prejudice’s re-telling an exciting, dramatic and fun South Asian adaptation complete with big, fat desi weddings, modern Pakistani women, affluent bachelors and the unrelenting quest for love.

Kirkus Reviews

A charming update to the orginal…Kamal’s version of the classic novel highlights issues of colonialism, race, and Pakistani identity. Her insights are pointed and smart. Put your feet up and enjoy. It’s a delicious book.

Jasmine Guillory, USA Today bestselling author of The Wedding Date

Unmarriageable is a joy to read! It transforms a familiar story into something new and fresh and different, but keeps all of the warmth and intelligence of the original. I loved everything about these characters and spending time in their world.

Balli Jaswal Kaur, author of Erotic Widows for Punjabi Widows a Reese Witherspoon Book Club Pick

Soniah Kamal has gifted us a refreshing update of a timeless classic. ‘Unmarriageable’ raises an eyebrow at a society which views marriage as the ultimate prize for women. This atmospheric novel does more than simply retell ‘Pride and Prejudice’ though. Crackling with dialogue, family tensions, humour and rich details of life in contemporary Pakistan, ‘Unmarriageable’ tells an entirely new story about love, luck and literature. 

Devoney Looser, 2018 Guggenheim fellow and author of The Making of Jane Austen

A brilliant fictional homage to Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, reimagined in 21st-century Pakistan, Unmarriageable offers an incisive, loving look at the society it puts under the microscope. Kamal’s splendid novel is not only light, bright, and sparkling. It’s sassy, direct, sharp, and funny. Heroine Alysba Binat is transformed into a gifted, defiant English literature teacher at a British school for girls in provincial Dilipabad. Alys and her sisters—Jena, Mari, Lady, and Quitty—navigate a shallow world of luxury and privilege that pushes them toward advantageous, empty marriages, rather than happily-ever-afters. Fortunately, some of them have read their Austen. Unmarriageable is a beautiful novel.

 Thrity Umrigar, bestselling author of The Space Between Us and The Secrets Between Us

An irreverent, witty, imaginative novel that is part homage and part interrogation of Jane Austen’s classic. Readers will be surprised by the similarities between the customs, manners and moral codes of 19th century England and those of modern-day Pakistan.  Austen herself would have enjoyed Kamal’s deft retelling of her novel, while sipping a cup of chai.

Amulya Malladi, bestselling author of The Copenhagen Affair and A House for Happy Mothers

A delicious retelling of Pride & Prejudice! Instead of “high tea” with finger sandwiches, we have “high chai” with samosas and chicken patties. Soniah Kamal opens up the drawing rooms of the South East, where women wear Gucci and Qazi but the prize is still a ring on the finger and a man’s arm to hang onto. UNMARRAIAGABLE is a joyride where you meet all the lovable Austen characters with a Pakistani twist, drawing on universal themes of love, passion and the healing nature of tea.

Vanessa Hua, author of A River of Stars

Charming and insightful, Soniah Kamal’s Unmarriageable connects the concerns of women across time and cultures in this delightful debut.”

V. V. Ganeshananthan, author of Love Marriage

An addictively smart, funny, genuinely modern novel that amplifies Austen’s feminism for our times, while brilliantly calling Eurocentrism on the carpet. Unmarriageable is a total delight! Once I had opened it, I really couldn’t put it down. I snuck it everywhere with me when I was supposed to be reading other things.

SJ Sindu, author of Marriage of A Thousand Lies  

Unmarriageable is a rollicking good ride. The opulent landscape of Pakistan’s moneyed (and unmoneyed) social elite is exactly the kind of modern update Pride and Prejudice needs. This is one of those books that are hard to put down.