US-based Pakistani author, Soniah Kamal, will soon be publishing her new book, Unmarriagable, which is (as you might have guessed from the heading) Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice retold in modern-day Pakistan.
The book is due to be released in January 2019, but it was in the pipeline for Kamal long before this time – she’s wanted to write a Pakistani version of the novel since she was 16 as she loves, “this story of five sisters, their ineffectual father and desperate mother who just wants her daughters to ‘settle down’ (so Pakistani)”, and because she “really longed to read fiction that reflected my world and so without realizing it, I was following Toni Morrison’s advice to write what you want to read.”
The story centres around the Binat family. Lizzy is recast as Alys, while Mr Darcy becomes Valentine Darsee. Kamal has kept much of the original Pride and Prejudice storyline, which many die-hard Austen fans will be pleased to hear.
The challenge of doing a retelling (versus an ‘inspired by’) in order to satisfy Jane Austen fans is that you have to hit all the beats in the plot as well as stay true to the essence of each of the characters. But then for readers who are not coming for Austen, you have to write a story that stands on its own legs. Setting it in Pakistan meant writing for those familiar with the culture and those new to it. Writing Unmarriageable was a real juggling act.