Tag Archives: Pride and Prejudice

Ranking Recent Pride and Prejudice Retellings

In my end of the year reviews for 2019, I compiled a list of all the Jane Austen retellings I read during the year. Though extensive, the list barely touched the surface of available “Pride and Prejudice Variations”–a genre that continues to grow with the increase in popularity of self-publishing and fan-fiction. In the list, I mentioned two recently popular ethnic Pride and Prejudice retellings and a third one I was eyeing that I finally finished last month.

So, time has come for a more thorough review of the three popular modern, ethnic P&P retellings published in 2019.  Added bonus that  y’all are probably quarantined and want something interesting to read. I present: Ayesha at Last by Uzma Jalaluddin,  Unmarriageable by Soniah Kamal,  and Pride, Prejudice, and Other Flavors by Sonali Dev. 

Ayesha at Last by Uzma Jalaluddin

Ayesha at Last presents the most “realistic” P&P retelling. Set in Canada, it follows two Muslim immigrant/refugees from India (possibly Pakistan but my notes say India) and contrasts Khalid (the Mr. Darcy character) who is a very traditional Muslim with Ayesha (the Elizabeth Bennet) who is equally devout but a bit more liberal in her faith (i.e. wears a hijab instead of a full burka.) While following the familiar P&P plot, the story deals with racism, stereotyping, forced marriages, and a variety of other emotionally weighty topics. 

Pros:

  • Lovely, diverse characters that exist as people and not as tokens
  • Genuine emotions and discussions about stereotypes and cultural expectations
  • The blending of cultures and the immigrant/refugee experience (Canada/India)
  •  Lovely couple/romance (they are both a little awkward but they mesh well and believably)
  • Subtle Pride and Prejudice retelling (especially at the beginning. There aren’t random P&P scenes or quotes shoved in unnecessarily.

Cons:

The book attempts to be both a social commentary and a “swoon-worthy” Jane Austen retelling and because it tries to be both, it fails at both. On the one hand, the author directly confronts issues of racism, stereotyping, and human rights abuses, even and especially within the Islamic faith. On the other hand, she is writing a Jane Austen retelling where everything must end with Happily Ever After. The result is dissatisfying. As a look at Muslims and much of the inner and outer challenges they face, it falls short because it veers into drama…possible kidnapping, trafficking, wrongful termination, embezzlement, etc. Which then feels extra weird when everything wraps up with a bow.  But as a Jane Austen retelling, it lacks the romantic punch that makes you swoon at the end because it takes itself so seriously and handles such mature themes. 

3.5/5 stars

Unmarriageable by Soniah Kamal

Unmarriageable takes place in Pakistan and also involves Muslim characters, but it presents a much less hard-hitting exposé. Or any exposé, really, at all. It is the drama and fun of P&P, but in modern day Pakistan with Mr. Darcy as Valentine Darsee–a young jet-setter in town for a wedding–and Alys Binat, a rural school teacher from a once wealthy family. He’s got pride. She’s got prejudice. You know the drill. 

Pros:

This was a fun read. It is ridiculous at times and sometimes felt like a poor quality Crazy Rich Asians, but the story flowed well. I mean, the reason I love P&P retellings is because they give me a familiar story but in a slightly different setting, and this does just that. Five sisters. Three suitors. Lots of miscommunication. Sign me up! 

As a sort of pro and sort of con, the author frequently has characters rattle on about Pakistani movies, music, and literature. The goal, I assume, is to pique your curiosity and make you more interested in Pakistani culture. But too often it came across as reading a Comparative Literature syllabus for undergrads–not quite informative enough to be useful but still mildly informative. 

Cons:

There is something weirdly meta about reading a story where the characters live in a universe where Pride and Prejudice exists and they discuss it and yet don’t see how their own lives perfectly mirror the novel. Like, sure, pretend names like Binat, Darsee, and Bingla have nothhhinnnnggggg in common with Bennet, Darcy, and Bingley. I see you. Pure coincidence that there are five Binat daughters who behave exactly like their literary counter-points. The story also contrasts weirdly with Ayesha At Last because while the characters are nominally Muslim, they’re extremely loose Muslims. As an example, alcohol gets consumed frequently and the story ends by praising the Jane and Elizabeth characters for “requesting the right of divorce” on their wedding day. I struggled to understand what tone the author was going for. 

3/5 stars

Pride, Prejudice, and Other Flavors by Sonali Dev

Unlike the other two, Pride, Prejudice, and Other Flavors does not really play the ethnic card as much as I expected. Set in the United States, the Darcy character comes from a family of immigrants from India but the main connection to the country mostly revolves around eating Indian food. And the Elizabeth Bennet character comes from England and works as a Michelin chef in France. But this story has other things going for it because…

Pros:

THIS IS A GENDER BENDER STORY! The Darcy character is actually the female (a brain surgeon named Trisha) and Elizabeth Bennet the male (the chef, DJ Caine.) It shakes things up a bit and adds several new layers to the story. Now she’s got pride and he’s got prejudice. Though it nominally follows the P&P plot (complete with a female Wickham!), the real drama centers on DJ’s sister, a painter about to lose her sight to a brain tumor and the fight to make her realize that life is still worth living even without her sight. And, oh yeah, something something about Trisha’s family…

Cons:

Trisha’s family is priming her brother to become the next governor of California and they blame Trisha for something the Wickham character did years ago that could ruin his campaign…yada, yada. It is all over-the-top and didn’t hold my interest very well. Romance also got unnecessarily edgy near the end. Unlike the other two, I don’t have as many “concrete” complaints for this story except that the Wickham story line made me roll my eyes so hard they got stuck in the back of my head. 

3/5 stars

 

 

Have you read any of these? What rating did you give them?


2019 Reading Challenge

I read a lot of books last year! 319, to be exact. Over the next two weeks, this blog is going to be all books all the time as I review the best–and worst–reads of 2019. I have posted my favorite and least favorite reads for six years now, but this year broke a lot of records. So, to help make it more manageable, tomorrow I will post a schedule with what to expect over the next few days. 

Until then, here is a recap of my year!

My 2019 Reading Stats

319 books spanning 91,483 pages. Of the 319, 58 were re-reads

Average rating: 3.3 stars.

Average Book Length: 286 pages.

To Read List: Jumped from 901 to 979. Whoops.

My Favorite Book This Year: Probably Sanditon by Jane Austen and Anne Telscombe but I will have an entire post listing my favorites. 

Most disappointing book: The Big Kahuna by Janet Evanovich 

Best Re-Read: Either Bargain Bride by Evelyn Sibley Lampman or The Magician’s Nephew by C.S. Lewis 

Most Read Author: Georgette Heyer (27 different books!)

Best New-To-Me Author: Mary Stewart   

Best Middle School Read: The Extremely Inconvenient Adventures of Bronte Mettlestone by Jaclyn Moriarty

Longest Read: Understanding Immigration Law and Practice by Ayodele Gansallo at 736 pages (and yes, it is a textbook, but I read it!)

Shortest Read: On Fairy-Stories by J.R.R. Tolkien at a whopping 27 pages

Most Popular Read: Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen (a re-read) 

Least Popular Read: Mae Om Ki: The Life of the Forest and Ideals of the Justice System by Laofang Bundidterdsakul (I will never again complain when people misspell my last name.)


Marrying Mr. Darcy

Last year I bought my sister the game Marrying Mr. Darcy. This year my brother bought her the Marrying Mr. Darcy Undead Expansion Pack. 

Image result for marrying mr darcy undead expansion pack

10/10 definitely recommend. (And not just because I won playing as Mary Bennet 😉 ) We played with our cousins and it was SO MUCH FUN! 


Law School Surveys Keep Me In Reading Material

I owe about 25% of the books on my Kindle to Bloomberg Law. Every few weeks someone sends out a survey inquiring about legal database preferences. (In effect, the legal versions of JSTOR or ProQuest or whatever it is kids use these days.) In exchange, they promise a $5 (or sometimes $10!) Amazon Gift Card. 

It is the best deal ever. 

I get to rant about how terrible Bloomberg Law is (I mean, have you ever tried doing legal research on that platform?!) and in exchange get money for my next Kindle book. 

Win, win. 

I’m thinking my next survey will go towards Haunting Mr. Darcy, a Pride and Prejudice retelling where Lizzie is a ghost. Promising, no? 😉 

 


Card Games and Christmas

Merry Christmas!!

I gave my sister the game Marrying Mr. Darcy for Christmas. We played it today and it was so much fun!!

All the laughter and fun! Highly recommended. 


Pride by Ibi Zoboi

I’m a sucker for all things Pride and Prejudice and thankfully have good friends who know this and lend me their copies of the latest P&P retellings before they’ve even read it…

And you know, this was a pretty excellent retelling. But not my new favorite.  

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Pride by Ibi Zoboi takes Pride and Prejudice, modernizes it, and re-imagines it in a hood in Brooklyn. 17-year-old Zuri Benitez is proud of her Afro-Latino heritage, her large family, and her corner of the world. But the world around her is changing. When the house across the street gets bulldozed and rebuilt into a McMansion by the wealthy Darcy family, Zuri views the snobbish Darius Darcy as everything wrong with the change. But as she begins applying for college and experiencing the world outside of her hood, Zuri’s opinions shift as she grapples with what really makes a place home.

The author does a good job translating the socioeconomic realities of Pride and Prejudice into a modern setting with Pride. The 5 Benitez sisters, the landlady’s nephew Colin who will inherit the place, the street savvy Warren with his smooth talking ways, all convert easily to this new world. 

Pride also holds its own with interspersed spoken word poetry and a deeply poetic (okay, often over-the-top) writing style. 

However…Zuri Benitez is a really annoying character. She has a chip on her shoulder and it is firmly embedded in her personality. While the plot uses her naive confidence to create some depth and character change, it prevented me from liking her as a character. And 300 pages adds up when you cannot stand the main character. Zuri’s world may expand throughout the story but she never loses her pride, and unfortunately pride is a stand-in here for judgmentalism and general rudeness. 

But as much as Zuri doesn’t change, we get even less form the purported Mr. Darcy of the piece, Darius Darcy. In fact, the reader gets basically nothing from Darius. I guess that is the reason the author drops “Prejudice” from the title. He is a part – but only one part – of Zuri’s discovery of the world outside her hood. But he doesn’t change. We get glimpses of deeper personality, like the reason his family moved in the first place, but then Zuri intrudes again. This is her story and her life. Which in some regard, I applaud. But this is also a Pride and Prejudice retelling, excuse me, “remix.” You don’t just drop the character who arguably goes through the most change. 

This book reaches for something great and brushes it. I really liked where the author was going. Unfortunately, I don’t think she makes it. The characters need to finish their character change. Otherwise, you’re leaving the reader with a character only slightly less judgmental and unlikable than when we met her. Which, of course, might be all part of some greater, meta-theme I’m totally missing. I’ll keep an open mind. I just feel like this could have been the next Pride and Prejudice and because it dared so greatly, it also feels extra painful that it misses so greatly. 


Watching P&P…

My Jane Austen kick continues. I watched the 2005 Pride and Prejudice and have moved on to the 1995 version with Colin Firth. I don’t recall ever watching this one straight through, but according to my sister we already watched the whole thing together. At any rate, it is better remember, or more accurately, don’t remember. If this lasts, I might try Pride and Prejudice and Zombies (because we own it and I actually really enjoy that one!) or look up the 1940s version. Maybe I will rewatch the Lizzie Bennet Diaries! I draw the line at Bride and Prejudice, however. Once was enough! 

Austen is my weakness. I am an eternally recovering Janeite. I feel like I could very easily become one of those people who dress up and attend Regency balls, and that might be my fate in the end, but for now, I resist! I love the story but I will not become a cliche! Now excuse me while I go sip my Jane Austen tea, wear my Jane Austen socks, and read Jane’s Fame: How Jane Austen Conquered the World by Claire Harman.