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Publication Date: December 6th 2017
Publisher: Bloomsbury India
Genres: Contemporary, Fiction, Romance
Part of Series? No
Source: Review Copy
Goodreads Blurb: Heiress Kamila Mughal is humiliated when her brother’s best friend snubs her to marry a social climbing nobody from Islamabad. Roya discovers her fiancé has been cheating on her and ends up on a blind date on her wedding day. Beautiful young widow Begum Saira Qadir has mourned her husband, but is she finally ready to start following her own desires?
Inspired by Jane Austen and set in contemporary Pakistan, Austenistan is a collection of seven stories; romantic, uplifting, witty, and heartbreaking by turn, which pay homage to the queen of romance who lives on among us.
What comes to your mind when you first read the name “Jane Austen“? Probably Pride & Prejudice? or any other novel written by her? Jane Austen doesn’t need any introduction (at least to the bookworms I guess?). Austenistan is an anthology containing 7 different stories inspired by Jane Austen’s work and are set in modern Pakistan. Sounds fun, eh?
Before you move further, first I must confess here (I have already confessed it many times before on my blog), that I have never read any Jane Austen’s work. Weird? I guess. But in my defense, I have seen Pride & Prejudice movie and love it and also I have bought P&P and the first classic that I am going to read in 2018 is going to be this only 😀
Despite not reading any of her work, I know her writing skills and the magic that she puts into her writing. I have encountered many Jane Austen fans who can sware by her. Just take Rory Gilmore as an example (it’s not that I have personally met her, but still 😛 ) or even Paris.
The book starts with a wonderful foreword by Caroline Jane Knight who is related to Jane Austen. This book has 7 different stories and most of these are based on P&P. Every story is written by different author and overall the book is edited by Laaleen Sukhera. At the starting of each story, there is a quote from the Jane Austen story that is being retold. So you get the idea instantly that a particular story is an adaptation of which one.
Each of the stories has the character names similar to Jane Austen characters, so it makes it easier to recognize them. I think the best way to review this anthology is to go into details about each story. So let’s talk about them story-wise.
The Fabulous Banker Boys by Mahila S Lone
This was a typical P&P story based on the similar storyline. I was so glad the first story itself was based on P&P and I was able to relate to it. This is a story about Jameela Baig and her daughters. Jameela Baig is a middle-aged woman who has four daughters. All she ever think is about marrying her daughters to suitable grooms. When she heard about the Mirza wedding, she was happy with the prospect of finding many eligible bachelors there. In the wedding, her second daughter Elisha met Mr. Dar (sounds familiar? 😛 ) and their egos clash and rest is the history.
Begum Saira Returns by Nida Elley
This story is about Begum Saira who is a forty-plus widow and want to live her life again after her husband’s death. She tries to go back to her social life. Despite what society will think of her, she falls in love again. But the hardest thing is she falls in love with her sister’s fiance.
I am not sure if I liked this story that much. It was the ending that made it little bitter for me and I wished it to be a little longer.
Emaan Ever After by Mishayl Naek
This story is about Emaan who is an editor of a lifestyle magazine. She is heartbroken after she was betrayed by love. So her best friend tries to link her up with eligible bachelors but her heart is just not into it. When she gets the news that her childhood best friend Haroon is getting hitched, suddenly she feels uneasy and wondered if she secretly in love with him?
This has to be my favourite story of the book. I absolutely love this best friend romance trope. Emaan and Haroon are so different from each other still they are perfect together.
The Mughal Empire by Saniyya Gauhar
This is about Kamila who is in love with a man her whole life. But that man ran away and married someone else over her and her brother married that girl’s sister. She felt betrayed in love and her ego is shattered. Will she find love again?
This was my second favorite story from the entire collection. Apart from romance, it was a powerful story talking about your career and aspirations.
The Autumn Ball by Gayathri Warnasuriya
This story is about a married couple, Maya and Hugo. When they are blessed with a baby boy, they feel the spark between them is fading away. Will they be able to save their marriage or will it fall apart?
This was my least favourite story in this collection just because of the ending. But the writing was intense and I loved it.
Only The Deepest Love by Sonya Rehman
This story is about Samina and her take on marriage. It has raised a few interesting concerns as a society like the domestic violence inside the marriage. Also, I was happy about the gay representation in the story. It was good to read that what’s the condition of gay people in Pakistan and how they are forced to hide their identity because not many books talk about it out there.
On The Verge by Laaleen Sukhera
This is about Roya who discovers that her fiance has been cheating on her. So she decides to go on a blind date on her wedding day. What will change in her life after that date? Will she find her love?
The premise of the story was interesting but in the end, the story just felt flat and I expected more from it.
Modern women portrayal with amazing writing
Not all the stories were that good, but the overall collection was entertaining. Each story is a tribute to Jane Austen’s novels in their own way. Each story is set in different Pakistani cities. From the beginning itself, it felt like I was standing right into Pakistan amidst the bunch of Pakistani women, busy in gossiping and finding the perfect match for their daughters, or you can say on groom-hunt 😛 There were vivid descriptions of Pakistan’s livelihood, latest fashion trends and the social life which made it easier to see Pakistan from your pov and help to easily understand their culture.
Much like Jane Austen’s novels, every story had a woman protagonist. All these women have been shown as fierce and daring. I really liked how most of the women, if not all, are shown as focused ones towards their career and have the courage to take stand against the society. Every story has its own sweetness and has its share of emotions and humor. Apart from love and romance, the stories show you different angles of love, happiness and what it is like to take risks.
The writing style of all the authors was pretty easy and engaging. It’s the most beautiful part of this book that keeps you hooked and entertained, till the last page and make it such a quick read. You will automatically pull to read the next story.
Laaleen Sukhera and the Jane Austen Society of Pakistan
The editor of the book, Laaleen Sukhera is the founder of the Jane Austen Society of Pakistan. She is working with Caroline Jane Knight, the Founder and Chairperson of the Jane Austen Literacy Foundation, to establish the Pakistani Chapter of the Foundation to fund the literacy resources in Pakistan. This is such a noble initiative and reminds everyone that there are no barriers to literary works.
I admire Laaleen Sukhera’s initiative to compile these amazing short stories with her group of Austen fan club members. This is a great tribute to Jane Austen by portraying stories about the women that we see every day, everywhere. They portray very well the emotions of those women who want to explore the fields of love, sex, and career despite their restrictive environment.
Austenistan is the beautiful collection of entertaining and witty stories made on the verge of Jane Austen’s novels. Jane Austen fans- you are in for a treat. And those who haven’t read Jane Austen (like me) or are not a fan of her work, try this for some fun and quick read. The writing is captivating and showcases the bitter truth of Pakistan and its culture.
The book lived up to my expectations and there was a beautiful insight of contemporary Pakistan. Definitely, Jane Austen is travelling Pakistan 😀 I would definitely recommend this!
Austenistan by Laaleen Sukhera is a beautiful collection of entertaining and witty stories made on the verge of Jane Austen’s novels. Jane Austen fans are in for a treat. And those who haven’t read Jane Austen (like me) or are not a fan of her work, try this for some fun and quick read.
Have you read Jane Austen? Are you a fan of hers?
Your favourite character from her novels?
Have you read any other work which takes a dig into Pakistan’s culture?