I love anything related to Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice and when I heard that Uzma Jalaluddin’s novel Ayesha At Last had overtones of my favourite classic novel, I was eager to read it.
Jaladdin’s story is set in the Muslim community in Toronto. Ayesha Shamsi dreams of being a poet yet sets aside her dream to teach so that she can pay off her debts to her wealthy uncle. She does not want an arranged marriage while her flighty younger cousin, Hafsa, is close to rejecting her 100th proposal. Ayesha then meets Khalid – a smart and handsome man who is both conservative and judgemental. She is attracted to this man who looks down on her choices and who dresses as if he belongs in the seventh century. In a burst of rebellion, Ayesha plays a trick on Khalid and lies about her identity. When a surprise engagement between Khalid and Hafsa is announced, Ayesha is torn between how she feels about Khalid and his family and the truth she realises about herself. But Khalid is also wrestling with what he believes and wants – and he cannot get the outspoken Ayesha out of his mind.
Spin-offs of a favourite well-known novel are tricky and can be disappointing but Uzma Jalaluddin pulls it off. I loved this novel from the first chapter. Even though the Muslim community referred to in the novel is a far cry from Austen’s England, the ethos in the novel and the references to social expectations echo the older classic. I enjoyed reading the repartee between Ayesha and Khalid; and seeing the characters come to realisations of themselves. I enjoyed, in particular, the character of Khalid. He is so staid in the beginning, so sure of where he wants to be and of how he wants to manoeuvre in modern society. I cheered on his growth during the story, and could not help but giggle at some of his encounters.
Ayesha at Last is a lighthearted read that will leave you smiling. I highly recommend this one- it is a story that you will want to share with your friends. The romance and humour will definitely lighten your day. I could not put this one down and devoured it in a day.
I give this novel ⭐⭐⭐️⭐️⭐️ 5 stars.
© Colline Kook-Chun, 2018
(This novel was the 48th in my 50 book pledge for 2018)