Hello Soniah and welcome to My Jane Austen Book Club. Thanks for accepting my invitation! My first question for you is, when was your first encounter with Jane Austen and what was it like? How did the idea of writing Unmarriageable come to your mind?
Thank you so much for inviting me. When I was around fourteen years old, my Aunt Helen gifted me a gorgeous red and gold hardback copy of Pride and Prejudice. I remember skimming through it, mesmerized by the illustrations. I finally read it cover to cover when I was sixteen and promised myself then and there that I would do a retelling set in Pakistan. Growing up there were no novels in English set in Pakistan and so I’d just grown used to imaging everything I read terms of my miliue. I find it interesting that the desire to do a parellel retelling of Pride and Prejudice stayed with me versus any other book.
Was it difficult to blend a story originally set in Regency England with a modern-day Pakistani context?
No and Yes. No beause Austen’s was a patriachal culture as is Pakistan’s to this day. I think one of the reasons Unmarriageable resonates so strongly with women everywhere is because they intuitively understand the constraints of living under ‘a man is more important and knows best.” Also, the morals and manners of Regency England such as maintaining a good repuation and landing a great catch is still very much the expectation in Pakistan, although, thankfully, the world has opened up for Pakstani women on career options and divorce is no longer the great stigma is used to be.
Yes because mirroring some of the plot points was very challenging. For instance, Netherfield Park is a house the Bingelys rent and one which Jane Bennet stays at after she catches cold, and where a ball is thrown. In Unmarriagable I needed an equivalent setting, however a house did not make sense. Turning Netherfield Park into Unmarriageable’s multi event wedding, called NadirFiede, by joining together the names of the couple getting married (Nadir Sheh and Fiede Fecker), was a huge bingo moment.