This Month’s Book Review

To further spread our love of books, The Pear Bookclub has struck a unique partnership with Dymocks Glenelg. Dymocks are donating a number of new and reader’s copy books in support of The Pear’s neighbourhood program, in return for which our Bookclub coordinator Liz writes book reviews. The reader’s copies will be available in our Pear Bookshare street library, and the new books will be up for raffle each month! 

Ayesha at Last by Uzma Jalaluddin

“Because while it is a truth universally acknowledged that a single Muslim man must be in want of a wife, there’s an even greater truth: To his Indian mother, his own inclinations are of secondary importance.” So ends Chapter one of this novel, setting it firmly in Jane Austen territory and Khalid, the “hero” of the story could certainly be described, in some
ways, as a modern, Muslim Mr. Darcy. This, however, gradually becomes a soupy mixture of metaphors, with the rest of the book giving more than a nod to Shakespeare’s plays, with the end result being a mishmash of Muslim, Indian and Afghani characters embroiled in a melodrama, with a light seasoning of Bollywood thrown in.

So what is this novel about? It is a romantic comedy, set in Canada, with the
abovementioned crop of characters, and centres around Ayesha, a strong young Muslim Indian woman, still single at twenty seven and Khalid, who believes, at the start of the novel, that mother knows best and an arranged marriage is all that will be required to make him happy, because, after all, “love comes after marriage”, or does it?

Ayesha is a poet who has become a teacher; a sensible option, which she finds to be a struggle. Khalid is a traditional Muslim man, or “fundy” as Ayesha initially describes him. His beard flows and he wears traditional dress which causes him problems with his new boss at work. While he has admired Ayesha from afar, their first meeting is not auspicious. Add to
this, mistaken identity, Khalid’s awful, interfering mother, a cousin of Ayesha’s who is basically a grown up toddler and thoroughgoing spoilt brat, Khalid’s friend who is the antithesis of the good Muslim, being a drunk and a womaniser and you have a mess of potage.

The Jane Austen reference fades from page five, apart from Khalid’s vague nod to Mr. Darcy and Shakespeare enters with a vengeance in the form of Ayesha’s wise old grandfather, who had been an English professor, with a deep love of the Bard. So the novel becomes a comedy of errors, again with a Bollywood twist, which romps its way to a fitting conclusion.

I enjoyed reading this book. The characters were entertaining and there was just enough seriousness in it to make the reader want to find out how it would all be resolved. I found the ending slightly disappointing; it was almost as if the author had decided, “okay. Enough’s enough so we need a wrap on this.” So the last few chapters were all a bit neat and rushed, however as a piece of charming and amusing escapism, this was fun and a
quick read.

November 2019

We acknowledge, with gratitude, the donation of this book to The Pear, by Dymocks, Glenelg. It is available for purchase from them and is part of the November Book Raffle. Raffle tickets can be purchased at The Pear cafe.