Title: Ayesha at Last
Author: Uzma Jalaluddin
Guys, I have to say I am really disappointed that this book turned out this way. I was so excited to see a new Islamic-fiction book out there that was receiving so much buzz and on top of that a Pride and Prejudice retelling??? I was so ready to fall in love with this book, like so many of the other reviewers out there, but alas it did not turn out that way.
First of all, if I didn’t know that this was a Pride and Prejudice retelling then I never would have guessed. The similarities were scarce, and it only really became evident towards the end, and even then it felt a bit forced. It was also weird that sometimes the dialogue would be completely colloquial and casual, and then the next minute the characters were speaking as if they were from the 19th century – this was especially obvious in the letter that Khalid wrote to Ayesha towards the end of the book! I remember just reading that part in total disbelief – I almost felt like whipping out the letter that Darcy wrote in the original Pride and Prejudice and comparing them side by side.
I have no issue with Muslim love stories (She Wore Red Trainers was the first review on this blog and I gave it 5 stars), but I have a massive issue when I think that an author is portraying Muslims and Islam in a light that can be harmful, and a large majority of the issues that I had with this book was related to the portrayal of Muslims and Islam as the book itself is not the worst I have ever read – and I continued reading until the end which says something. The love story itself was mediocre, it was simply the Islamic aspect – which was the was the reason I had been excited to read this book – that left me disappointed.
I would just like to clarify that I completely understand and respect that everyone is on their own spectrum with their faith and how religious they are, and so if the characters and the acts that the characters committed was representative to some people then I’m not judging – my issue is that I feel like the Islamic issues that the author chose to explore should have been addressed, and the author failed to address them.
Despite the one-star rating, there were some things I liked about this book. I thought that the writing was good, and I liked the descriptions throughout, especially of the wedding hall at the end. I loved the characterisation of Ayesha’s grandparents, and how her grandfather especially was always quoting Shakespeare. I really enjoyed the dynamic between Ayesha and her grandparents, and even the relationship that her grandparents had. I loved how she was close with her grandparents. I also thought that one issue that the author did approach correctly was the one on gossiping, and really emphasising the harmful affects that come with gossiping.
The author covers so many serious topics and then simply brushes over them and moves on. It even made me think at one point that these topics were almost just included as a shock factor and as a drive for the plot, rather than as an opportunity for discussion. Issues such as these deserve focus and discussion, and must be treated with sensitivity as they are prevalent in our communities and societies, however this is something that the author consistently failed to do throughout the book, such as, for example, the issue of pornography. If anything, I felt that the book served to normalise problems in the Muslim community instead of addressing them, which is simply going to lead to more desensitisation – which I think is harmful.
There is also a difference between forced and arranged marriages. The author continuously suggests throughout the book that an arranged marriage is a forced marriage, “Hafsa was not being forced into an arranged marriage, if that’s what you think”. I think this is a very harmful misconception to promote. An arranged marriage is when the family will take the lead in finding a partner for their son or daughter, and the family will suggest a possible partner, and it has the consent of both parties and both parties enter the marriage willingly – a forced marriage, however, is when one or both parties are forced into the marriage against their will and without having given their consent. Forced marriages, in fact, according to Islam, are not allowed – and a marriage where one of the partners was forced into it without their consent is not considered valid. This book suggests that all arranged marriages are forced, which is wrong.
Since my reviews are non-spoilery, I’m not going to go into detail with all the issues with this book, but there are two excellent reviews that I read that perfectly encapsulated my thoughts, so click here and here to check them out if you’re interested.
What were your thoughts on this book? Did you agree/disagree with what I said and why?