One morning, as Khalid watches his neighbor through his window, forces are set into motion that will change his and his neighbor’s lives completely. A new, Islamophobic boss leads Khalid to join friends outside of work at a “lounge” he would rather avoid. There, his neighbor Ayesha performs a poem that sticks to his soul. Their poor impressions of one another notwithstanding, Khalid and Ayesha continue to run into one another in the community and begrudgingly work together for a Muslim youth conference. Meanwhile, their conflicting opinions about what a young Muslim should be and should do cause them to butt heads constantly.
What is Ayesha at Last about?
Ayesha at Last is a retelling of Jane Austen’s famous Pride and Prejudice set in modern day Toronto, Canada. Rather than a young English woman whose family has too many daughters and not enough finances, this retelling focuses on the perspectives of both sides of the romance. Khalid comes from a wealthy Indian immigrant family that harbors the grief of his late father’s passing and the secret of his estranged sister. Ayesha is acutely aware of how blessed her family was to be rescued from the tragedy of her own father’s death in India years ago by the wealth and generosity of her uncle. In a series of events, the two meet and true to the retelling do not form positive impressions of one another, Khalid finding Ayesha too flippant and modern and Ayesha finding Khalid to be extremely conservative.
Given time, though, Ayesha at Last transforms into its own spin on the tale. Khalid and Ayesha find themselves involved in their local community, each learning from the other that their judgmental attitudes were misguided and in need of correction. The two both grow throughout the story, and the growth allows for mutual feelings to blossom.
Genre: Romance Retelling (Pride and Prejudice)
This book is definitely a retelling of the classic Austen novel. Ayesha is as outspoken and fierce as Elizabeth Bennett, and Khalid grows to understand his ability to love the way Darcy does. There are other direct lines to be made–Ayesha’s grandfather takes on much of Mr. Bennett’s kind nature, and her cousin Hafsa is very much a new take on Lydia Bennett–but the author clearly knew when elements of the original story were unnecessary in this retelling.
Tropes: Miscommunication, Shakespearean twists
The first trope that is most prominent is the ongoing degree of miscommunication between various characters, with a Shakespearean twist. Ayesha’s grandfather is partial to quoting Shakespeare, and it seems a healthy infusion of Bard-like comedy is scattered throughout the tale. From mistaken identity to the traditional Pride and Prejudice revelations, the story certainly utilizes that “make you want to tear your hair out” miscommunication trope.
Plot: Genuinely unique
Despite being a retelling, Ayesha at Last manages to give the story a unique plot that, while ticking boxes for the original story, manages to stand on its own. If you are looking for a strict adherence to the plot of Pride and Prejudice then this is not the novel for you. If you are satisfied by subtle nods to the original carefully balanced against an updated plot from a new perspective, then you’re in the right place!
This is a wonderful modern romance story. The choice of Khalid and Ayesha as the protagonists provides two new perspectives on romance, from Khalid’s firm belief in arranged marriage to Ayesha’s fear of love and unusual lack of pressure from her family. By setting the story in modern day Toronto in the heart of the Muslim-Indian community, the story receives a much needed upgrade to reflect the struggles twenty-somethings are dealing with now that might distract from romantic pursuits while also calling out different degrees of racism and strife for Muslim immigrants, and Indian Muslim immigrants specifically.
There were times that reading from one perspective or the other was frustrating. The miscommunication really came out strongly in these moments where one character has crucial information the other does not. Also, there are occasional shifts from third-person limited perspective to another character for as little as a paragraph. I think these snippets of information could have come out in a different manner without having to deviate from the expected perspectives, or at least with only the longer sections told by side characters.
I don’t really have anything bad to say about this book!
This was a wonderful and absorbing read. I thoroughly enjoyed it from the very beginning, and I loved the way the characters grew. I enjoyed the changes the author made to the Pride and Prejudice plot, and at no point did anything feel too overdone. I also enjoyed that the story didn’t feel the need to shoehorn in anything from the original novel that wouldn’t have fit naturally into this one. Strong choices were made and are reflected by the wonderful story telling skills displayed in this excellent narrative. The characters are delightful, the plot genuinely exciting, and the romance clear and loving. All in all, I think this is the best modern update to P&P that I’ve seen/read!