As soon as I heard about Ayesha at Last I knew I needed to read it as soon as it was released! I was so sad to find that it won’t be released in the UK until next year! But having amazing friends through bookstagram, one of them living in Canada, she ordered it for me and sent it to me! I will forever be grateful to Gillian!
So this book is a modern Pride and Prejudice retelling with Muslim characters. So a book with Muslim rep and a retelling of my favourite classic ever in one book? You bet I was ridiculously excited about this!
And let me tell you, it is my new favourite book!
It’s taken me forever to write this review because I just don’t know how to convert my incoherent fangirling into a proper review! I have literally been screaming at everyone; JUST READ IT OKAY! YOU NEED TO READ IT!
So if you haven’t heard my screams, here’s the synopsis from Goodreads:
AYESHA SHAMSI has a lot going on. Her dreams of being a poet have been set aside for a teaching job so she can pay off her debts to her wealthy uncle. She lives with her boisterous Muslim family and is always being reminded that her flighty younger cousin, Hafsa, is close to rejecting her one hundredth marriage proposal. Though Ayesha is lonely, she doesn’t want an arranged marriage. Then she meets Khalid who is just as smart and handsome as he is conservative and judgmental. She is irritatingly attracted to someone who looks down on her choices and dresses like he belongs in the seventh century.
When a surprise engagement between Khalid and Hafsa is announced, Ayesha is torn between how she feels about the straightforward Khalid and his family; and the truth she realizes about herself. But Khalid is also wrestling with what he believes and what he wants. And he just can’t get this beautiful, outspoken woman out of his mind.
Ayesha at Last is set in Toronto and follows the story of Ayesha and Khalid and the rest of the Indian Muslim community that live there.
When I started this book I was already giddy with excitement and by the end of the first chapter I was hooked! Unlike Pride and Prejudice we get to see Khalid’s (aka Darcy’s) point of view. I thought this was such a lovely change as I’ve always wanted to see things from Darcy’s point of view.
The first chapter ends with:
“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 as you can tell from the above quote, another thing that I loved was that there was references to Pride and Prejudice! I literally squealed when I read the lines and how they had been incorporated into the story! (basically I squealed a lot) I also loved how Shakespeare quotes were also incorporated into the story.
Even though the general storyline follows that of Pride and Prejudice, it has it’s own plot twists which make the story fresh and original and also has plenty of sub-plots which make the story even more interesting and incorporates a much wider story than just of Ayesha and Khalid.
I also loved the Muslim rep! There was a range of characters in all levels of faith and it felt so real and relatable. Ayesha is struggling over choosing what she wants to do over what she feels will make her family happy. Khalid wants to be able to practice his faith but he doesn’t have great people skills so he comes across as uptight. And we also get a glimpse of how culture and faith clash in differences in the youth wanting to follow their faith over their culture but still want to be able to fit in living in Canada. This was something I related to so much!
Also, the banter! There is actual banter between Ayesha and Khalid and it’s hilarious! I was literally giggling like crazy and the second hand embarrassment was just crazy. I loved how this made them so relatable and realistic.
Khalid is a conservative Muslim who dresses in thobes and a skullcap, believes in love after marriage and combined with his awkward social skills, he comes across as uptight and unapproachable, and as Ayesha describes him when she first meet him a “fundy” (fundamentalist). But as the story progresses we learn more about him and realise there is more to him than what meets the eye. He is in fact a romantic at heart and it’s his love for his religion that causes Ayesha to start falling in love with him.
Ayesha is an outspoken, independent, strong willed woman who is struggling between fulfilling her responsibilities to her family and following her own dreams. Khalid initially dismisses her as not being a good Muslim but as the story progresses he realises his mistake when he meets her again at the mosque. It’s her outspoken, confident personality that causes Khalid to fall for her.
I also loved the secondary characters from Ayesha’s grandparents to her best friend, Clara. Amir who worked with Khalid and these characters had their own sub-plots which made the story so much more interesting. It was all woven into each other so well and I was so invested into their story too!
Despite this being a contemporary romance there was a lot of deeper themes ranging from addiction, homelessness and islamophobia. There was also elements of the life of the Prophet (saw) which Clara learns and acts upon it at the end of the book. Amir initially comes across as someone who only lives to enjoy himself and have fun but then when we find out about his life we see there’s so much more to him. I thought the sub-plot of Khalid dealing with islamophobia in the workplace was done really well. It felt so realistic and I love how she showed how it all played out.
So this story is just such a wonderful blend of Austen and modern day life and the lives of Muslim youth living in the west. It’s hilarious and heartbreaking and there’s plenty of aww moments and the tension is built up perfectly which will keep you on the edge of your seat. And of course my new favourite OTP, Ayesha and Khalid!
There’s so much more I want to say but it’s really hard without spoilers! So I will leave it there and just end with YOU ALL NEED TO READ THIS BOOK!
If you have read it let me know what you thought!