Editor: Laaleen Sukhera
‘Austenistan’ is an anthology of short stories from women writers of Pakistan. These women are inspired from Jane Austen and each of the seven stories in the anthology is based upon one or the other work of Jane Austen.
Here is the blurb from the back cover of the book:
Heiress Kamila Mughal is humiliated when her brother’s best friend snubs her to marry a social climbing nobody from Islamabad. Roya discovers her fiancé has been cheating on her and ends up on a blind date on her wedding day. Beautiful young widow Begum Saira Qadir has mourned her husband, but is she finally ready to start following her own desires?
Inspired by Jane Austen and set in contemporary Pakistan, Austenistan is a collection of seven stories; romantic, uplifting, witty, and heartbreaking by turn, which pay homage to the queen of romance who lives on among us.
Before writing what I feel about this book, let me declare that I haven’t read any of Austen’s works. So the fact that the anthology has something to do with Jane Austen is of no importance to me. For me, this is simply an anthology of short stories set in contemporary Pakistan.
The book has a beautiful cover. The woman with the spectacles, looking at the world, with a cup of tea (or coffee) in hand foreshadows what lies inside the book. The stories mostly have female protagonists and it is their perspective through which things are presented to us. It is a book to be read over a cup of tea. And the stories are also of that sort- having intrigues and gossips.
And that’s it for me. The cover is the only thing that I liked. Love is at the centre of almost each story. Most stories are full of cliches. And that’s something I didn’t like. There’s hardly anything refreshing. Almost all the stories have some party going on. But somehow the stories were engaging. They were not boring at all.
Coming to the setting, I feel the stories failed at showing what Pakistan actually is. Most stories focussed on the elite group of people. These are people who go to Europe for study, attend regular parties and dress lavishly. One might like the book for the representation of this section of the Pakistani society. But I certainly didn’t like it. Apart from the names of the cities, I didn’t find anything Pakistani in this anthology.
Clearly it wasn’t an impressive read for me. However, I might not have been able to appreciate it much because I haven’t read Austen. But still, it didn’t work for me. It is okay for a one time read or if you’re looking for something light as a travel companion.
My Rating: *** (2.75/5)
Have you read this book? What did you think of it? And which is your favourite book by Jane Austen? Do share your thoughts. Thanks.
*I was sent a review copy by the Publisher. Views expressed are entirely personal and unbiased.*