Ayesha at Lat by Uzma Jalaluddin
Publishing Date: 4th April 2019
Source: Received from the publisher via Pigeonhole, thank you!
Number of pages: 352
Genre: General Fiction
A big-hearted, captivating, modern-day Muslim Pride and Prejudice, with hijabs instead of top hats and kurtas instead of corsets.
AYESHA SHAMSI has a lot going on. Her dreams of being a poet have been overtaken by a demanding teaching job. Her boisterous Muslim family, and numerous (interfering) aunties, are professional naggers. And her flighty young cousin, about to reject her one hundredth marriage proposal, is a constant reminder that Ayesha is still single.
Ayesha might be a little lonely, but the one thing she doesn’t want is an arranged marriage. And then she meets Khalid… How could a man so conservative and judgmental (and, yes, smart and annoyingly handsome) have wormed his way into her thoughts so quickly?
As for Khalid, he’s happy the way he is; his mother will find him a suitable bride. But why can’t he get the captivating, outspoken Ayesha out of his mind? They’re far too different to be a good match, surely…
Ayesha is a substitute teacher though what she really wants to do is write poetry. Ayesha is single and happy, she’s not interested in arranged marriages, accompanying her younger cousin on this way will suffice. But then she meets Khalid… But she hasn’t met his mother yet…
The book had a great potential, and I appreciated the humour very much but there were moments (in the end, too many moments) when I had a feeling that the author simply tried too hard and overdone it. The book started very promising, and I found myself smiling at the characters’ antics but then it only went downhill for me, I found my interest slowly fading and I started to skip some parts of it, with the many subplots and the action that was almost like in a gangster movie, and a) it was too much for me, too hard tried on making the story hilarious, b) the subplots were not developed enough for my liking, they were not properly addressed, just like that left hanging.
The romance between Ayesha and Khalid was humorous and also head – banging – on – the – wall desperate. When one of them finally got to their senses, the other was not interested and other way round. It was for sure a rocky way but altogether I liked that it was not so straightforward and obvious, and the problems they had were for sure different to the problems that the characters in other books usually have.
The characters could be better drawn, I think, because they were either brilliantly good or awfully bad, and this made them feel a little too exaggerated and too obvious in their behaviour. Sheila and Khalid’s mother are the best example here, but also Hafsa, the spoiled, judgmental and shallow one who actually wasn’t charming but only annoying. I am also not so sure about Khalid himself – on one hand we can say that his character saw development, on the other hand I’m not so sure because well, he changed, but did he really want to change?
The story touched upon many, many issues and probably this was the problem, maybe the author should focus on less than relationships, family ties, arranged marriages, family disownment, politics, stereotyping, racism at the workplace, theft and many, many more. It was simply too much. I had a feeling that if the story stuck to tell a romance, without all the other mosque and conference issues, it would be enough. I adored getting to know the colourful Muslim traditions, even the arranged marriages and the arguments that people involved in them had, their pros and cons, and I really got it all, it was really great to see the close – knit community and I’d really love it if the book focused more on this part of the characters’ lives.
There were too many moments that felt too drawn out and exaggerated for my liking. But altogether, it was a feel – good, funny and light story that had it moments. The writing style was lovely, so chatty and eloquent and the author is a great story – teller, that’s for sure, and she lets her imagination run wild.