I literally tore through this book in a day, and couldn’t wait to get back to it the moment I had to put it down. It’s a great read: entertaining, smart, funny, interesting, and also educational.
Ayesha At Last is a romantic comedy that is very loosely based on Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. It takes place in Toronto, within the large Muslim South Asian/Canadian population that resides there. The main character, Ayesha, is a poet who has resigned herself to a life working as a teacher and isn’t particularly interested in marrying anyone. And then she meets Khalid, who she initially rejects due to his appearance as a very conservative and devout Muslim, and his judgmental attitude. But it doesn’t take long for her to revise her judgment of him and for the two of them to learn more about each other. Both Ayesha and Khalid have fun, interesting, warm, but also tedious family members and friends, and deception and intrigue rules their relationship from the get go. Will they end up together? I know because I finished this delightful novel, but I’m not planning on spoiling it for you, as I want everyone to read it!
I loved the fine balance between romance and serious topics, and Uzma Jalaluddin handled them so gracefully. Immigration stories, South Asian culture mixed with Canadian life, family intrigue and secrets, strong familial ties, religion and different ways of interpreting religion, Islamophobia in the workplace, alcoholism, friendship, and coming of age are some of the big themes in the novel, and I’m sure I missed a few. On paper that may sound a little overwhelming but I enjoyed the depths that Uzma Jalaluddin went to in order to engage the reader in a multitude of different issues that one may be faced with in today’s world.
I love how Uzma Jalaluddin writes - engaging, funny, exuding warmth and depth, making you want to hold on until the very last word. I saw a lot of my younger self in Ayesha, and in some of the decisions she makes. I really, really love a good novel that is relatable, interesting, and sweet. I can totally see this becoming a movie too, one that I would definitely be excited to see!