Ayesha At Last by Uzma Jalaluddin
Compassionate, warm, and wholly satisfying, Ayesha At Last is a welcome take on Pride and Prejudice, set in a Muslim community in Toronto
There are countless retellings of Pride and Prejudice, but none quite like Ayesha at Last. It’s a fun romcom set in a Muslim community in Toronto, complete with body-builder life coach, an extravagant Mughal-e-Azam inspired wedding, and a kindly Imam who favours Hawaiian shirts.
Twenty-seven year old Ayesha Shamsi is a substitute teacher, with quiet dreams of being a poet. She takes one look at Khalid Mirza with his long beard and thawb, and declares him to be a “fundy”, too traditional and judgemental for her. In turn, twenty-six year old Khalid, a serious, conservative e-commerce manager who is perfectly content for his mother to choose his wife, judges Ayesha with her bright purple hijab and virgin Shirley Temples to be a bad Muslim. But of course, they begin to fall for each other, even as they navigate devastating family secrets, nosy Aunties who believe Ayesha is too old and independent for a proposal, and Khalid’s Islamophobic boss at work.
Uzma Jalaluddin stays true to the conventions of Austen’s classic – we get the botched, insulting first proposal, the charming villain, and a Mr Bennet-like figure in Ayesha’s beloved Nana – but she departs from the original enough that the story feels fresh and modern. Ayesha at Last is compassionate, warm, and wholly satisfying. In a genre that has a huge lack of Muslim representation, it is an extremely welcome debut.