The Jane Austen Society of Pakistan has been revolutionising the way Pakistani women consume literature, one story at a time. Case in point is Laleen Sukhera’s latest read, Austenistan - a compilation of short stories from the women who form the core of the club. So, if you ever wondered what would Pride & Prejudice, Persuasion, or Sense & Sensibility be, if it were set in the modern, albeit orthodox world of the women of Pakistan, you pick up Austenistan. And as you tuck yourself in on a cold November night, you find yourself relating to Kamila Mughal, Roya and Saira - some of the protagonists of Sukhera’s short and crisp novel.
Set in Lahore, Karachi and Islamabad, amongst some of Pakistan’s more prominent cities, the book is like looking through a glass and living out the lives of women of wealth, beauty and privilege. The one thing they all have in common is the search for a knight in shining armour. And that’s where the irony of the book lies - these are modern women in Pakistan with a sense of self and ambition and yet, they’re seeking attention from men of substance and stature; some of it due to parental pressure but, most of it from within.
Sukhera does a great job to keep you up at night with a glass of wine; especially for those of us who’d like only too much to delve into stories of how women conquered hearts and heads and made a name for themselves, sans knight in shining armour.
Austenistan is a page-turner, no doubt; and a book every woman would enjoy reading. For quite a majority of the readers, there will also be the element of relatability; what with Jane Austen’s themes of finding a suitable boy being central to every story. But, to those of us who are looking for a little more - the redemption of the strong independent woman, capable of living life on her own terms, in the realities of our worlds, we’re left wanting a bit more.
Nevertheless, read Laleen Sukhera’s clever compilation of stories for a fresh element; with undertones of old school plots in the background. It’s the book for every Jane Austen fan out there - whether she’s in Pakistan, or not!