So this is something I started a while back. We all love Jane Austen and it is such a bummer that there isn’t more of her works to read.
Variations are a ton of fun, and there are great ones out there (recently I read and loved Elizabeth: Obstinate Headstrong Girl) but sometimes you don’t always want to read the same story. You want Austen-like works, but what to read?
That’s why I started this series. I will review books that have the things we love about the Austen novels, but is something fresher than a retelling.
The Unlikely Adventures of the Shergill Sisters by Balli Kaur Jaswal
So I read this book and knew it would be perfect to add to this blog.
The story starts off with Sita Kaur Shergill, widowed mother to three daughters, ill. She knows her time is limited and decides before her time is up to write a letter to her three girls to take a trip to India after she passes. She always wanted to go on a pilgrimage with her daughters from their home in England to India, and now her last wish is for them to go.
It sounds like a simple request, but it is anything but as these three sisters are not close and all kick up a bit about going.
Rajini is the eldest sister who when she was young rebelled, but after a trip to India became sensible, reliable, and has done everything right. She went to university, became a principal, got married, and had a boy.
But not all is right in Rajini’s world. Her just graduated from high school son not only wants to forgo college, but he also is dating a 36 year old woman, and…the couple is pregnant. Basically this is Rajini:
Raijini tries to do all she can, but her son won’t listen to her. And now she has to go on this pilgrimage, and leave her husband to try to sway her son.
Raijini doesn’t want to go to India at all, because of what happened last time, but will do it to honor her mother.
Jezmeen is the middle daughter, and she and her mother had a contentious relationship. Jezmeen was always passionate, doing her own thing, reacting, rebelling, etc. She wanted to be an actress, something her mother didn’t approve of. And her mother would constantly ask her why she didn’t have her “big” break yet, something that really grated on Jezmeen’s nerves.
Unlike her sisters, Jezmeen is ready to go to India as she wants to get as far away as possible as she is currently a social media disaster and is hoping that everything will die down if she leaves the country.
But just because Jezmeen wants to go to India, she doesn’t want to do the pilgrimage as she doesn’t get why it is such a big deal, but her big sister is going to make them stick o the schedule.
Youngest sister Shirina excelled at college and her job, but she always felt she was missing something…a real family. Growing up not remembering her father, her mother busy working, and the sisters not getting along more than they do-she wanted a traditional family and signed up on the message boards for an arranged marriage, meeting the wealthy Sehaj and moving to Australia.
She then slowly left her friends, job, and social media. Her sisters have hardly seen or heard from her and she has become a silent figure in her home. She decides to go to India, not for her mother but because her mother-in-law has set her upon a secret task, one she must complete or else she can never return home.
The three sisters are in for a trip of their lifetime as they learn a lot about their mother, each other, one sister gets involved with private detectives, one gets arrested for protesting, and one almost makes the worst decision of her life.
So we have three sisters…what Jane Austen book do you think I’m thinking of?
A widowed mother with three daughters?
The mother in the The Unlikely Adventures of the Shergill Sisters, Sita, isn’t in the story a whole lot, but her presence is felt throughout the book as we get memories from each of the daughters. After her husband died, the financial security went away and at times Sita found herself unable to do anything from her distress, stress, and depression. The girls had to be taken care of by a neighbor or by their older sister Raijini. This reminded me a lot of Mrs. Dashwood as after her husband dies, she goes through a similar grief and the responsibilities and it be taken over by others.
Of course Raijini being the sensible older sister makes me think of Elinor. Taking charge, leading her sisters, picking up the void of the missing parent-Raijini is just like Elinor. But even though you think you know everything about Raijini she has a hidden secret-just like Elinor.
“What do you know of my heart? What do you know of anything but your own suffering. For weeks, Marianne, I’ve had this pressing on me without being at liberty to speak of it to a single creature. It was forced on me by the very person whose prior claims ruined all my hope. I have endured her exultations again and again whilst knowing myself to be divided from Edward forever. Believe me, Marianne, had I not been bound to silence I could have provided proof enough of a broken heart, even for you.”
Jezmeen is passionate, plunges into things headfirst, and doesn’t always think things through. This of course makes me think of Marianne who lets her passion lead her.
She is upset with her sisters and this trip, gets up late, goes along with a protest because they think she is someone else, gets thrown into jail-and that is just a taste of what she does. However, as the book progresses she, like Marianne, learns to not let her passion go, but to temper it from time to rime and take moments to think before acting or reacting.
Shirina made me think a lot about Margaret as she isn’t as present in the book-not that Shirina is underdeveloped, far from that. Shirina isn’t present as she is folding in herself due to her family drama-her mother-in-law emotionally abusing her.
The other thing that really made me think of Sense and Sensibility is the way the sisters each have these ideas about each other-only to discover that there is than they thought, and how they all grow and bond together.
I really enjoyed it and recommend it.
For more Non-Austen Reads for Austen Readers, go to Non-Austen Reads for Austen Readers: And Only to Deceive
For more on sisters, go to I Won the Two Sisters Tea Giveaway
For more on Sense and Sensibility, go to The Jane Austen Book Club (2007)