The Swap is a bold story that grabbed the bull by the horn. The author chose to make a subject like spouse swapping central to the plot. Even though the subject might shock some and titillate others, the harsh reality of relationships and its complexities has been around for a while. And if some top honchos, cops, army men and celebrities are to be believed, the swap parties have been going on for a while now albeit within the safe confines of palatial homes, farmhouses and high security areas. Tight lipped Indian morality made it a taboo subject even for discussion. Well, it’s out in the open now.
But let’s not gasp over it or pass moral judgment because the author, like a deft neurologist or psychoanalyst, has dealt with the subject in the most humane way possible. Even when she describes the sex scenes they are erotic in the most surprising way rather than getting too descriptive or vulgar. That, for me, is the highlight of this work of fiction. Authors often fail miserably when describing scenes of passion. No wonder there’s an annual Bad Sex in Fiction Award.
Coming back to the novel, it is interesting to note that the subject which could have lend itself well to pulp fiction has bypassed such a huge market and instead tread on the path of what academics would call Modern Indian Writing in English Literature.
The comparison to literature as opposed to pulp fiction might seem too early but the writing has pathos as well as tragic flaw which the protagonist, much like in all work of great writing, either overcomes or falls victim to. There are flaws in the protagonist of The Swap as much as in the other characters, and she rises above them like a true hero. Or should we say shero.
The introduction of the little boy Suraj helps not just in keeping the narrative going by bringing in the element of innocence but in also showing the other, almost hidden, side of the lead protagonist. Suraj becomes her saviour as much as she becomes his.
Name of the book: The Swap
Author: Shuma Raha
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Publisher: Harper Collins Publishers
India Price: ₹299
Number of pages: 284
The novel is racy and makes you turn the pages to know what happens next. Divided into three segments: Dirty Air, Spring Fever, and Heat And Dust, each segment of the novel delves deeper to justify the categorisation. The author captures every minute detail and nuance of the characters to give you an inside view of the plot as it unravels itself and sucks you in, making you an invisible witness to the going ons. It is a page turner that will keep you glued till the last page.
For a debut novel the author could not have chosen a better subject given the fragile nature of modern day relationships. The youth as well as their parents will equally enjoy this tale of love, lust, betrayal, revenge and loss. The author puts the cherry on top by sending a social message at the end without diluting from her plot even by a fraction. No wonder then that the novel has already been picked up for a web series and has also sold its audio rights even before most of us could lay our hands on a copy.
Coming from a former journalist the eye for detail and language skills are a given. But Shuma Raha spills it out like a boss. Her flow of words, vocabulary and language, grammar and syntax are far superior to many popular ‘authors’ and going by her work one can safely predict that it’s just a matter of time before the author becomes an international bestseller.
This is the author’s second book. Her first, The Love Song Of Maya K and other stories, was a collection of short stories that were equally memorable for her writing skills as well as choice of subject. The Swap manages to walk the tightrope without getting lurid or moralistic. Shuma delves into the mind of the characters and comes out without being preachy or, apologies in advance for using the expression, bitchy. She simply presents before us a reality that is known to some and unknown to many and she does not try to titillate nor prejudice the readers.
There are multiple layers within the main plot as well as the sub plots even though the author does not claim to have intentionally put them there. This makes the novel open to interpretation by the readers. So don’t let the name of the novel or the cover picture mislead you. There’s much more to it than meets the eye. Like they say, never judge a book by its covers. So grab a copy and find out for yourself what spouse swapping is all about and what surprises are in store for you.