The Swap – Book Review
The Swap – Book Review
Book: The Swap
Author: Shuma Raha
Reviewed By: Manas Mukul
Publisher: HarperCollins India; 1 edition (16 December 2019)
Pages: 296 (Paperback)
Price: 299 INR
Genre: Romance (Adult)
My rating: 3/5
Urban India is rapidly changing especially the urban middle class, that is adopting more and more western lifestyles. From two-day weekend culture to pub hopping, from watching movies on OTT platforms to underground party circuit, the change is swift and evident. It is ready to take on newer tastes even at the cost of morality and ethics which were once treated as taboos.
Shuma Raha’s adult romantic fiction, ‘The Swap’ tries to explore one such taboo topic of ‘Spouse Swapping’. It gives us a peek into the high rises of amoral metropolitan India where everything is accepted as a part of lifestyle. I would like to express my gratitude towards Blogchatter’s Book Review Program for considering me this book review and giving me an opportunity to review this genre for the first time.
About the Author
Winner of the Juggernaut Short Story Prize (2017), Shuma Raha is the author of The Love Song of Maya K and Other Stories (2018). A journalist formerly with The Telegraph and The Times of India, she continues to write columns for publications in India and abroad. When she is not writing fiction or getting worked up over current affairs, Shuma dabbles in literary translation. Her English translation of Bonophul’s Bangla novel, Haate Bajaare, has been published by Sahitya Akademi. Shuma lives and works in Delhi. The Swap is her debut novel.
The cover page of book doesn’t give much away. There is a pair of women legs on a teal colour background that gives an urbane feel to the book. It also highlights that this is ‘soon going to be a web-series’, the rights of which has been acquired by Actor and producer Prabhleen Kaur. The back cover has the blurb along with a testimonial from Business Standard.
The story has been in set in Modern day New Delhi and revolves around the lives of four main characters. Priya Bakshi, the protagonist is married to Akash Srivastav for the past six years. From the first couple of chapters it becomes clear that she is already in an extra-marital affair with Akash’s childhood friend, Dileep. The other important character is Anuradha who is Dileep’s wife. There are supporting characters also, out of which, Tarun, their richer, older, and scandalous friend, tells them about Delhi’s couple-swapping parties.
Akash seems keen on to try out this exciting new thing to escape from their routine boring love and sex life. For a surprise, Priya didn’t like the idea but eventually gives in. It is Tarun who invites this close circle of friends and the so-called fun games begin. Of all the options available to Akash, he fancies himself with Anuradha.
As clothes begin to come off, the secrets begin to tumble out and when secrets tumble out, it is never a pretty sight. Nobody leaves unscathed from such sexual games played at the cost of marriage and fidelity. Who survives and who gets messed up – pick a copy to know more.
For the most part The Swap revolves around love, sex, marriage and morality. The cocktail is served as a tonic to spice up their marriage and eventually improving their sex-life by bringing it out of the rut of monotony.
The vocabulary is top-notch and the testimonial from Business Standard too highlights – ‘the most admirable quality…is the writer’s command over the language’. Although it is nearly 300 pages long but it is a fast read. The subject should be the biggest selling point of this novel, as many people want to read these raunchy topics, irrespective of the strata of society they belong to.
The book definitely poses some pertinent questions; how far is too far? What will you do to break the monotonous rut? What is more important, the purity of love or the immorality of lust?
I want to congratulate Shuma for taking such a bold topic. I am afraid if any male writer would have tried his hand on this topic, he would have been portrayed as a misogynist and we would have easily deviated away from the subject.
Priya, from the outset is a very unlikable character and It feels as if the author out of compulsion tries to showcase the kind heartedness of the protagonist through a half-hearted sub plot, which was completely avoidable.
The author neither explores this erotica element fully nor the ethical dilemma. The racy subject was supposed to break stereotypes but in fact when you read you will realise many of the character sketches have undergone the typical stereotypical way like – appearances, from where they belong and other habits.
The Swap by Shuma Raha had all the potential of being a cult classic, a trendsetter as far as Indian English Writing is concerned but unfortunately for me it felt more like a missed opportunity. I came across many individuals who aren’t even aware of this term. For them, who in fact are a majority, it would definitely be an enjoyable read.
I am going with two and a half stars for Shuma Raha’s The Swap and an extra half star for the topic she has chosen. Watch out for the web series of this decent one time read as it leaves you with one question – How far would you go to spice up your marriage…???
Manas ‘Sameer’ Mukul
This review was done as part of the Blogchatter’s Book Review Program. Please sign up if you are a bibliophile.
About the author reference – https://harpercollins.co.in/author-details/shuma-raha/