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Drowning Fish | Book Review


I picked this book up off the shelf because of the interesting title, and decided to buy it because I like family sagas and stories set in Calcutta. Also, one of the characters is called Nayantara and that’s the name of my protagonist in the book that I’m writing.
I liked a lot of things about this book.
I liked the style of writing of the author’s. I felt like there was an appropriate amount of balance between description and the actual narrative, which a lot of authors just can’t seem to manage.
I really appreciated that there’s a character who’s from South India, who isn’t a Tamilian from Chennai. I loved that this guy was from Bangalore and he was a Telugu speaker. Research, authors who aren’t from here! There’s more to the south of the Vindhyas than just Madras. And not just cities. Cultures, practices and attitudes are diverse. LEARN THAT. Kudos to Swati Chanda on that.
I also did like the storyline overall, even though it was dark and twisted.
Now I want to talk about the things I didn’t like:
I did not like the demonisation of prostitutes, especially those who were forced into the trade by economic coercion. It reeked of snobbishness and it was despicable, especially from a “liberated” character who engages in casual sexual intercourse to “discover herself” in her comfortable place of privilege. It’s just an abominably hypocritical viewpoint. How fucking modern are you any way if you judge a starving refugee for using their only available asset to help themselves and their family????
Yes, I’m pissed off.
Also, some of her characters are one-dimensional. All of the male characters are, in fact. Which is a refreshing change (Hahaha), but does not help the story along very well. Boy who has a girlfriend a week being friends with “friendzoned paavam* boy” is such a painful cliché I wanted to cry.
Also, I felt like the meeting with Neelanjana’s uncle was written in just so that the phrase “drowning fish” could be used in the story.
I also thought some of the scenes were overly melodramatic so much so that they struck a false note. There weren’t too many such scenes but most of them were at the end of the book and really stuck with me.
Finally, I want to talk about the theme of the book. This is all subjective of course.
If I had to, I would say the book was about escapism. The protagonist is an escapist and she doesn’t care whom she takes down with her in her quest to run away from her troubles. I feel like the author was going for survival but then there’s survival and there’s recovery. There’s continuing to live and then there’s contentment and maybe happiness. Can you really be contented when you’re just trying to put physical distance between yourself and the place of your trauma? This bit is up for debate.
I gave it 3 stars but I would still recommend picking it up because the subject-matter is interesting. Also, the author does speak about important topics like racism, child sexual abuse, and women empowerment. (After a fashion) The protagonist is human and imperfect and not entirely likable, though she’s described as some kind of beautiful goddess physically, which is a trend I can completely get behind.
If Swati Chanda wrote another book, I’d probably read it regardless of the ranty nature of this review because I liked most parts of this book.
Have you read this book? What did you think of it?
Are there any similar books you’d recommend to me? Let me know in the comments.
Also, don’t forget to follow me on all these fun social media places because I’m on them, and most of you are on them, so you might as well add me. :p
Twitter: @sindrao22
Instagram: owlishreader
*’paavam’ is a Tamil word meaning innocent or vulnerable. This is not the exact translation, but picture an eternal victim of life and/or unrequited love.

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