Tag Archives: literary fiction

Swimming in the Dark: A love letter

Swimming in the Dark by Tomasz Jedrowski

SWIMMING IN THE DARK was incandescent!! It is perfect for fans of #callmebyyourname and #aristotleanddante and also #redwhiteandroyalblue ! It was also my last read of February and my second 5⭐ read of the month!

The book is a beautiful and evocative story set in the early 1980s Poland. As such, the political scenario is quite an intricate part of the narrative and it also shapes the thoughts and actions of the characters. The story is told by Ludwik Glowacki a Polish man living in America. The whole novel is actually him reminiscing about his past, and more so, as if writing it for his former lover Janusz. Janusz is addressed in the second person and it really made me remember Call Me By Your Name. Ludwik’s story starts from when he was of 9 years of age and met and fell in love with his neighbour Beniek, a Jewish boy, to his early 20s romance with Janusz.

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The book’s central themes include Ludwik’s realisation of his sexuality, the way he deals with it, especially in a society where this is frowned upon, and thus, the aspect of shame associated with it; discovery of his selfhood as well as the tumultuous political times of Poland wrought with various trials for the people.

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Swimming in the Dark
Swimming in the Dark

There is a beautiful sense of the bittersweet that envelops Jedrowski’s writing. I am entirely in love with it and am looking forward to a follow up to this fantastic debut. The way the author has portrayed the conflicting feelings that Ludwik has for Janusz because of their differing political ideologies etc, is also great. With such a lyrical prose and tragic undertones, this was a truly unique read, that will leave it’s warmth with me, like a dying hearth of fire, for a really long time.

Very Nice , by Marcy Dermansky, 2019

Title: Very Nice

Author: Marcy Dermansky

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Genre: Literary Fiction

Format: Paperback

Language: English

Synopsis:

A brilliantly funny novel of money, sex, race, and bad behavior in the post-Obama era, featuring a wealthy Connecticut divorcée, her college-age daughter, and the famous American novelist who is seduced by them both.

Rachel Klein never meant to kiss her creative writing professor, but with his long eyelashes, his silky hair, and the sad, beautiful life he laid bare on Twitter, she does, and the kiss is very nice. Zahid Azzam never planned to become a houseguest in his student’s sprawling Connecticut home, but with the sparkling swimming pool, the endless supply of Whole Foods strawberries, and Rachel’s beautiful mother, he does, and the home is very nice. Becca Klein never thought she’d have a love affair so soon after her divorce, but when her daughter’s professor walks into her home, bringing with him an apricot standard poodle named Princess, she does, and the affair is…a very bad idea. In a darkly hilarious novel that zigzags between the rarified circles of Manhattan investment banking, the achingly self-serious MFA programs of the Midwest, and the private bedrooms of Connecticut, Marcy Dermansky has written an audacious, addictive, and wickedly smart take on the way we live now.

My review:

I received a review copy from the publishers in return for an honest review. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.

Very Nice was a fairly fast-paced novel – that read like a soap opera. It certainly was fun to read this book and I believe it was the perfect summer read, to be read by the pool. The story is told through various characters’ povs so we see varying perspectives in the alternating thread of storytelling. It is linear with a fluid writing that reads really well.

We have Rachel, a college student who has a crush on her creative writing professor – Zahid Azzam, who is also a well-renowned author. She seduces him, they have sex and Rachel starts thinking that he likes her for it. However, everything is not as it seems. For instance, the characters portray something else – a sense of individuality and accomplishment, you could say, but underneath it all, there are such conflicting emotions. By a chance of fate, Zahid ends up living in Rachel’s house and has an affair with her mother, Becca. However, Dermansky has played well with the creation of the interrelationships among the various characters in this book. It seems everyone is related to everyone in one way or the other. The way their threads are intertwined proves to be a very interesting read.

The book also has various themes peeking out through the various narratives. With Khloe, we see the misogynistic nature of the world that she has to face in her finance job. Becca deals with dissatisfaction and a sense of acute restlessness and incompleteness. Jonathan deals with the fleeting sense of joy as he leaves his wife Becca for the much younger Mandy, only to slowly realize that it is not how he wants to live. The inner monologues of the characters, especially that of Rachel, is very interesting. The idea of self-image and self-identity is very important here too. we see Zahid struggling with it, and we also see Rachel struggling with the idea or the image she has of Zahid. There is also inclusion of political themes such as gun laws (in relation to the incident faced by Becca once, as she was confronted by Amelia’s brother), varying political ideologies etc. the manner of writing is quite electric to be honest, and at first I was not sure of what I felt regarding the short sentences. I found it weird, but not bad though. After a while, I got used to it and quite enjoyed it, in fact. 

Despite all the differences in the characters’ personalities, and, they are human – and flawed in a way we all can also certainly relate to. It was very easy to relate to the characters. I felt so accomplished myself when Zahid’s writing was going well, for instance.

The writing continues to be witty, and although the author deals with some abject issues, it is still fun and a buoyant read overall.

Verdict:

An enjoyable read, I rated it 4/5 stars.

About the reviewer:

Nayanika Saikia, is one of the foremost book reviewers from the North-east and Assam, and is also an admin for the official India bookstagram page on Instagram. She publishes her own reviews and recommendations for poetry, fiction, non-fiction etc. on her bookstagram account @pretty_little_bibliophile which won the NorthEast Creator Awards 2018, as well as in daily newspapers, online magazines etc.  She can be contacted at nayanikasaikia98@gmail.com .