A House is a Body by Shruti Swamy
A House is a Body is an immersive and provocative collection of short stories blurring the line between dreams and reality and exploring themes of identity, desire, and modernity. Though each story stands alone, they are all driven by complex female characters.
This is Shruti Swamy’s debut collection and I think she is going to go far. Each of her stories showcased her gorgeous grasp of language and character development. In general, I do not love short stories. I love character driven books, which I think is difficult to achieve in a short story. However, Swamy manages to develop complex, flawed characters that I felt deeply committed to after just a couple pages. Her characters struggle in a way that is both relatable and removed from reality. I think she accomplished something great with this collection.
My favorite story was “Blindness” which centered on a newly married woman whose husband is unable and unwilling to understand her depression. As someone who has struggled with depression for more than a decade, Swamy’s description of the looming, overbearing feeling of darkness is the best depiction of depression I have seen in fiction. I really felt for Sudha and could relate to that feeling of having a partner who cannot understand your struggle.
Another favorite story was “The Siege” in which, in a country with regressive attitudes toward women, a queen reflects on her life and role in the world while watching her husband grow increasingly tyrannical, losing her sons to war, and connecting with a woman who is being held captive. It’s emotional, witty, and well-developed.
There were a couple stories I did not enjoy, including “Earthly Pleasures” which seems to be getting the most buzz, but I think the collection as a whole is strong. I would love to see what Swamy can do with a novel.
Did you read A House is a Body? Which story was your favorite?