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The Archer

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Kiese Laymon called Shruti Swamy’s debut book of stories, A House Is a Body, “one of the greatest short story collections of the 2020s.” Now, Swamy brings us an accomplished and immersive coming-of-age novel set in the Bombay of the 1960s and 1970s.   As a child, Vidya exists to serve her family, watch over her younger brother, and make sense of a motherless world. One day Kiese Laymon called Shruti Swamy’s debut book of stories, A House Is a Body, “one of the greatest short story collections of the 2020s.” Now, Swamy brings us an accomplished and immersive coming-of-age novel set in the Bombay of the 1960s and 1970s.   As a child, Vidya exists to serve her family, watch over her younger brother, and make sense of a motherless world. One day she catches sight of a class where the students are learning Kathak, a precise, dazzling form of dance that requires the utmost discipline and focus. Kathak quickly becomes the organizing principle of Vidya’s life, even as she leaves home for college, falls in love with her best friend, and battles demands on her time, her future, and her body. Can Vidya give herself over to her art and also be a wife in Bombay’s carefully delineated society? Can she shed the legacy of her own imperfect, unknowable mother? Must she, herself, also become a mother? Intensely lyrical and deeply sensual, with writing as rhythmically mesmerizing as Kathak itself, The Archer is about the transformative power of art and the possibilities that love can open when we’re ready.


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Kiese Laymon called Shruti Swamy’s debut book of stories, A House Is a Body, “one of the greatest short story collections of the 2020s.” Now, Swamy brings us an accomplished and immersive coming-of-age novel set in the Bombay of the 1960s and 1970s.   As a child, Vidya exists to serve her family, watch over her younger brother, and make sense of a motherless world. One day Kiese Laymon called Shruti Swamy’s debut book of stories, A House Is a Body, “one of the greatest short story collections of the 2020s.” Now, Swamy brings us an accomplished and immersive coming-of-age novel set in the Bombay of the 1960s and 1970s.   As a child, Vidya exists to serve her family, watch over her younger brother, and make sense of a motherless world. One day she catches sight of a class where the students are learning Kathak, a precise, dazzling form of dance that requires the utmost discipline and focus. Kathak quickly becomes the organizing principle of Vidya’s life, even as she leaves home for college, falls in love with her best friend, and battles demands on her time, her future, and her body. Can Vidya give herself over to her art and also be a wife in Bombay’s carefully delineated society? Can she shed the legacy of her own imperfect, unknowable mother? Must she, herself, also become a mother? Intensely lyrical and deeply sensual, with writing as rhythmically mesmerizing as Kathak itself, The Archer is about the transformative power of art and the possibilities that love can open when we’re ready.

30 review for The Archer

  1. 4 out of 5

    Debra

    "Sometimes god puts a soul in the wrong body. You should have been a boy with your nature." Vidya, as a child served her family. She carried around a huge amount of responsibility and expectations on her shoulders. One day she noticed a class of dancers studying the Kathak, a precise, dazzling form of dance that requires the utmost discipline and focus. Upon mentioning the dancers to her mother, she learned that she was named after a dancer and is told she may take dance lessons. Her mother u "Sometimes god puts a soul in the wrong body. You should have been a boy with your nature." Vidya, as a child served her family. She carried around a huge amount of responsibility and expectations on her shoulders. One day she noticed a class of dancers studying the Kathak, a precise, dazzling form of dance that requires the utmost discipline and focus. Upon mentioning the dancers to her mother, she learned that she was named after a dancer and is told she may take dance lessons. Her mother understands her drive as she too had dreams and hopes for her life as a young girl. After her mother left, Vidya took care of her younger brother and made meals, but never lost her desire to dance. Dance soon became her sole focus. Her father had other plans for her but from a young age, Vidya was restless, wanting more than what was expected of her. Her grandmother saw this with her own knowing eyes. "You are restless, you are unsatisfied. You cannot reconcile yourself. A boy could find an outlet for all his restlessness. Not you." But she did find an outlet in dance. Kathak became a huge part of her life even when she went away to college. It was/is her purpose. Dance allowed her to be separate from all other aspects of her life. She continued to dance as she fell in love with her best friend, studied, and realized that she was unaware of so many things in her life. Awareness, harsh truths, family, dance, hope, friends, and college course work combine for her while she makes her way. Even when she married, she continued to dance and reconcile how to be a wife and a dancer. Is it possible? Could she create her own legacy? Will she be like her mother? What will the future hold? This book touches on a lot of themes such as gender roles, expectations, sexuality, duty, feminism, colorism, mental health, and purpose to name a few. The book is about Vidya's journey from childhood to adulthood in Bombay. We watch as she grows, experiences, lives, and struggles. Her mother is gone for most of her life and as she finds purpose, she thinks of her mother often. This was a book I needed to sit with. Initially I gave it 3 stars but bumped my rating up upon reflecting on the book. Parts of this book felt a little choppy as the story progresses from her childhood to college to married life. I fell this book could have benefited from a chapter header here and there to make for smoother transitions. But life isn't smooth so this may also have been done on purpose. What helped me with the transitions was thinking about each section as a short story about Vidya's life. This book is about one woman's journey. Again, I found that with sitting with this book and reflecting on the story, that I enjoyed it more than I initially thought. I enjoyed the insight into her drive and search for purpose. How she struggled with several things in her life such as being her own person vs. the expectations that society and her father placed upon her. What will happen when expectations and drive collide? The writing style is unique thus creating its own pace which meanders through one woman's life. The writing ebbs and flows. It is a dance in and of itself. This is a unique and original novel set in Bombay. I found it to be thought provoking and mesmerizing. There is a lot of food for thought here and would make a good book club selection. Insightful, original, and thought provoking. Swamy’s words dance across the page. 3.5 stars rounded up Thank you to Algonquin Books and NetGalley who provided me with a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. All the thoughts and opinions are my own. Read more of my reviews at www.openbookposts.com

  2. 4 out of 5

    luce

    | | blog | tumblr | ko-fi | | Throughout the course of reading The Archer, I was painfully aware that I was in fact reading a novel. That is to say, I did not think this was a particularly ‘immersive coming-of-age’ story, quite the contrary. Almost every line I read struck me as contrived and as attempting (and failing) to be eloquent and adroit. This novel reads like something that should have stayed in drafts or that would have been okay if it had been some sort of MFA project. The verbose a | | blog | tumblr | ko-fi | | Throughout the course of reading The Archer, I was painfully aware that I was in fact reading a novel. That is to say, I did not think this was a particularly ‘immersive coming-of-age’ story, quite the contrary. Almost every line I read struck me as contrived and as attempting (and failing) to be eloquent and adroit. This novel reads like something that should have stayed in drafts or that would have been okay if it had been some sort of MFA project. The verbose and trying-too-hard-to-be literary language was distracting and unimaginative. The main character and her environment felt inconsequential, the narrative more intent on showing off its supposedly ‘lyrical’ prose (which, you guessed it, in my eyes, was anything but). Banal, shallow, and repetitive ​​ The Archer was not for me. If you enjoyed this novel please refrain from commenting on things along the lines ‘you are wrong’. If you want to read this novel...eh, I guess I should remind you to check out more positive reviews. The Archer begins with a 3rd pov that gives us an overview of the childhood of our protagonist. The narrative year tries to make it so that we are seeing things from the pov of a child, but it doesn’t quite pull it off. Vidya lives in Bombay during a generically historical period. There is Father Sir, Brother, The Mother, and briefly Room-Not-Mother. Vidya has to look after Brother and has to be obedient and respectful towards her elders. Nothing much happens other than some lengthy descriptions about objects or feelings that amount to absolutely nothing. Vidya is devoid of personality because we all know children don’t have those...anyway, one day she sees a Kathak class and wants to learn this type of dance. The Mother eventually dies (i think?) and Vidya is given even more responsibilities. Father Sir plays almost no role, his presence relegated to two or three scenes. The narrative begins switching from a 3rd to a 1st pov, in a painfully artificial attempt at mirroring Vidya becoming aware, through dancing, of ‘the self’. There is a time skip and the story is narrated by Vidya herself, who is now at university. Once again the narrative is very much all telling, no showing. The author will dedicate a paragraph to describe the flesh of a fruit or the shape of a shoe but spend almost no time fleshing out the secondary characters who soon enough end blurring together. Vidya has a predictable half-hearted relationship with another girl, but because neither of these characters struck me as real I could not bring myself that they would care for each other. Another time skip and Vidya is married to this generic guy. We learn nothing about him, nothing substantial that is but the author will inform us of the smell of his sweat and his cologne. K. Then we get the predictable pregnancy where Vidya learns that the body is abject. I just found the language so profoundly irritating. As I said, there are very few scenes actually happening in ‘real time’ on the page. Vidya mostly recounts to us stuff that happens, taking away the immediacy of that moment/scene. There is also very little dialogue so that we spend most of our time just listening to Vidya’s voice. Yet, in spite of the pages and pages she spends navel-gazing, I did not feel as if she was a fleshed-out character. She was an impression, a generic girl who grows up to become a generic young woman. She’s often painted as the victim, but I felt no sympathy towards her. The prose was full of cliched descriptions and platitudes (“ the scars on her skin making her legs more beautiful instead of less”). There were so many unnecessary words. Time and time again Vidya felt the need to say something backwards (on the lines of ‘it was not that I was sad’). Or we get passages like this: “Something else had been lost, many things had been lost, perhaps everything had been lost, the girl I had been felt far away, though I had come to school to be rid of her—the sad, motherless girl with dry ugly knees and a dark ugly face: that girl, I could not remember her as me, I could only remember her as though I watched her from somewhere outside her body;”. Rather than just saying things as they are, the author will refer to things such as Vidya’s ‘true voice’, or lazy descriptors such as ‘tomorrow-feeling’ and later ‘girl feeling’. Time and again Vidya will not say what she thinks or feels directly. She will preface whatever by saying ‘and so’, ‘perhaps’, ‘it seemed to me’, and then go to say ‘it wasn’t y nor was it x but it was z’. All these words end up amounting to nothing. They did not make Vidya into a more credible character nor did they bring to life her surroundings/experiences. Yet the author will sacrifice character development to these prolonged acts of introspection that actually don’t reveal anything about this character. This was a bland affair. The best thing about this novel is the cover/title combo. Its contents left much to be desired. I’ve read far more compelling novels about fraught mother/daughter relationships (You Exist Too Much and The Far Field) and I wish that Vidya’s Kathak practices and her relationship with her teacher could have been the focus of the narrative.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Fanna

    Poetic. Solitary. Universal. A tale of restless passion and rhythmic persistence to experience the excellence of being oneself through a performing art that transports through life. The Archer is a coming-of-age novel set in 1960-70s Bombay and told through a protagonist who loves kathak. Vidya, the protagonist of The Archer, wants to be perfect. Whether this desire of hers stemmed from the patriarchial, gender-conforming norms that she was repeatedly educated about while growing up in an Indian f Poetic. Solitary. Universal. A tale of restless passion and rhythmic persistence to experience the excellence of being oneself through a performing art that transports through life. The Archer is a coming-of-age novel set in 1960-70s Bombay and told through a protagonist who loves kathak. Vidya, the protagonist of The Archer, wants to be perfect. Whether this desire of hers stemmed from the patriarchial, gender-conforming norms that she was repeatedly educated about while growing up in an Indian family where poverty limited everything, or whether this want of hers was purely a recitation of what she was truly passionate about: kathak, an ancient dance form, is a wonder that doesn't really hold value. Because Vidya understood perfection to be the key to independence; freedom from the familial expectations, the gendered life—freedom to perform a dance that is infused with story-telling. ↣ consider reading this review on my blog. Like kathak, that is both a roar and a calm, Vidya found herself to be torn between the wildness of taking up societal responsibilities without desiring any of it, and the tranquillity of finding a peace that only follows what the heart aspires the most. Through the years, her stubbornness drives her towards a rhythm that rushes through facets that are similar yet conjectured to be different: queerness and love, duty and devotion, life and struggle. Her journey is far from what the world wants it to be, linear, expected, assigned. It's actually synonymous to a katha—the Sanskrit word for story—as a long-form narrative so complex that only a dance like kathak, only a writing so coherent, can help unfold. The author's unique prose, the very same that won my heart in A House is a Body , precisely recounts the occurrences and hazily portrays the inner thoughts, much like the turns in kathak where the watcher awes at the dancer's posture, balance, the mere ability to not fall away; while the dancer sees a flurry of surroundings, blurriness covering their eyes. The run-on sentences were far from overwhelming, they were coordinating with the various stages of Vidya's life like the sound of ghungroos, tiny bells tied on a traditional anklet, matching the beats of a tabla, the drum that guides a performance through its music. Set in 1960s-70s Bombay, the backdrop of a city that truly builds dreams is wonderfully painted along the infinite sea that opens a metaphorical gateway to hope, to escape, to find oneself. Tales within a tale heightens the impressiveness. Whether it's the story of Eklavya, the archer from Mahabharata who was asked to give up his right thumb as a display of devotion to his teacher—the guru of royal children, the guru who had rejected Eklavya despite his excellent archery skills for he couldn't afford to let anyone surpass the skills of his royal students. It's this tale that lends the novel, The Archer, its title. Or the story of Dhritrashtra as the blind king whose wife willingly took blindness by wearing a blindfold until her death. This peregrination through girlhood, through a transformation to express, through the universal need for individuality, is further lined with mythical undertones that are subtly desiring attention. Overall, The Archer brilliantly and unabashedly places art at the highest point of passion while building a raw, mesmerising, and honest coming-of-age tale through a poetic prose that comments on societal bindings, pure independence, unapologetic persistence. ↣ an early digital copy received via netgalley. ➵ finished reading this his-fic set in '60s bombay where the author's lyrical writing has captured the dreams & desires of a young woman's artistic heart as she navigates transformation + pursues transcendence through kathak. recommended. rtc. 08.07.2021 i'm so ashamed. how did i not know about shruti swamy's new book? especially after i loved a house is a body so much? anyway, watch me excitedly wait for the author's first novel! and that cover, oh wow.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Jessica Woodbury

    This is absolutely my sweet spot of literary fiction. It's engrossing and interesting, it's able to play with structure and/or language without being inaccessible, it makes you think and makes you care. I admit I have been a little hesitant to read a lot of more "literary" fiction lately. I am harder to please and I don't always feel up for a challenge. Sometimes I just don't try but I'm glad I did this time because it was a beautiful read that I also admired and it reminded me why I do it. It co This is absolutely my sweet spot of literary fiction. It's engrossing and interesting, it's able to play with structure and/or language without being inaccessible, it makes you think and makes you care. I admit I have been a little hesitant to read a lot of more "literary" fiction lately. I am harder to please and I don't always feel up for a challenge. Sometimes I just don't try but I'm glad I did this time because it was a beautiful read that I also admired and it reminded me why I do it. It considers class and gender and colorism, with a deep consideration of being a woman in a society that is still heavily patriarchal and yet one that is starting to change. The audiobook had a nice essay by Swamy at the end sharing how this story came from her mother's life, from her family's stories, and from her interest in Kathak, a form of Indian dance. This was actually helpful for me to hear because knowing she had that end point in mind made it easier for me, as I actually wanted the book to end differently and got frustrated by the end somewhat, so this explained a lot to me. This novel plays with structure and perspective, it covers around 20 years in Vidya's life, even though she's a relatively small child at the beginning it didn't do any of the things that often bother me about stories with a young child protagonist. There are some big jumps in time but they all feel organic. The writing about dance was particularly good. The audiobook was very good, the reader had an almost musical tone to her voice that suited the prose well.

  5. 4 out of 5

    chantel nouseforaname

    Gorgeous. The way that Shruti Swamy uses language is something to marvel at. The way that she’s able, in this stellar debut novel, to tell a story that is full of passion, turmoil, heartbreak, and nuance is magic. The main character, Vidya, is such an inquisitive, pensive and layered character. Everything that Shruti Swamy created with this character from her childhood to her adulthood is emotive and thoughtful. Although there are some holes in the story that she patches in the later parts of th Gorgeous. The way that Shruti Swamy uses language is something to marvel at. The way that she’s able, in this stellar debut novel, to tell a story that is full of passion, turmoil, heartbreak, and nuance is magic. The main character, Vidya, is such an inquisitive, pensive and layered character. Everything that Shruti Swamy created with this character from her childhood to her adulthood is emotive and thoughtful. Although there are some holes in the story that she patches in the later parts of this novel, not a word or a storyline is wasted. She examines what it means for women and girls growing up in restrictive times to come into their own and find independence, to claim their independence, alongside sexist, standard, traditionalist practices. I really feel like Vidya is a hero in her own right, freeing herself through her passion for dance. She’s an obsidian stone — dark, dreamy, and powerful. The duality of trying to be yourself and find your footing in worlds that aren’t yours, or that you don’t want to be yours, while carrying around painful truths in your heart that skew the ways that people perceive you and your place in their lives... it makes for an infinitely readable extended coming-of-age story. Swamy’s descriptions, how involved she gets in describing Vidya’s life experiences learning and then becoming one with Kathak dance illustrates so much. Set in Bombay in the late 60s/70s, I have a few theories re: how this book feels linked to A Fine Balance by Rohinton Mistry. I feel like Swamy might be a student of Mistry’s, and it’s not just because the husbands in both books have the same name.. you can read about my theories here. I highly recommend this read.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Nancy

    Vidya grew up with expectations, beginning with the command to care for her younger brother like a mother. When her mother left them, Vidya did become the mother of the house, taking care of her father and sibling. In fact, her father decided that she would study engineering and have a career and take care of him always, to never marry or leave her childhood home. There was a passion in Vidya, a restlessness. Her grandmother understood. “You should have been a boy,” she said. How could such a gir Vidya grew up with expectations, beginning with the command to care for her younger brother like a mother. When her mother left them, Vidya did become the mother of the house, taking care of her father and sibling. In fact, her father decided that she would study engineering and have a career and take care of him always, to never marry or leave her childhood home. There was a passion in Vidya, a restlessness. Her grandmother understood. “You should have been a boy,” she said. How could such a girl marry and obey her mother-in-law’s rule? Vidya was enthralled with the dancers she had glimpsed, the pounding feet and tinkling bells, the precise movements and the rhythm of the music. She wanted to know the secret. When she shared her desire with her mother, Vidya learns she had been named for a dancer. Her mother herself had hoped for another kind of life, and agreed for dancing lessons, if Vidya promised to have discipline and practice. And then, her mother told the story of the boy who wanted to study with a master archer who demanded a harsh price. In dance, Vidya found her “I”, separate from the roles she played: wife taking care of her father, daughter and student, mother to her brother. Going away to school was an escape from home, but she was chained to her studies. She finds a new dance teacher, and friendship in fellow student Radha who dreams of becoming an astronaut. Asked to dance the chorus in a play, Vidya creates her own dance, and in performance, is transported into her “I”, finding her anger, and making an indelible impression on her teacher and on a boy who becomes her future husband. Marriage brings new problems, her husband marrying her against his family’s wishes, and expectations that disrupt her chance for a career in dance performance. The Archer is a marvelous experience, a journey into a girl’s growing awareness of herself as a person in a world that presses to squash her individuality. I loved the portrayal of her girlhood, the transformative experience of one’s body as vehicle for expression, the description of labor and motherhood. Vidya’s story is exotic in locale and specific in time, while universal in theme and story. The true achievement in life to to make one’s life one’s art, to live one’s truth. It is an empowering message. I received an ARC from the publisher. My review is fair and unbiased.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Amy Imogene Reads

    Happy Publication Week! 3.5 stars Lyrical and lulling, this novel was an entrancing story of one woman's love of dance in 1960-1970s Bombay. Plot/Pacing: ★★★★ Narrative style: ★★ (did not work for me) Main character: ★★★★ Enjoyment: ★★★ I absolutely adored Shruti Swamy's A House is a Body short story collection. It was out-of-this-world mesmerizing and filled with stories that seared your soul. Because of that collection, I was thrilled to pick up a copy of her newest novel. Vidya is a girl growing up Happy Publication Week! 3.5 stars Lyrical and lulling, this novel was an entrancing story of one woman's love of dance in 1960-1970s Bombay. Plot/Pacing: ★★★★ Narrative style: ★★ (did not work for me) Main character: ★★★★ Enjoyment: ★★★ I absolutely adored Shruti Swamy's A House is a Body short story collection. It was out-of-this-world mesmerizing and filled with stories that seared your soul. Because of that collection, I was thrilled to pick up a copy of her newest novel. Vidya is a girl growing up in 1960s Bombay. Raised within the traditional values of her culture and the world's views on womanhood, Vidya does not know how to fit in as a girl. She's hyperaware of her physical self and soul in her surroundings. But then everything changes when she begins to dance. As she falls further into the dancing world of Kathak, a style of dance known for its precision, Vidya begins to make order of her life. Dance becomes her means of ordering herself and her place within time and space. The years flow. The dance remains. This book calls itself "deeply sensual," and I strongly agree. Everything emotional and sensory is deeply feel through the pages, and there is a startling intimacy in the reader's connection to Vidya as she grows into womanhood and reckons with her life and the limitations of her gender. The Archer is memorable and lyrical, but I do have to admit that I loved it slightly less than Swamy's short story collection. I had a heck of a time getting into the narrative style of this one. The character's narration of her own thoughts and life's journey was intentionally distanced and meant to highlight her internal journey toward herself, yes, but it did make for a very difficult reading experience. Recommended for fans of the author's previous collection and for those who enjoy non-traditional narration. Thank you to the publisher for my copy in exchange for an honest review. Blog | Instagram

  8. 4 out of 5

    Tessa

    Hmm. This just didn't work for me. The way the story jumped from one timeline to the next only confused me and broke any connection I had with the characters. (view spoiler)[Particularly the jump from her time at college to being married. Her marriage relationship was so glossed over that it had zero impact on me. (hide spoiler)] Despite isolated moments of good description (such as her dancing lessons), it is just a hodgepodge of so many different scenes and themes that it doesn't feel like a c Hmm. This just didn't work for me. The way the story jumped from one timeline to the next only confused me and broke any connection I had with the characters. (view spoiler)[Particularly the jump from her time at college to being married. Her marriage relationship was so glossed over that it had zero impact on me. (hide spoiler)] Despite isolated moments of good description (such as her dancing lessons), it is just a hodgepodge of so many different scenes and themes that it doesn't feel like a complete novel at all. Additionally, Vidya was an annoying, selfish character to read about. Not recommended, though the audio narrator did a good job. ***Thanks Netgalley for the arc!***

  9. 4 out of 5

    Shirleynature

    My gratitude to Shruti Swamy, audiobook narrator Sneha Mathan, Workman audio, and NetGalley for advance review access! The Archer is a book I will recommend for vivid prose in a coming of age story with a strong, yet flawed heroine in 1960s Bombay. Thought-provoking themes include family & cultural expectations of gender and class versus individual autonomy in major life choices. I want to better understand the story of the archer told by Vidya's mom, reflected in the title. And I feel heartbroken My gratitude to Shruti Swamy, audiobook narrator Sneha Mathan, Workman audio, and NetGalley for advance review access! The Archer is a book I will recommend for vivid prose in a coming of age story with a strong, yet flawed heroine in 1960s Bombay. Thought-provoking themes include family & cultural expectations of gender and class versus individual autonomy in major life choices. I want to better understand the story of the archer told by Vidya's mom, reflected in the title. And I feel heartbroken that Vidya missed the opportunities to travel with her Kathak dance teacher.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Margaret

    This is a really lovely, intimate portrait of a woman's life from childhood to adulthood during the 1960s and 70s Bombay. Vidya's childhood is defined by the absence of her mother. She turns to dance and finds her purpose there. But she struggles with how to be an artist, a wife, and a mother. She's also unable to name the feelings she has for other women. This is a really gorgeously written novel This is a really lovely, intimate portrait of a woman's life from childhood to adulthood during the 1960s and 70s Bombay. Vidya's childhood is defined by the absence of her mother. She turns to dance and finds her purpose there. But she struggles with how to be an artist, a wife, and a mother. She's also unable to name the feelings she has for other women. This is a really gorgeously written novel

  11. 4 out of 5

    Christina

    This book was art. It reminded me of a painting with large brush strokes, sweeping lines, and abstract images. You definitely have to be slow and patient with this book. This book was about a young woman named Vidya, who is trying to embark on a life of her own. She doesn’t want to be shackled by the chains of tradition in her culture, but she also doesn’t want to be an outcast because of her ideas/behaviors. In India, there is a patriarchal society that is heavy handed on everything. Women are This book was art. It reminded me of a painting with large brush strokes, sweeping lines, and abstract images. You definitely have to be slow and patient with this book. This book was about a young woman named Vidya, who is trying to embark on a life of her own. She doesn’t want to be shackled by the chains of tradition in her culture, but she also doesn’t want to be an outcast because of her ideas/behaviors. In India, there is a patriarchal society that is heavy handed on everything. Women are raised to be good daughters, wives, and mothers. Girls’ whole upbringing is designed to be conditioned for marriage life and motherhood. The women who are fortunate enough to be able to go to school or have a career are looked down upon. Employers view women as liabilities; knowing undoubtedly that the woman will leave upon marriage or motherhood, and thus do not hire them or give them meaningful jobs to sustain themselves. Vidya is embarking on a self-discovery journey and realizes that she does not want to play by the rules of patriarchy. Mixed in there are her emotions regarding her mother, especially as she gets older and life circumstances makes her see life possibly through the eyes of her own mother. The book discusses several topics I thought were worthy of repeating: - Feminism and independence - Fighting/living with the patriarchy - Motherhood - Womanhood - Caste/class system (poverty vs. elitism) - Colorism - Sociatial pressures vs Cultural norms - Gender norms/roles - Self-care and mental health - Dysfunctional families - LGBT Vidya is a talented young woman who had been afforded the opportunity to go to college, and is majoring in engineering. She also wants to be a dancer of the most complicated Kathak dance that is performed in India. She spends her days practicing and dreaming of dance, hoping to have opportunities to dance in performances and please her dance teachers. She is also opening her eyes to friendships with other women and she tells of her friendship with Radha. We see the various social issues become discussed amongst them and how they are trying to navigate the societal pressures thrust upon them as young Indian women. We see Vidya bend a little towards what’s expected of her, but then we see her emerging as a formidable independent woman, making her own rules. I was impressed with Vidya’s persistence and I was hopeful for her as she learned about herself and what she wanted. I loved how she took the reins of her life and made her own way despite the chance and opportunity of a life of ease. She made a bold statement to people in her life; having her own independence was worth fighting for rather than giving in to tradition. I really enjoyed this book, as it provided a different tempo from what I normally read. This book was like a complicated dance, a form of abstract art, and beautifully written and immersive. 4 stars. Thank you to Algonquin Books and the author Shruti Swamy for this book in exchange for a fair and honest opinion.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Leah Rachel von Essen

    The Archer is a poetic smash of a debut novel by Shruti Swamy, about a young girl named Vidya who falls in love with Kathak, a dance form of discipline and story-telling. Deep within Vidya is an urge to dance, it is all she wants, and yet the gendered life prescribed for her has other ideas, expectations are that she will be tied to a home, will eventually marry, will eventually have children, and that she will abandon dancing now, or later. Independence is something firm and lonely, tough to fi The Archer is a poetic smash of a debut novel by Shruti Swamy, about a young girl named Vidya who falls in love with Kathak, a dance form of discipline and story-telling. Deep within Vidya is an urge to dance, it is all she wants, and yet the gendered life prescribed for her has other ideas, expectations are that she will be tied to a home, will eventually marry, will eventually have children, and that she will abandon dancing now, or later. Independence is something firm and lonely, tough to fight for, impossible to seek. Swamy's writing mirrors the stirring ring of the ghungru, the bells tied around Vidya's ankles—sentences run, giving us a flurry of images as Vidya's emotions rush, as her excitement surges—and the percussive beats of the tablā and of a teacher keeping the rhythm, as Vidya seems to remember herself, as she brings herself back to life's realities. Kathak is both wild and disciplined, and Vidya struggles between the two. Forced to grow up and take on responsibility early, her life is always a pull between her desires for autonomy, her wish to dedicate a life to dance, and the expectations put on her as a woman in 1960s and 70s Bombay. As Vidya grows, her stubborn, frustrated drive morphs but never leaves her. Repressed loves, queerness, an ever-rushing rhythm, shudder in the story as if hidden behind a curtain. Vidya's coming-of-age tale, her growth into a woman, is a sensual, musical story about what it means to live, a book about grief, love, and hope, all wrapped into dance. I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. The Archer comes out September 7 from Algonquin Books, and it's worth putting a hold on it now: it's one of my favorite novels of the year. Content warnings for colorism and suicide.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Catherine

    What a profound, gorgeous, and mesmerizing story. The beauty and skill of Swamy's writing is clear on every page, and it's a privilege to witness Vidya's rich interior life as she navigates questions of identity, love, creativity, and making a life for herself that feels true. An astonishing novel. What a profound, gorgeous, and mesmerizing story. The beauty and skill of Swamy's writing is clear on every page, and it's a privilege to witness Vidya's rich interior life as she navigates questions of identity, love, creativity, and making a life for herself that feels true. An astonishing novel.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Diane

    The first thing you notice about Shruti Swamy's novel The Archer is the striking cover- a young woman dancer caught in midspin. I immediately wanted to know all about her. The story opens in 1960's Bombay with a young Vidya, who is not living with her mother or brother, but with her father, aunt and two cousins. After a time, her mother and baby brother return home, but Vidya cannot remember why her mother and brother disappeared for a while, it is a mystery not to be discussed at home. Vidya is d The first thing you notice about Shruti Swamy's novel The Archer is the striking cover- a young woman dancer caught in midspin. I immediately wanted to know all about her. The story opens in 1960's Bombay with a young Vidya, who is not living with her mother or brother, but with her father, aunt and two cousins. After a time, her mother and baby brother return home, but Vidya cannot remember why her mother and brother disappeared for a while, it is a mystery not to be discussed at home. Vidya is dark complected like her mother's family, and her father's family treats her differently as they are lighter-skinned. Her paternal grandmother says Vidya also has her mother's temperament, calling her "restless and unsatisfied", and it telling her it will lead to problems in the future. While her mother is taking singing lessons, Vidya wanders into a kathak dance class and is mesmerized. She wants nothing more than to dance like the young women she saw. When Vidya's mother discovers that she wants to take dance lessons, she tells Vidya that it takes discipline and practice. Then her mother tells her the story of Eklavya, a young boy who wanted to be an archer and what he had to sacrifice to do it. Vidya is accepted into dance class, and her teacher requires complete dedication to dance, which Vidya is only too happy to give. As the years go by, we see Vidya attending an English scholarship school where she excels in academics and continues her dance instruction. When Vidya goes to college, she studies electrical engineering, and does very well in her classes. She finally makes a good friend in Radha, a fellow female engineering student, who tells Vidya that she may have to make a choice between dance and engineering as both require rigorous devotion. In her heart, Vidya is a dancer. She trains with a reknowned teacher who requires perfection, something that Vidya strives for in her life. When Vidya earns a solo dance performance, she is so filled with joy, but her teacher's comments take her aback. The Archer is a beautiful coming-of-age story for Vidya, with the book divided into five sections, each one dealing with a different part of her life. We see her grow from a young girl who finds her passion in dance, and how she strives to continue to live a life that honors her art, even though society asks something else of her. If you are someone for whom art is your passion, you will get even more from this beautifully written story. If you loved Alka Joshi's The Henna Artist, put The Archer on your list. Thanks to Algonquin Books for putting me on Shruti Swamy's tour.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Sahitya

    CW: suicide, pregnancy. This book was nowhere on my radar and despite it being a desi author, literary fiction is not my thing and I don’t think I would have specifically looked it up and decided to read. But surprisingly, I got the advance audiobook of it and then felt, why not. First and foremost, I decided to give it a try mostly because Sneha Mathan is the audiobook narrator and she is a favorite of mine, her beautiful and husky voice giving life to even dull descriptions in her previous wor CW: suicide, pregnancy. This book was nowhere on my radar and despite it being a desi author, literary fiction is not my thing and I don’t think I would have specifically looked it up and decided to read. But surprisingly, I got the advance audiobook of it and then felt, why not. First and foremost, I decided to give it a try mostly because Sneha Mathan is the audiobook narrator and she is a favorite of mine, her beautiful and husky voice giving life to even dull descriptions in her previous works which I enjoyed. And in this debut novel, the author writes with a kind of stream of consciousness style, which I thought really worked in the audio format. As someone who isn’t comfortable with that style of writing or with the heavy use of metaphors in language, I didn’t think I would like this one much either. But Sneha makes it a bit easier to digest as well as better appreciate the cadence of the author’s words. But despite understanding that there is a wild kind of beauty in these words, it didn’t wow me in any way. It was only in the scenes where the author describes the kathak dance form as well as how much the main character Vidya feels while performing - these were the parts of the story that mesmerized me. The way the author integrates stories from our mythology into the dance performance, describing it in lush and lyrical detail, really left me impressed. However, these words also evoked a deep longing in my heart for my younger days when I thought I could learn singing before I realized my dreams couldn’t come true. But I could never put my finger on what I felt about Vidya. I didn’t understand what she actually wanted from her life other than the joy of dancing and I didn’t find myself much interested in anything that she did. And this maybe going into spoiler territory, but the fourth part of the book is all about her experience through the pregnancy and the delivery in graphic detail - and it made me very uncomfortable due to my own personal reasons. I was also hoping for a much different ending but what happened didn’t surprise me at all; I think it was the safest way to end the book and maybe I was disappointed… Anyways, I feel like I’m only rambling some nonsense here instead of writing a coherent review, so please take my words with a grain of salt. It’s just that the book left me feeling a bit unsettled. However, if you are a lover of the literary fiction genre , or lyrical and beautifully written stories about women, or even just a fan of the amazing Sneha Mathan’s narration, you might like this much more than I did.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Claire

    I've never read anything like this book before, and I have never encountered a book that so accurately captures the feeling of dance. Although I have never studied kathak, I did intensive ballet for 11 years, so I know the way dance takes over your life and becomes part of you and your body. It would astonish me if the author had NOT taken dance classes of some kind because she describes it so accurately. I definitely recommend looking up videos of kathak dance if you haven't encountered it befo I've never read anything like this book before, and I have never encountered a book that so accurately captures the feeling of dance. Although I have never studied kathak, I did intensive ballet for 11 years, so I know the way dance takes over your life and becomes part of you and your body. It would astonish me if the author had NOT taken dance classes of some kind because she describes it so accurately. I definitely recommend looking up videos of kathak dance if you haven't encountered it before. Seeing what it looks like helped me picture what the main character was doing and enhanced my enjoyment of the book. Far and away my favorite part of the book were the dance scenes and descriptions. This is definitely a Literary Book and I bet my college English professors would have salivated over it. So much dense, rich description, and plenty of runon sentences to boot. One sentence was legitimately 3/4 of a page long. It was difficult to parse the writing, and at times I just wanted the author to cut to the chase. However, this description lent itself beautifully to the dance scenes, so it had its moments. One of the most creative things I've ever seen in writing was the transition from third person to first person narration. The first 100 pages are in third person, and only when Vidya discovers dance does it switch to first person - because dance allows her to feel like an "I" in her own body. This feels completely spot-on as a dancer myself. When you have a passion, it never really leaves you, not for good. It was fascinating to see how Vidya's relationship with kathak changes as she changes. The most interesting parts of the book for me were when she was at college and the LGBTQ+ hints there. The transitions between different parts of her life are quite abrupt and jarring, leaving me wanting more. However, I appreciate that the book was just shy of 300 pages because any more of this writing style would have been a lot to take. It's better to be left wanting more, I think, rather than wishing a book had been shorter. So credit to the author on that decision. This was not a super easy book to breeze through, but it was a rewarding experience. I find myself thinking about it more than I expected I would, and may even give it a reread in the future. The dance in this one is what gives it a special place on my bookshelf. It's truly unlike anything I have ever read before. Thank you to Algonquin Publishers for a gorgeous ARC and finished hardcover copy in exchange for an honest review.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Lisa Carter

    This debut novel by Shruti Swamy, about the coming of age of Vidya, a young Gujarati girl, is as much an art form as the classical Kathak dance she performs. The novel begins quite ethereally, with no names or specific grounding in place, hours indicated by colors and dripping with the emotions of longing and anger that we can't quite place. As a girl who has lost her mother and must care for her father and brother, the protagonist's situation slowly comes into focus as she grows. Her pursuit of This debut novel by Shruti Swamy, about the coming of age of Vidya, a young Gujarati girl, is as much an art form as the classical Kathak dance she performs. The novel begins quite ethereally, with no names or specific grounding in place, hours indicated by colors and dripping with the emotions of longing and anger that we can't quite place. As a girl who has lost her mother and must care for her father and brother, the protagonist's situation slowly comes into focus as she grows. Her pursuit of dance and life then takes center stage. The author snapshots different times in Vidya's life, each in vivid detail, but the transitions are often abrupt and unexpected. To me, this was exactly like Vidya's wild spinning before the final stomp in her dance, that fraction of a moment between movement and stillness. Vidya pursues dance as a calling and a way out of poverty, plus her expected role as a girl in 1960s Indian society. We watch her life unfold and her dreams take shape until reality interrupts, another unexpected transition. In depicting a lonely path, Shruti Swamy creates a lonely, haunting novel, well worth it for its depiction of both pleasure and pain.

  18. 5 out of 5

    RyReads

    Compulsively readable. I couldn’t put it down

  19. 5 out of 5

    Sascha

    Shruti Swamy’s prose is alive, dreamy, and inviting in The Archer, a story about Vidya, a young girl who witnesses girls being taught kathak, a dance, and feels a need build inside her to also learn that dance. In the first section when Vidya is very young and her mother is absent and then there, Swamy tells the story in a voice that feels like the one from old memories, when one is not sure what is real, when people sometime meld together, or become abstract. In this section, Vidya knows and doe Shruti Swamy’s prose is alive, dreamy, and inviting in The Archer, a story about Vidya, a young girl who witnesses girls being taught kathak, a dance, and feels a need build inside her to also learn that dance. In the first section when Vidya is very young and her mother is absent and then there, Swamy tells the story in a voice that feels like the one from old memories, when one is not sure what is real, when people sometime meld together, or become abstract. In this section, Vidya knows and does not know things or, rather, does not let herself know things for certain. As she ages, takes over being mother after her mother leaves, begins taking care of her father and brother, and learning to dance, she is a bustle of purpose and activity, but the purpose is also for a future she anticipates. At university, she feels herself becoming an “I.” And later, she will refer to her body as “she,” apart from the “I” inside. These might seem like abstractions but I felt that definition was so important. The wants and needs separated from the dreams. Vidya lives in a world where she as a woman is a second-class citizen and this is made worse by the mere fact that her skin is darker. Dancing and education provide her with opportunities she would not otherwise have. But at university she is reminded that her poor scores mean that a boy who could have used her place at school has been denied; that she will only learn and then get married; that her learning really has no practical purpose. It’s an extravagance. The men in The Archer are purposefully cardboard cut-outs as if they are embodying the exact manner in which they regard women. They are child-men who need attention and to be taken care of. If a woman, in this novel’s case the shy, magnetic Radha, is smarter than they, they are jealous, belligerent, and sometimes bullying. They take mistresses. They treat women poorly. They never see, much less accept, that women have minds, real dreams and desires that may not include them. While the truly heartbreaking aspect of The Archer is the possibility that Vidya might never achieve the dream that she (and even her mother) desires, the reader feels certain that Vidya who is always aware and processing will always rise. As a reader and writer, I derived so much pleasure from Shruti Swamy’s prose. It’s like being lost in a beautiful and sometimes frightening dream, much like the story she has written. This is just an exquisite piece of work, so well told and written. I received an ARC in exchange for an honest review.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Leah M

    Thank you to libro.fm for providing me with an ALC of this audiobook. I am offering my honest opinion voluntarily. If you’d like to get a copy of this audiobook and support indie bookstores, you can do so here. CONTENT WARNING: misogyny, mention of abortion, suicide Getting an ALC of this book was a spur of the moment decision, but I’m so glad that I chose it. It’s a story that is going to stay with me for quite some time. It’s a coming of age story for a young girl in India and I couldn’t help bu Thank you to libro.fm for providing me with an ALC of this audiobook. I am offering my honest opinion voluntarily. If you’d like to get a copy of this audiobook and support indie bookstores, you can do so here. CONTENT WARNING: misogyny, mention of abortion, suicide Getting an ALC of this book was a spur of the moment decision, but I’m so glad that I chose it. It’s a story that is going to stay with me for quite some time. It’s a coming of age story for a young girl in India and I couldn’t help but get sucked into the story. Sneha Mathan was a fabulous narrator and did an amazing job of bringing Vidya’s story to life. When the story begins, Vidya is a young girl and it’s difficult not to empathize with her. She spends a lot of time without a mother in her life, and her primary duty is to care for her younger brother and father. But when she finds a form of dance called Kathak, she finds a new purpose in life. It serves to define her for the rest of her life. As Vidya grows, she faces a whole new set of challenges. As a dark-skinned girl, she faces colorism, sexism, feminism, and classism, and has to come to terms with her sexuality, mental health, and her place in the world — especially when it comes to marriage and bodily autonomy. While many of these issues are universal, it was intriguing to see them through a different cultural lens, especially during the time period in which this story was set. Since it took place in the 1960s and 1970s, a time when the Western world was undergoing a cultural revolution, things were quite different in India, which still adhered to a more traditional perspective in many things, especially marriage and family. While my own life experiences are vastly different from Vidya’s, I found it quite easy to empathize with her story and her struggles. I’m willing to go out on a limb and guess that I’m not the only one who has struggled with feeling lost. Vidya seemed to often feel stifled by the path that is set before her, and I truly felt for her and wanted her to find joy in whichever path she chose. The story was very character-based, and while these generally aren’t my cup of tea, this one was fantastic. I found myself listening intently, chapter after chapter, just to find out what happened next on Vidya’s journey. The cast of characters was well-created, and I felt transported to a completely different place while listening. I highly recommend this one.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Vicki Antipodean Bookclub

    “No one understands the story of Eklavya….by submitting to the demand of his teacher, by cutting off his thumb, he becomes the arrow, the bow. The intensity of his desire and his devotion sharpens him into a weapon: an instrument” . . . The first time I saw a Kathak performance, I’d met my Mum for a holiday and we found ourselves sitting in an auditorium, out of the cold and wet, witnessing a masterclass of this classical Indian dance form. It is etched indelibly on my mind as a meeting of style, st “No one understands the story of Eklavya….by submitting to the demand of his teacher, by cutting off his thumb, he becomes the arrow, the bow. The intensity of his desire and his devotion sharpens him into a weapon: an instrument” . . . The first time I saw a Kathak performance, I’d met my Mum for a holiday and we found ourselves sitting in an auditorium, out of the cold and wet, witnessing a masterclass of this classical Indian dance form. It is etched indelibly on my mind as a meeting of style, story and syncopation. Kathak melds a spoken rhythm, the Bols, with Taal, a rhythmic circle of drum and dancer, punctuated by the sound of the ghunghroo, the rows of bells worn around the dancers’ ankles Set in Mumbai in the 1960’s and 1970’s, The Archer is the story of Vidya. Her first memory is of her mother, a distant figure that takes Vidya with her younger brother to sit outside the music studios whilst she practises singing. There is a sense that she is frustrated by domesticity and longs for a life filled with poetry and music. Early on, she places Vidya’s younger brother in her care, but conversely also supports her desire to learn to dance As Vidya grows up, this sense of duality, the tension between her artistic desires and her domestic duties, permeates everything that she does. It impacts on her choice of college, her relationships and her family. Is there any way to satisfy both your responsibility to your gift and the needs of other people, especially if you happen to be a woman? As you can probably tell, I loved this book. There was a languid sensuality to the writing that made Mumbai a multi-sensory, almost overpowering, experience; the touch of a finely woven blue sari, the taste of squeezed bitter melon juice, the shouts from a dusty game of cricket in the courtyard and the sight of the sun going down over Malabar Hill. If you also have a love of dance as both an art and a discipline, then do add this to your TBR Huge thanks to @algonquinbooks for my #gifted copy

  22. 4 out of 5

    Sandie

    From the moment Vidya sees the dance form known as Kathak, she knows what she was meant to do with her life. She is living in the in Bombay with her father and younger brother, her mother having died. She is expected to run the household, cook, shop and clean but she knows there is more to her life than this. She manages to study hard enough to get a scholarship to a school of engineering. While she is studying to get her degree, it is her secondary priority. Her first is always Kathak. She pract From the moment Vidya sees the dance form known as Kathak, she knows what she was meant to do with her life. She is living in the in Bombay with her father and younger brother, her mother having died. She is expected to run the household, cook, shop and clean but she knows there is more to her life than this. She manages to study hard enough to get a scholarship to a school of engineering. While she is studying to get her degree, it is her secondary priority. Her first is always Kathak. She practices for hours daily and goes for lessons with a renowned teacher several times a week. The teacher encourages her to devote her life to dance and Vidya is glad to. But life intervenes. Moving forward, the reader encounters Vidya as a young wife, her husband another artist. His media is photography. He comes from a very wealthy family which has disowned him for marrying Vidya but the couple is happy. When Vidya becomes pregnant, the family is willing to take her in. Vidya wonders which she will put first, her child or her art? This Swamy's first novel as her first publication was an anthology. The text is poetic and dreamy as Vidya describes her feelings for her art, her friendships, her love for her husband and her child. The message seems to be that each person must find the one thing in life that will bring them the most joy. This book is recommended for readers of literary fiction.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Aimee Dars

    Vidya, coming of age in India in the mid-20th Century, experiences a confusing childhood, with a distant and troubled mother in and out of the home requiring her to care for her father and younger brother. Only her study of the classical dance form kathak, a demanding practice requiring mastery of footwork, hand movements, and facial expressions to convey stories, gives her the space to discover her identity beyond duty and expectations. Through college and adulthood, when sexism and colorism res Vidya, coming of age in India in the mid-20th Century, experiences a confusing childhood, with a distant and troubled mother in and out of the home requiring her to care for her father and younger brother. Only her study of the classical dance form kathak, a demanding practice requiring mastery of footwork, hand movements, and facial expressions to convey stories, gives her the space to discover her identity beyond duty and expectations. Through college and adulthood, when sexism and colorism restrict her opportunities and when her unbound feelings for her best friend overwhelm her, dance at once anchors her and provides spiritual expression. But her ambition is limited by her situation, even as she chafes against the boundaries imposed upon her and she must determine the future she will make for herself. The writing in 𝘛𝘩𝘦 𝘈𝘳𝘤𝘩𝘦𝘳 is so phenomenal, it’s hard to believe it’s Swamy’s debut novel (though she does have an acclaimed book of short stories, 𝘈 𝘏𝘰𝘶𝘴𝘦 𝘐𝘴 𝘢 𝘉𝘰𝘥𝘺). The melodic coming of age story reveals how Vidya became an “I”—and how kathak enabled the transformation—as the novel moved from third to first person while at the same time reckoning with her familial relationships. I think someone could write an interesting paper on the role of the mind-body problem in the novel. Thank you to @algonquinbooks for including me on the book tour for 𝘛𝘩𝘦 𝘈𝘳𝘤𝘩𝘦𝘳 by Shruti Swamy and for providing both an ARC and a gifted copy of the finished novel.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Brown Girl Bookshelf

    Shruti Swamy’s "The Archer" enthralls readers in the complexities of human relationships, gender expectations, and untamed desires. The protagonist, Vidya, must assume the roles her mother left behind: the emotional stand-in partner to her lonely father and motherly figure to her brother. Vidya’s yearning for connection that is not tied to these responsibilities leads her to Kathak, an Indian classical dance form. Vidhya adorns her feet with musical anklets, called ghungroos, and surrenders hers Shruti Swamy’s "The Archer" enthralls readers in the complexities of human relationships, gender expectations, and untamed desires. The protagonist, Vidya, must assume the roles her mother left behind: the emotional stand-in partner to her lonely father and motherly figure to her brother. Vidya’s yearning for connection that is not tied to these responsibilities leads her to Kathak, an Indian classical dance form. Vidhya adorns her feet with musical anklets, called ghungroos, and surrenders herself with abandon and a not-so-subtle hint of arrogance to the rhythm of the tabla. She promises her dance teacher, whom she respectfully called Guru Ji, that she will not forsake Kathak for any man. Swamy’s eloquent and descriptive prose, paired with the stunning cover of the book, transports and immerses the reader in the transcendent art form of Kathak. Swamy portrays Vidhya's journey in dance as spiritual and sensual, where the desire for perfection is often at odds with the carnal need for unrestrained self-expression, where love is pure and tainted, and complex, and often without a name. "The Archer" is a letter of love, a letter of liberation, and a letter of acceptance for women of all colors, in all shapes, from all backgrounds – rich and poor, engineer and artist, mother and daughter, friend and lover. Thank you Algonquin Books for a gifted copy of “The Archer.”

  25. 5 out of 5

    Ashley

    QOTD: is there any dance that makes you nostalgic? I’ve never been much of a dancer, but was in elementary school when The Macarena came out and THAT SONG WAS EVERYWHERE. It popped up in one of my @onepeloton classes with @mattymaggiacomo this week and it’s been stuck in my head. It serves as a decent secure into this blog tour and book review for Shruti Swamy @theshrutster’s The Archer. Vidya, a girl in (then) Bombay in the 60s-70s trying to find her way in a society that stifled female authent QOTD: is there any dance that makes you nostalgic? I’ve never been much of a dancer, but was in elementary school when The Macarena came out and THAT SONG WAS EVERYWHERE. It popped up in one of my @onepeloton classes with @mattymaggiacomo this week and it’s been stuck in my head. It serves as a decent secure into this blog tour and book review for Shruti Swamy @theshrutster’s The Archer. Vidya, a girl in (then) Bombay in the 60s-70s trying to find her way in a society that stifled female authenticity in many ways. This is the story of the push and pull she experienced to meet expectations and pursue her own desires (ancient dance) from childhood to adulthood. I’m always looking for books to diversify my reading, and really enjoyed this one in text and, thanks to @netgalley, the audio also. Thank you @algonquinbooks for this advanced hardcover copy (and the treats you sent along with it, swipe to see). Pub date 9/7/21 #thearcher #algonquin #algonquinbooks #netgalley #arc #advancedreaderscopy #advancedreadercopy #arcreader #bookstagram #bookstagrammer #bookstagrammersunite #bookstagramming #bookstafam #bookstafeatures #netgalleyreads #netgalleyreview #netgalleyreader #bookspotlight #reading #bookblog #bookblogging #bookbloggers #shrutiswamy #bombay #indianauthors #diversifyyourbookshelf #diversereads #bookish #booksofinstagram #booktour

  26. 5 out of 5

    Michelle

    “Alive with desire, Shruti Swamy's prismatic language glimmers with the force that drives her characters to dance, beating against the restrictions of body, society, tradition, sexuality, and the fallible self toward a liberatory devotion to life. A gorgeous, taut, deeply embodied reading experience, The Archer further establishes Swamy as a writer of thrilling talent.” —Asako Serizawa, author of Inheritors Why I Cannot Wait to Read This Book A House is A Body was such a beautiful journey f “Alive with desire, Shruti Swamy's prismatic language glimmers with the force that drives her characters to dance, beating against the restrictions of body, society, tradition, sexuality, and the fallible self toward a liberatory devotion to life. A gorgeous, taut, deeply embodied reading experience, The Archer further establishes Swamy as a writer of thrilling talent.” —Asako Serizawa, author of Inheritors Why I Cannot Wait to Read This Book A House is A Body was such a beautiful journey fraught with emotion and intelligence. It was thought provoking and utterly moving experience. It is so immersive that you are held captive for a time. Then forced to marinate in all your feelings and ponder your thoughts after putting it down. Her characters are written with such depth and nuance. Women are strong while tender. I am looking forward to seeing her prose shine through her first full length novel. I love coming of age novels especially those that explore different cultures. More importantly I'm excited to see how she explores female autonomy, art and expression through the world of the Indian classical dance Kathak.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Books, Brews & Booze

    What a beautifully written, lyrical book. Like the main character in "The Archer," who dances ... that's what the language in this book does - it dances. It flows and moves and meanders so beautifully. I listened to the audiobook and found myself pausing it to type down passages. If I'd had a physical book or ebook, I would surely have underlined or highlighted them. "The Archer" is like a beautifully choreographed dance. It touches upon difficult subjects... poverty, mental health and wellness, d What a beautifully written, lyrical book. Like the main character in "The Archer," who dances ... that's what the language in this book does - it dances. It flows and moves and meanders so beautifully. I listened to the audiobook and found myself pausing it to type down passages. If I'd had a physical book or ebook, I would surely have underlined or highlighted them. "The Archer" is like a beautifully choreographed dance. It touches upon difficult subjects... poverty, mental health and wellness, depression, death, regrets. But while it doesn't shy away from the complexities or challenges we see, it always flows back toward the beauty of life. "I was rapidly progressing at my dance, and so the world seemed full, made of movement, offering something secret, that I could almost understand. I felt very close to understanding. The way the sea rippled in the evenings along the shore. Adding variation to the lines it cast on the sand, following a pattern, but elaborating on it. The various poses of trees -- some curled, bent, as though old, some standing broadly, with their arms thrown up. Some gripping both the earth and the sky, and one immense banyan, growing between my teacher’s house and my own, whose movement was stillness, draped in its own concentration."

  28. 5 out of 5

    Mara

    The Archer by Shruti Swami is a lyrically written novel about a rebellious young woman who breaks from traditional expectations in the 1960s-70s in India to pursue Kathak dancing. We first meet Vidya as a child, her mother is aloof and taken from her at an early age. She ends up taking care of her younger brother and household duties. Despite these responsibilities, Vidya begins learning independence and takes advantage of opportunities including higher education and Kathak dancing. The tone shi The Archer by Shruti Swami is a lyrically written novel about a rebellious young woman who breaks from traditional expectations in the 1960s-70s in India to pursue Kathak dancing. We first meet Vidya as a child, her mother is aloof and taken from her at an early age. She ends up taking care of her younger brother and household duties. Despite these responsibilities, Vidya begins learning independence and takes advantage of opportunities including higher education and Kathak dancing. The tone shift and skips in time made it a little hard to follow, but I was invested in Vidya’s story. I really enjoyed Vidya’s journey and her rebellious streak and devotion to Kathak. What I found especially fascinating was the the social commentary that was peppered in, from the traditional expectations for women and treatment due to class differences and colorism. It was interesting to see how these elements effected the course of her life and isolation she felt. I listened to the audiobook which was masterfully narrated by Sneha Mathan. Thank you Algonquin Books and NetGalley for providing this ARC.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Elizabeth, Jasmine & Rebeca Pizarro

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. Vidya is a little girl that presides in Bombay, India with her father, auntie and two older girl cousins. Her mother is ill in the hospital and her younger brother is being taken care by someone else. When she finally sees her mother and brother again, her mother is cold with her and tender with her brother. Vidya notices the dancers that practice at the same facility where her mother takes singing lessons. When Vidya takes interest in dance and asks her mother if she can attend lessons, her mot Vidya is a little girl that presides in Bombay, India with her father, auntie and two older girl cousins. Her mother is ill in the hospital and her younger brother is being taken care by someone else. When she finally sees her mother and brother again, her mother is cold with her and tender with her brother. Vidya notices the dancers that practice at the same facility where her mother takes singing lessons. When Vidya takes interest in dance and asks her mother if she can attend lessons, her mother makes her promise that she be a dedicated dancer and Vidya agrees. Will Vidya become a great dancer over time and make her mother proud? Vidya is such a sweet adventurous girl that deserved more respect, love and affection. I really enjoyed seeing her grow strong and happier. Her resilience and dedication impressed me. As I was reading the story, I realized that Vidya's mother suffered from mental illness. Her outbursts and rash behavior are understandable but were affecting Vidya. It was difficult for Vidya to be kind to her brother because he was treated like the favorite even she loves him greatly. Will Vidya’s love for her family surpass all obstacle? You will find out where Vidya’s love for dance and adventure will take her. Thank you for your support. -Rebeca

  30. 5 out of 5

    Dana

    {3.5 stars} The Archer is a story of finding yourself and being authentic to who you are and what you want even when society and everyone around you are pressing for something different. Set in Bombay in the 1960s and 70s, Vidya is a child full of fantasy caught up in the dream of becoming a dancer. Her childhood is fraught with pain due to her missing mother and overbearing traditional father. We see her fight as she ages to live the life she wants and be the dancer she wants to be. Even after sh {3.5 stars} The Archer is a story of finding yourself and being authentic to who you are and what you want even when society and everyone around you are pressing for something different. Set in Bombay in the 1960s and 70s, Vidya is a child full of fantasy caught up in the dream of becoming a dancer. Her childhood is fraught with pain due to her missing mother and overbearing traditional father. We see her fight as she ages to live the life she wants and be the dancer she wants to be. Even after she gets her wish to learn dance, she pushes for more to break with tradition and move the way she wants. We see over and over that she is pressed back into the mold that society wants for her. I really felt for Vidya as she struggled to be herself, to love who she wanted to love, to pursue her passion. The Archer is a very atmospheric read with beautifully written passages about fulfillment and authenticity of spirit. Thanks to Algonquin Books for a copy of this novel. All opinions are my own.

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