Review published on July 7, 2017.
Swimmer Amongst the Stars is the debut short-story collection by Kanishk Tharoor and it covers some really interesting topics from all areas of history and all around the world. The opening story, which shares its name with the collection, looks at collecting and documenting a lost language through interviews with the last living speaker, and the collection ends with the tale of icebreaker ships stranded in the ocean as an unprecedented weather situation catches them off guard.
The variety of stories in this collection was really interesting and really gave some interesting perspectives on the changing world in which we live. I liked the concepts of many of the stories, especially ‘The United Nations in Space’ looking at where the key decision makers would be based should some disaster befall the world. The ideas were really original and very thought provoking.
However, and it is a big however, I didn’t actually enjoy any of the stories in this collection despite the interesting topics they were written to explore. The reason for this is that the all felt unfinished. The plot stopped very abruptly with no conclusion and left me a little confused as to what the story was about all along. Even those which were particularly well written, like ‘The Loss of Muzaffar’ left me thoroughly disappointed.
This isn’t an unusual review from me – I usually struggle with short stories as they often finish short of a conclusion and feel a bit like the first chapter in a novel to follow. In this case, Tharoor seems to have tried to create a conclusion to his stories but they felt really rushed and left me feeling I had been very short changed.
It’s a real shame because there is clearly a good writer here. Some of the language and phrasing is really nice – I love the expression in the title of the collection – and in a short number of pages there is good character development which did actually engage me with some of the characters. The matters being discussed are really interesting so there is clearly a good mind here, but the lack of conclusions ruined the whole book for me which was really disappointing.
Sam Woodfield 3/3
Swimmer Among the Stars by Kanishk Tharoor
Picador 9781509822218 hbk Apr 2017
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