The Swap is an emotionally immersive story that draws three very distinctive female characters who allow avaricious choices to create a toxic set of relationships. A story that is fascinating and keenly observed, as we wonder what emotional control is possible when relationships become unhinged.
Freya was an Instagram influencer with a huge following, bestowing on her a sense of devotion and importance. Freya is married to Max who was a hockey player until during a match he inadvertently killed a fellow player following a crunching tackle. With their careers over and the hatred targeted at both Max and Freya, they watched their glamourous lives disappear and they moved to an island in the Pacific North-West to start anew.
Swallow (Low) is a teenager feeling extremely isolated and living with polyamorous parents, and brothers, that she feels disconnected with. Low signs up for pottery classes with Freya as her only student and they develop a mutual appetite for each other’s company.
“At home, I was an afterthought. At school, I was a pariah. At Freya’s studio, I was everything. Freya was a best friend, a parent, and a crush all wrapped up in one worldly, glamorous package. Later, people would say I was obsessed with her, but I wasn’t. With Freya, I was home.”
Freya is beautiful, hip, confident, while Low is tall, gangly, awkward and not very pretty. As the story develops, Robyn Harding shows how narcissistic characteristics start to dominate and how attitudes and situations are changeable.
Jamie and her husband Brian moved to the quiet island area to give Brian an opportunity to focus on completing his new book. For Jamie, it may also provide a relaxed atmosphere that could enable her to become pregnant, something she so desperately seeks. Jamie opens a gift shop and builds a friendship with Freya when selling her pottery pieces. The exclusive relationship between Low and Freya suddenly gets side-lined and Low gradually feels more and more neglected. The foursome of Jamie, Freya and their husbands form a comfortable adult balance with Low removed. On a fun evening, with shrooms and alcohol, the foursome considers the possibility of couple swapping. The ramifications of which are played out in front of a hurt and unwanted teenager, spying from outside the house.
A wonderful play on friendships and relationships is explored with intriguing dynamics that don’t always plot a linear course. What really strikes home are the fragile needs of acceptance, personal attention and exclusivity to make their lives replete if that was ever possible. The unique disposition with each female character is wonderfully developed through desire, envy, obsession, guilt, and loneliness, as each experiences something missing in their lives and then is tantalisingly dangled in front of them. Each of the five characters possesses their own voice in the narration of the novel and the transition from one to the other is cleverly used, especially when shocking revelations are triggered. The deceit and lies become more toxic and the once harmonious lives become fractured.
I highly recommend this book and I would like to thank Gallery Books and NetGalley for providing me with a free ARC in return for an honest review.