Skeins by Richa Gupta is a powerful women-centric contemporary fiction. The book is about 16 women that travel to Spain and Portugal for a period of 13 days; they come from Delhi, Mumbai, Dubai, and Chennai. It's one of the unique novels where there is no specific protagonist; rather all 16 women have been highlighted in proper light during and after the trip.
Another dazzling aspect is the combination of age group – there were unmarried young spinsters to women settled in the society with kids and husbands, and a few over fifty grappling with senile isolation and solitude. This is one good book that has neither feminism nor sensuality, suitable to all sorts of readers.
As a reader you may connect to some women personally, it totally depends on your social ambience, and there would be some women whose life story may sound odd to you! On a broader note, it's a collection of experience – interlaced with sorrow and aspirations dull and bright like skeins. The title is perfect with an underlying meaning and only those who completely read the book can understand its warmth and relevance.
The novel discusses many topics that often go unheard either in the heat of social dilemma or the race for living. For instance, Deepti's plight to see her husband gnawed by Alzheimer, Vidya was miserable owing to her vapid husband, Paddy and Harry were happy at life somehow, Rashmi and Cathy were good carefree friends but they have that quest for perfect life partners, and Kakoli, the tour guide, her shuttling life story between two set of parents was a cause of unwanted depression to her. The novel is not limited to these few instances. In a sense, it’s full of tales and stories and anecdotes emanating from these 16 women.
The book is silently segmented into two parts: during the trip and introduction, and post the trip. In the first part, they express themselves, well in the second part they get shocks, repair their actions, and get on a mission called life. The novel reinstates the fact that every individual has a unique story and they, to some extent, have the power to resurrect and ruin their destiny. Story of Sandra, when she is caught involved in the smuggling racket, suggests ruin. On the other hand, Rehana forgives her philanderer husband indicates that from time and again even intimate relations seek mercy and compassion.
Not only this Kritika gives up her semblance of feminism and on the advice of Rupa, marries Rehan. In life, we all get shocks and grieve, but it never means to stop living or spend life under a rigid pretence. With time, one ought to change, accept the loss and love that life throws at us.
The first part of the novel is also poignant in depicting the European beauty of Spain and Portugal. Other than just a brilliant fictional novel, it also fills one with traveling details and mannerism. As a reader, one can learn a lot about as how to travel in a group.
Richa Gupta has stitched a riveting tale by blending travelogue, human emotions, and diverse characters into one. The story was well balanced; there was hardly any conflict of interests. Probably, one of the strongest messages that the book radiates is respecting and understanding each other's space. Delivering a readable novel with so many characters is a tough job, and Richa has done it expertly.