Posted in Books

Book Review: Swami and Friends, by R K Narayan

About the author:
RK Narayan was an Indian author whose works of fiction include a series of books about people and their interactions in an imagined town in India called Malgudi. He is one of three leading figures of early Indian literature in English. He is credited with bringing Indian literature in English to the rest of the world, and is regarded as one of India’s greatest English language novelists.

Cover art:
I didn’t get what the cover art meant till I read the book. It depicts a very nice scene, when the three boys become fast friends.

My thoughts on the book:
There are few books that truly live up to the billing of the genre “Classics”. If you look at international literature, the likes of Pride and Prejudice, or Journey to the Centre of the Earth, Great Expectations… these are the books that come to mind. Go to Indian literature, and you have the fables from the Epics, Amar Chitra Katha, Panchatantra, Gitanjali by Rabindranath Tagore and Satyajit Ray’s Feluda as some of the more beloved works of literature. One such beloved work of literature to Indian hearts is R K Narayan’s debut work, Swami and Friends.

There are few books that bring back the innocence of childhood to our mind. Yes, there is quite a lot of children’s fiction in the market, but to capture that innocence, make us nostalgic for those days of our lives we knew and loved and felt to be magical; the book has to be something special. Swami and Friends is just such a book. From the start, which speaks of Swaminathan (Swami) despising Monday mornings, to doing whatever needs be to get what he needs, the book has these scenes we can easily relate with from our own childhood. A prominent difference might be that we would have wished for different things, not the simple stuff like a tyre hoop to roll down the street. The village of Malgudi is the setting for the story. The author’s magic is such that I can feel the setting unfold before my eyes. I feel I am sitting with Swami in the classroom, looking out the window as Vedanayagam drones on. I can see the toddlers playing, and the train going over the Sarayu Bridge. I can even see the Sarayu in the moonlight through his words. I feel as if I’m part of their bravado and their silly fights. I smile at how easy it was to make friends in those days of childhood, when all it took was an apology to be forgiven, for a misunderstanding to be solved and grudges forgotten. I remember the silly questions we had asked, how one word had only one meaning to us and we held on to that like it meant the world to us. We’d become friend with those who we hated just to get something nice in return, and feel nice too.

This book, I feel, can make us laugh and cry, bring back both happy and painful memories and take us back in time through those memories. This is not a book to look at depth of characters or twists and turns. This is something to cherish for the simplicity that it possesses, that flows through its every drop. Yes, there is exploration of a more profound theme in the book, but the soul of the book is, like its protagonists, innocent and carefree. Swami and Friends is truly what you would call, an evergreen Indian classic.

Rated a perfect 10/10
Rated a perfect 10/10

Book Details:
Title: Swami and Friends
Author: R. K. Narayan
ISBN: 9788185986005
Genre: Children’s Fiction/ Classics
Publishers: Indian Thought Publications
Price: INR. 105

This book is a personal copy. No payment was taken for this review.
The opinions expressed in the review are my own, and remain unbiased and uninfluenced.

Shared with Indian Quills Reading Challenge at Tales Pensieve.

(17th Nov, 2013)


Poetry and writing are to me, a breath of fresh air in a life that is sometimes covered by the smoke of sorrow or self doubt. They also become the sweets I share to celebrate when life offers me a reason to. But most of all, they are to me, my life. For each word I write is a piece of my heart, a thought that just had to find its way into the world.