They Came Like Swallows by William Maxwell is a fictional pandemic tale that takes place in 1918. I know not everyone can tolerate reading a pandemic novel during a pandemic but I routinely read about emerging diseases and wasn't horribly surprised by COVID-19, so I've had no problem reading both fiction and nonfiction about pandemics throughout the last year-and-a-half.
In They Came Like Swallows, you view the changes in daily life, the annoyances, the rising fear, and tragic personal loss caused by the spread of Spanish Flu through the eyes of the two Morison children and one of their parents.
Stylistically, They Came Like Swallows reads a lot like a Persephone book. It was published in 1937, so that should come as no surprise. Both the writing and the storyline did surprise me in many ways, though.
Viewing a pandemic through the eyes of a young child who overhears snippets of conversations, an older child who is frustrated by school closure and the inability to play with friends, a grieving adult, and others around them made for an unusual and well-rounded view of pandemic life through the lens of a single family.
Highly recommended - There are so many parallels to what we've gone through, recently. There's even a man who complains about church closures. It was an eye-opening lesson in how things don't change. Heartbreaking but an exceptional read and there is, fortunately, a glimmer of hope at the end.
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I've actually been thinking about reading this one.ReplyDelete
It's an excellent book; I can see why it's still in print. If you like Persephone books, you'll enjoy it for the older writing style.Delete
I don't know if I've ever specifically read a Persephone book. But I have read another Gavin Maxwell, and while it wasn't an all-time favorite, it was very good at showing the inner state of mind. Would be a very interesting take on this subject and to compare with what we're all experiencing now.Delete
Persephone books are mostly older titles so they have a slightly different tone and pacing. If you can get your mitts on some, I recommend them. This is William Maxwell, not Gavin, unless that was a typo?Delete
No, not a typo! The other William Maxwell book I read is called The Folded Leaf.Delete
Oh, awesome, I'll look it up.Delete
I'm interested in this one and love the title. Fiction often helps me understand what I perceive in a crisis.ReplyDelete
Yes, exactly the way I feel. I actually ordered the book last year specifically because it's set during a pandemic. It's a unique viewpoint. I enjoyed seeing the pandemic through the eyes of the children, in particular.Delete
I am one of those readers who like to read about topics that I am currently living. Pandemics, included. When we got shutdown the first time I binged on all the pandemic movies. Ha! Then I had to read The Stand again.ReplyDelete
Yep, it doesn't bother me at all to read about topics I'm living through and sometimes it's helpful -- like reading about grief when you've lost someone. I think this was maybe my 4th pandemic book since last year. So, I haven't read all that many but I've enjoyed them all. Only one was too farfetched to get a high rating but I still liked it. I've only watched two pandemic movies. LOLDelete