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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