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They Came Like Swallows (Panther) Paperback – 27 Dec 2001

4.3 out of 5 stars 16 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 160 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage Classics; New Ed edition (27 Dec. 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1860469280
  • ISBN-13: 978-1860469282
  • Product Dimensions: 13.1 x 1.3 x 19.9 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (16 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 157,379 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

Amazon Review

In the Morison house the important goes unsaid and indirection is the operative mode--conversation stops where it should start and key terms such as fear, pain and pregnancy fail to be addressed. The younger son, an eight-year-old, passes his days deciphering adults' inaccessible discussions. "In this fashion they communicated with each other, out of knowledge and experience inaccessible to Bunny. By nods and silences. By a tired curve of his mother's mouth. By his father's measuring glance over the top of his spectacles". Bunny's older brother would rather escape to the outside world, and their father finds declaiming the day's headlines--the end of World War I and the onslaught of Spanish Influenza--far preferable to engagement. Only Elizabeth, their mother, is capable of holding the family together. The fifth main character in They Came Like Swallows is the house itself. Maxwell expresses the boys' reactions through this labile, interior landscape. Bunny finds the dining room can be "braced and ready for excitement"; later his brother realises "for the first time how still the house was, how full of waiting ... tense and expectant". Though war never makes it to Illinois, the flu changes all. First Bunny is stricken, and once he recovers Elizabeth, pregnant, dies from it. In quiet, piercing prose, William Maxwell's second novel, originally published in 1937, evokes the greatest of losses and the terrors of imagination. --Amazon.com --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Review

"There aren't many truly great writers... William Maxwell is one of them" (The Times)

"A story of such engaging warmth that it will melt many a reader to tears" (Time Magazine)

"Very delightful" (V.S. Pritchett)

"Rare...exquisite...a cameo-like perfection" (New York Herald Tribune)

"A lovely, heartbreaking book" (New York Sun)

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4.3 out of 5 stars
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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
Thoroughly enjoyed this evocative and lyrical novel,but how sad that Amazon's own review at the top of the page reveals a crucial part of the plot.Quite wrong.
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Format: Paperback
First published in 1937, American author William Maxwell's brief novel 'They Came Like Swallows' is set in Illinois, at the end of the First World War, and focuses on the Morison family: James and his expectant wife Elizabeth, and their two sons, thirteen-year-old Robert and eight-year-old Bunny. Elizabeth is a devoted mother to her sons, recognizing and accepting the difference in their personalities: Robert, boisterous and adventurous who, as a small child, lost the lower part of one of his legs whilst clambering onto the back end of a carriage; and Bunny, a timid, sensitive child, who is young for his years and very dependent on his mother for comfort and security.

Told in three parts, this story begins from the view point of young Bunny, who succumbs to the Spanish Flu and becomes very ill, requiring even more of his mother's devoted care; the story continues from the perspective of Robert, who feels his mother is someone he must try to protect; and part three of the story is told from the viewpoint of James, who loves his wife dearly and thinks of her as the foundation on which his family rests, knowing that without her, life would become intolerable. When more than one member of the Morison family falls ill with the terrible flu virus, their lives are altered irrevocably, but to say more would spoil this brief, but warm and sensitive portrait of American family life. Beautifully observed and deftly-composed, this novella is one that is best enjoyed in one sitting, as the reader becomes slowly drawn into the intensity of the Morisons' lives and of the fate that befalls them.

4 Stars.
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Format: Paperback
Wallace Stegner. John 'Stoner' Williams. Now William Maxwell has joined my list of 'quiet Americans' who write so beautifully about quiet lives and move me with acute observations of the everyday. Set in 1918 mid-west USA at the height of the influenza epidemic, this short book - which I read at one sitting - recounts the feelings of a husband for his wife and two young sons for their mother. Simple yet it gets to the very heart of the complex relationships within this little family.
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Format: Paperback
The career of William Maxwell, 1908-2000, was divided between his writing and his longstanding position as fiction editor for The New Yorker, 1936-75, where he played a significant role in establishing the literary careers of Updike, Cheever, O’Hara, Harold Brodkey and Eudora Welty. His own literature cannot be said to have suffered from this division of responsibilities since he received many prizes, awards and accolades and this novella, published in 1937, has never been out of print.

It is, however, true that his work is better known in his own country. All the more reason for this book to be republished in 2008 by Vintage Classics and the writing will certainly encourage readers to explore his 5 novels [The Château, 1961, being an excellent exploration of the love and sadness of a childless American couple in post-war France], collections of short stories and non-fictional work. It is true that post-war events in America do not feature in Maxwell’s work and his description of post-war France in The Château is very different from the perspective of other American writers of the time.

Delicacy may not be a widely-appreciated appreciated quality today but writing such as we have here shows how muscular and flowing such a term can be. There are autobiographical elements in this book, as in his other works - one brother having part of a leg amputated, the family’s Scottish ancestry, the very different characters of the siblings as well as other matters that are central to the story.
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By A Customer on 17 April 2002
Format: Paperback
It's hard to believe this book was written in the 30s (USA)as it has a timeless feel to it. The book is written in 3 sections by 3 different narrators. It starts with the youngest boy in the family, followed by his older brother & finally the father of the 2. Each portrays their own perspective beautifully. We really feel their emotions. All 3 narratives centre around the narrator's relationship with the mother/wife and tell the family tale with a simplicity that creates an extremely moving work. The childhood evoked is magic. Recommended. It's a short read and best read at one sitting...
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Format: Paperback
Having ready another of MAxwell's books recently I wanted to try more and wasn't disappointed. The copy I read had dense black print, which didn't make it visually appealing or easy on the eyes, but once you get embraced by the story you don't really notice that. Slit into three sections, and then chapters within these, it follows the relationships and events around one family - James, Elizabeth, Robert and Bunny. Set just after WW1 at the outbreak of the 1918 Spanish flu epidemic. Elizabeth is pregnant and as their lives unfold, you know what's going to happen, but want to find out what effect that will have. Three of the four of them get the flu and one dies, with life changing consequences. I'm still pondering the title as I'm not sure what this might allude to.
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