They Came Like Swallows by William Maxwell

I have been missing from the blog for a while. Every time I list out all the books I have to review, I end up not following through. Here’s to hoping that I finally complete this month’s posts because next month and the end of the year would require a significantly improved involvement and interest from me if I am to keep up the tone here.

I must be frank and admit I had not heard of this author before. I only picked this book because it was short, written about an interesting time and had positive reviews. It felt like a treat in the sense of stumbling over something unexpected.

We meet a small American family at the tail end of the first world war. The first few chapters follow the current baby of the household, affectionately known as Bunny, who is the apple of his mother’s eye and pain to his brother. The narrative then moves on to the brother and finally lands on his father. We see the narrators through the other’s eyes as well, and that added a little something to the entire book.

The plot is straightforward: the Spanish flu is making its way through the town as well as the country. Its presence will soon be felt in this simple, reasonably happy household. What happens during is the bulk of the story. The rest is about family dynamics and how kids are not always what they seem (neither are the adults!). I wept for the last part, which surprised me because I did not think I had enough time to get attached.

I recommend this to anyone on the lookout for old classics to try, and the size does help.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

I received an ARC thanks to NetGalley and the publishers, but the review is entirely based on my own reading experience.

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