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They Came Like Swallows

4.04  ·  Rating Details  ·  1,045 Ratings  ·  158 Reviews
First published in 1937, They Came Like Swallows was William
Maxwell's second novel. It tells of an ordinary American family
overtaken by the devastating epidemic of the Spanish influenza of
1918. The book begins on the day before the armistice in a small
midwestern town, and the events are seen from the perspective, in
turn, of eight-year-old Peter Morison--called Bunny; of hi
...more
Paperback, 192 pages
Published 1937 by The Harvill Press
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 2,113)
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Fionnuala
Dec 06, 2015 Fionnuala added it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Fionnuala by: Tony
Shelves: reviewed-in-2015



I hadn't the least suspicion that this was the perfect book to read right after I’d completed a long Virginia Woolf season but my reading life has a way of finding connections in spite of me. Having finally finished with Woolf last week, I searched my book pile for something I thought would be completely different and this slim little book by William Maxwell caught my eye. It's a book I’d been meaning to read since last year when a friend recommended it, and other than remembering vaguely that i
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Tony
Dec 21, 2014 Tony rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Fionnuala
Recommended to Tony by: Teresa
Shelves: wwi, u-s-lit
One British, one French, one German. Three novels, one from each of those countries. Three perspectives of the First World War. The moment I read that I thought what a wonderful idea, circling the conflict, a century removed. Real life reading friends were impressed when I suggested it as our group project for 2015. Oh, I could have, should have, credited Fionnuala, but to my reading chums that would have just been a lovely name. They would have missed the inspiration, the Muse that she is.

I was
...more
Diane S ☔
Aug 22, 2014 Diane S ☔ rated it really liked it
Bunny is eight years old in the late 1910's, the war has ended and he and his family live in a small Midwestern town, Bunny is our narrator for the first part of this novel. This is not really a coming of age novel, though it does include two young children. The Spanish Flu is rearing its ugly head and causing devastation in many, many places, people are being told to stay home. This is not a novel about the Spanish Flu either, though it does play a significant part of this story.

This is the sto
...more
Teresa
May 28, 2015 Teresa rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Though not the masterpiece So Long, See You Tomorrow is, this much earlier work of Maxwell's contains many of the elements that seem to haunt much of his writing: the effect of the 1918 flu epidemic on his family and their small Illinois community, and his relationships with his older brother and their father.

The narrators are the three males of the family, but the mother is the center of their lives, and of this slim novel, too. The story is passed down, like a reversed legacy, from 8-year-old
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Carmo Santos
Apr 27, 2016 Carmo Santos rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: norte-americanos
Revi-me na infância, e reconheci todas as birras que fiz e o porquê de alguns comportamentos que tive.
Constatei que, talvez em determinadas ocasiões, não tenha dado o devido valor a algumas pirraças dos meus filhos.
Como mãe, senti com um misto de dor e ternura, porque é que temos de ser a cola que une todas as pontas.

Um livro sem estória mirabolante, sem personagens recambolescas, mas que é um espelho, um reflexo de cada um de nós desde as pequenas dores de crescimento até às sábias provas de vi
...more
Diane
Jun 09, 2013 Diane rated it it was amazing
What a beautiful and bittersweet novella this is. It's the story of an Illinois family who suffers through the 1918 flu epidemic. The first chapter is told from the viewpoint of the 8-year-old son, Bunny, who is an imaginative and anxious little boy. He desperately loves his mother and is afraid of his stern father. Bunny looks up to his older brother, Robert, who is mean and rarely condescends to play with him. The second chapter is from the perspective of 13-year-old Robert, who is a rambuncti ...more
Mary
Jun 15, 2015 Mary rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction, 2015
This is an extremely dreary and subtle novel that touched upon (though didn’t quite fully develop) the loss a child feels when he loses his mother, and the emptiness one feels when a spouse dies.

Brothers, aged 8 and 13, struggle to connect with each other and to relate to the world around them, and it’s all in that unspoken, time-gone-by way of boys and toy soldiers and farms and summers. They both have that deep-seated craving for mother’s love, and both feel the sting of favoritism and jealous
...more
Cátia Santos
Nov 29, 2015 Cátia Santos rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Muito bem escrito e sentimentos que nos são tão familiares fazem deste um livro perfeito. A simplicidade com que o autor retrata esta família é assustadoramente próxima de qualquer um de nós. Muito bom!
Allie Riley
Mar 16, 2014 Allie Riley rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I love William Maxwell's writing. Simple, direct & evocative. He is able to conjure up vivid pictures with the sparsest of sentences. This little book is beautiful and compulsive reading (I got through it in just over 2 hours), despite its tragic subject matter. Set at the time of the Spanish Flu outbreak it focuses on the Morison family and how they are directly affected by it. Maxwell seems to have a wonderful understanding of how children think (he reminds me of Esther Freud in that respe ...more
Teresa
Apr 25, 2016 Teresa rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
...folhas e folhas de papel escritas, riscadas, rasgadas e amachucadas...e nada para partilhar...porque não há palavras que descrevam a Perfeição...

Vieram como andorinhas e como andorinhas se foram,
E, porém, a força de uma mulher
Pôde manter uma andorinha na sua rota.
E meia dúzia em formação,
Como o rodopio de uma agulha de bússola,
Encontrou certeza no ar sonhador...


W. B. Yeats
Celeste Corrêa
“Quando eu era criança , falava como uma criança, entendia o mundo como uma criança…..mas quando me tornei homem acabei com as coisas de criança”. – Coríntios 13:11

Como é difícil crescer e libertarmo-nos dos nossos cordões umbilicais.

A andorinha é uma ave migratória monogâmica, ou seja, possui um parceiro durante toda a vida e, por esse motivo, está associada ao amor. É conhecida como "ave da partida e do regresso".

Com uma magnífica epígrafe de um poema de W.B.Yeats “Vieram como andorinhas” nar
...more
Jeanette
Jun 14, 2015 Jeanette rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Marvelous family study of a place, time and a crucible of change. You are cored here within the eyes of the youngest, the oldest son, the father. Love for the mother and each other real life expressed within their own physical and cognitive realities. And quite beyond the emotions or deeply affectionate loving care.

The most appreciated feature of Goodreads experience for me has been introduction to masterful authors of the past who I have somehow entirely missed. William Maxwell is absolutely on
...more
Ana
Jun 02, 2014 Ana rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Agrada-me muito chegar a livros inesperadamente…
Este veio parar-me às mãos depois de ter “tropeçado” nele numa divisão da minha casa. Por aqui, como que por magia, os livros brotam como cogumelos…
Abençoado tropeção!
Existem muitos livros bons. Os livros perfeitos são raríssimos, este é um deles.
Josh
Jul 29, 2015 Josh rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Josh by: Mary
Shelves: 2015, fiction
(4.5) With this being my first exposure to William Maxwell, I was expecting something highly emotional and well written. Getting through the first three quarters of this book, I had yet to see anything of true emotion, but once I saw it, it was seen and I couldn't get enough of it. I don't think I've read a book that has went from a 2-3 star to a 4-5 star so quickly within just a few pages, much less a couple paragraphs. Despair is Maxwell's niche and it worked for me. Of all his writings, I'm g ...more
Sarah
Jan 03, 2016 Sarah rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Beautifully written, bittersweet novella.
Rahim Manji
Mar 24, 2010 Rahim Manji rated it really liked it
It has to be said from the beginning that this is not a dazzling or startling book. It doesn't have any bangs. But what it does have is the wisdom that comes from noticing the day-to-day activities of family life. I read somewhere (on an Amazon review, I think) that Eileen Battersby, a critic, said that Maxwell had the gift of illuminating the "unspoken but faintly understood." I nod in agreement. And add that he has the gift of distilling, shaping, and articulating thoughts that have passed inc ...more
Laura Leaney
Aug 04, 2010 Laura Leaney rated it it was amazing
This is a gorgeous book. The writing feels effortless; each word and every sentence is simple, yet the effect is a luxury of acute observation and depth of feeling. Reading it was like walking into the warmth of beautifully loved parlor, full of polished furniture, a ticking clock, thick rugs, and a mother, hemming diapers, whose smile could heal all your wounds.

The book is set in 1918 during the great flu pandemic, and involves the Morison family. The first section is told from the point of vie
...more
João Carlos
Dec 28, 2014 João Carlos rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: l2014, favorites
O romance “Vieram Como as Andorinhas” foi editado em 1937 pelo escritor norte-americano William Maxwell (1908-2000).
Um “pequeno” grande romance sobre a família Morison, num retrato emocionante - que decorre no final da Primeira Guerra Mundial e no período em que a Gripe Espanhola, se espalhou pela América - centrado numa pequena cidade no Illinois.
“Vieram Como as Andorinhas” está dividido em três livros: Livro I “Quem é o meu anjo?”, sob o olhar inseguro e ansioso de Bunny, com oito anos de ida
...more
Denise
Feb 19, 2015 Denise rated it really liked it
The story takes place in a midwestern Illinois town in 1918 and begins on the day before the armistice. The Spanish Influenza is rampant, and the Morison family copes the best they can. The story is told from the points of view of 8 year old Bunny, his older brother, Robert, and their father, James. This is a very close loving family. I won't say more about the plot because I don't want to ruin it.

The writing is so pure and perfect, the characters so well drawn. The author took a fairly simple s
...more
Rosa Ramôa
Sep 26, 2014 Rosa Ramôa rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Sobre afectos e as razões que explicam determinados comportamentos...
Há sempre razões para as pessoas serem como são!!!


Vieram como andorinhas e como andorinhas se foram,
E, porém, a força de uma mulher
Pôde manter uma andorinha na sua rota.
E meia dúzia em formação,
Como o rodopio de uma agulha de bússola,
Encontrou certeza no ar sonhador..

Uma andorinha pode fazer a primavera*
Ali
Dec 12, 2015 Ali rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I wonder whether I could say too much about They Came like Swallows – I think there is an inevitability to certain events that the reader expects from the very first page, in a sense I don’t think there are any surprises or shocks. If you happen to be reading this novella currently however, perhaps you better not read any further than this until you are finished.

Illinois 1918 and Elizabeth Morison is an ordinary middle class wife and mother – a wife and mother like so many others, but of course,
...more
Angela Young
Oct 06, 2012 Angela Young rated it it was amazing
I loved this book: its impact is so much greater than its deceptively simple prose and brevity. I thought the difference between the three voices was expertly done: the young boy was quite different from the teenager who was different again from the father. They all lived ... and live on in my mind and heart.

I also loved the way that the house, its clocks and rugs and curtains and wallpapers were characters in their own right, particularly in Bunny’s part: as if they had the capacity to take on
...more
Tyler Jones
May 23, 2012 Tyler Jones rated it it was amazing
I don't know about you, but I find that my favorite book by an author is often the first one I read by him or her. I think So Long, See You Tomorrow will always be my favourite William Maxwell work but it is a book he wrote over forty years earlier, They Came Like Swallows, that many contend is his greatest work. It is hard to argue. The story revolves around an eight-year-old boy living in a small mid-western farming community when the 1918 influenza epidemic hits, taking the lives of many incl ...more
Book Concierge
3.5 stars. Our book club had an interesting discussion of the complex book, which at first glance we expected to be similar to our previous month’s read ("Crow Lake"), but which was really very different. We talked about whether the age in which it was written (and about which it was written) was partly the cause, or whether it was the author’s gender. (We found "Crow Lake," written by a woman, more engaging.) We thought Maxwell’s own history of having lost his mother at a young age affected how ...more
Laysee
May 09, 2015 Laysee rated it really liked it

Published in 1937, "They Came Like Swallows" is an autobiographical novella about the darkest time in William Maxwell's childhood.

The year was 1918. A flu epidemic was raging and tore through the lives of a family living in the U.S. Midwest. The story of the Morison family reflected with heart-searing sharpness the loss 10-year-old Maxwell must have experienced at the sudden death of his mother.

The story was told in three parts from the perspective in turn of 8-year-old Bunny, his 13-year-old
...more
Thing Two
Aug 28, 2011 Thing Two rated it really liked it
They came like swallows is the beginning of a poem by Yates which speaks to the importance of a loving mother, and it is the loss of this loving mother to influenza in 1918 which each of the characters in this book - two sons and a husband - will address. This is based loosely on Maxwell's own life; his mother also died in 1918 of influenza.
Chris Witkowski
Oct 16, 2015 Chris Witkowski rated it liked it
The subject of this novel, that of two young boys who lose their beloved mother to the Spanish Flu outbreak of 1918, is also the subject of Maxwell's masterful So Long, See You Tomorrow, written in 1998. They Came Like Swallows was written in 1937 when Maxwell was a young man and it recounts some of his own life story. Told from three viewpoints, Bunny, his brother Robert, and their father, the narratives relate the circumstances surrounding the death of their pregnant mother and wife. Desolatio ...more
Mike
Jul 23, 2014 Mike rated it it was amazing
It was an immense and rewarding pleasure to read this poignant short novel (some might call it a novella). The writing is done --- and the story is told --- so sensitively with such a stunning level of clarity and quality. I feel a bit shocked that I have been unaware of this author (writing at such a high plane) until now. In the jacket cover of the version I had it mentions John Updike calling the author's "quiet, cadenced Midwestern voice . . . one of the wisest and kindest in American fictio ...more
Chris Gager
Sep 10, 2014 Chris Gager rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Been meaning to get to this and here I am after starting last night. Not a long book. I am a Maxwell fan and so far this is good stuff though a BIT whimsical and lightweight. I know what's coming as it's based on Maxwell's own life. If you've read "So Long, See You Tomorrow"(a phrase repeated continuously in one scene) then you already know.

Finished last night with this book which Maxwell no doubt intended as a tribute to his mother. You can expect to shed some tears at one particular point if y
...more
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William Keepers Maxwell Jr. was an American novelist, and fiction editor at the New Yorker. He studied at the University of Illinois and Harvard University. Maxwell wrote six highly acclaimed novels, a number of short stories and essays, children's stories, and a memoir, Ancestors (1972). His award-winning fiction, which is increasingly seen as some of the most important of the 20th Century, has r ...more
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“Satin and lace and brown velvet and the faint odor of violets. That was all which was left to him of his love.” 4 likes
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