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They Came Like Swallows

4.06 of 5 stars 4.06  ·  rating details  ·  791 ratings  ·  117 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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229th out of 361 books — 543 voters


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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 1,495)
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Diane S.
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
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Teresa
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
...more
Diane
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
Celeste


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" narra , sob o ponto de vista de duas crianças ( 8 e 13 anos) e do seu pai ,os acontecimentos que assolaram a sua família no Inverno de 1918 durante a pandemia de gripe espanhola.

Bunny, o mais jovem Morison , enterneceu-me com a ligação à
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Teresa
...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
Allie Whiteley
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
Ana
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.
Laura Leaney
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
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
Rahim Manji
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
Angela Young
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
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
Rosa Ramôa
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*
Thing Two
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.
Mike
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
Rob
There's something compelling about books that present the world from a child's viewpoint; the way they tell two stories, the one the child sees and the one the reader knows is really going on. When done well, it can be superb - books like The Go-Between, Paddy Clarke Ha Ha Ha and The Curious Incident of the Dog at Midnight will always have special places in my heart.

They Came Like Swallows is surely as good as any of those books. I have to confess to having never heard of Maxwell; I've no idea i
...more
Marco Caetano
Veja a minha opinião no blogue:
http://conspiracaodasletras.blogspot....

De vez em quando sabe-me bem chegar à estante de livros e escolher um livro do qual pouco ou nada sei. Apenas porque me apetece!
Vieram como andorinhas foi um desses casos. Já tinha ouvido falar de William Maxwell uma vez ou outra, mas nunca de nenhuma obra em concreto, nem tão pouco de qual o seu género literário.

Nesta obra, Maxwell revela-se um autor de afectos. No seio de uma família burguesa americana, no rescaldo da prime
...more
Jerry Delaney
This is a simple story of a family in a small Illinois town during Woodrow Wilson's term. The story is in three parts; the first narrated from the point of view of 8-year-old Bunny, the second from the view of his older brother Robert, and the final section is through the father, James. Missing from this list is the mother, but that's not a drawback. We know her very well through these three males whose lives rotate around her. We know her warmth, her practicality, her love and her sense of humo ...more
Russell George
This is a wonderful novella. Told effortlessly with simple but distinct prose, it’s the story of a family living in suburban America at the end of the First World War as ‘Spanish’ flu sweeps the mid-west. Each section is told from the perspective of a family member – the father and both young sons – and the family dynamic, tantrums and triumphs, is both moving and insightful.

But more than this, the bereavement that they confront is absolutely heartbreaking. I don’t think I’ve read anything in a
...more
Christopher
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
William
This 1937 novel is a short, sad story of a family's arc from bliss to crisis. The book's three parts are told in succession from the vantage points of the Morison family's three males: eight-year-old Bunny, his older brother Robert, and the boys' father James. Each loves Elizabeth Morison for her almost clairvoyant ability to say the right thing, to be always graceful, and to define love for each of them uniquely. And while it may be old fashioned (or antiquate) to enjoy a novel tat places a wom ...more
Arlene Allen
This is one of those authors that Everyone Should Read, and the book was indeed beautifully written. But, I don't think I got it, and I feel stupid. Maybe becuase it didn't seem to have the traditional fiction structure - buildup, climax, denoumount (I'm not going to look up the spelling, so there), that it simply didn't seem to have much point.
D.A.
A sad but beautiful short novel, set around the World War I Armistice and immediately after, during the influenza pandemic of 1918. Maxwell begins his story in the innocent world of Bunny, a child in Chicago, and moves us gently and irrevocably into the world of unbearable knowledge. Highly recommended.
Susan
November, 1918 in a small town in Illinois. World War I is just ending, and the Spanish influenza epidemic is underway. Each event, each character, each sentence seems inevitably right in this sad but beautiful short novel.
Aran
Loved the first section from the youngest boy's perspective. Lovely and strange.
Jaz
I don't know what I expected, but this wasn't it. A moving and stunning portrayal of family life, They Came Like Swallows is captivating and heart wrenching.

Firstly, I liked the narrative style: simplicity of the narrative helps us engage and get attached to Bunny, the little boy who dominates the first part of the book. By saying that I mean as narrator, for really the mother dominates the entire book. Also, the simplicity of the narrative is demonstrative of Bunny himself which allows the rea
...more
Chris Gager
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
Yami
I am not sure how to review this one,the truth I was bracing my self for the drama, and was waiting for that moment, but...it passed,
the story takes you to the life of a small ordinary family,with the perspective of three characters, and the point of view of each,

first was Bunny, the cute little kid, who worshiped his mother, and was having trouble with both his older brother "Robert" and dealing with his father.
as Robert was "from Bunny's view" so mean to him and selfish, and would take Bunny'
...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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