Thoughts at the half way point of They Came Like Swallows

The idea of telling a story from the view points of several characters is not just something that David Mitchell can do and in this tale of grief and loss William Maxwell is able to not only build tension but do so through different people.

I have to confess for the first few pages it felt as if the world Maxwell was describing was an English country house with its library and maids and a family of two boys and their parents. But before long the unmistakable signs of America were there and the family on the brink of the end of the First World War were enjoying life not too far from Chicago.

But a shadow hangs over the world of eight year old Bunny and his thirteen year old brother Robert. It is not the war, that hardly seems to be noticed by the boys, but it is the Spanish influenza that is spreading across the country.

As the neighbourhood starts to shut down to avoid spreading the disease the family faces the flu as it hits Bunny and then threatens to impact the plans the parents have to travel to a specialist hospital for the delivery of their third child.

A review will follow soonish…

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