They Came Like Swallows

(Fiction; Vintage, 1997; 1st ed. Harper & Brothers, 1937)

In 1937, when he was still in his twenties, the novelist William Maxwell published a portrait of a wife and mother, dead too soon, in which the narrative never treats its subject directly. Elizabeth Morison is a kind of gentle ghost, adrift in her own story but offering the suggestion of a great, stabilizing presence for her widower husband and two small sons, through whose points of view the novel illuminates her portrait, as if in relief.

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