The Swallows' Flight
From the Costa Award-winning author of The Skylarks' War, a moving WWII story of family and friendship on opposite sides of a devastating conflict.
Four ordinary lives connected by extraordinary circumstances, Hilary McKay's stunning companion novel to the Costa Award-winning The Skylarks' War features the next generation of characters as they move from childhood to the threshold of adulthood amid the chaos and conflict of the Second World War.
Erik and Hans admire swallows over the rooftops of Berlin, little thinking that one day they will be flying above England, risking their lives in a war they both detest.
Ruby and Kate, great friends despite their differences, find themselves racing towards a danger that neither of them could possibly have imagined.
Meanwhile Rupert and Clarry work secretly for peace - and a brighter future for them all ...
The Skylarks' War is one of my all-time favourite books (for any age range) and so it was with a mix of anticipation and apprehension that I started to read The Swallows' Flight. Would it be what I hoped it would be? Would it be as good?
I must admit that the opening chapter surprised and concerned me at first. It is about Erik and Hans, two German boys who have no connection to Clarry and Rupert etc that I can see. It is written with the usual skill and flair that I have come to expect from Hilary McKay's writing and I found that my concerns were quickly forgotten as within a few sentences I was drawn into the world of there characters and found myself hopelessly charmed by them.
The book is written from a few different viewpoints and like The Skylarks' War covers the characters over a few years. It took a while for familiar characters from the first book to appear but despite my initial concerns, I always had trust that it will all make sense and the connection between my beloved Skylarks' War and this book will become clear in time. And it did. This book is masterfully written and the stories intersect in delightful and unexpected ways at times. I found the story of the dog particularly intriguing when it was first introduced and really enjoyed seeing how he slotted in to the overall story.
What I love about this book is that although it is a historical book they way it covers the world events of history is quite subtle. In essence this book is about people. A wide spectrum of characters are on display, each unique and each charming in their own way. The history is in the background but you can see how it impacts on the characters lives by the events that happen to them and how they interact with each other. There are some particularly poignant hints at the holocaust during the chapters about Erik and Hans. They are very subtle and I think if you didn't know anything about Germany during the second world war or the holocaust then you might miss the significance of what is happening. I don't think it necessarily matters if you don't have that historical knowledge, the story operates on different levels and is hugely compelling at whatever level you look at.
I realise that this review tells you very little of what actually happens in the book, and that is a deliberate choice. The story is wonderful. It actually exceeded my expectations. It is complex but not so much so that it becomes hard to read; it flows effortlessly and each individual story arc is interesting. When they all come together, it is truly special. I don't want to spoil the story for anyone by giving away too many details; I'll just say this: read it. If you are already familiar with Hilary McKay's writing you will know how special she is; if you aren't familiar with her work, where have you been? You really need to read her books.
This book will appeal to anyone from 9+, it has as much appeal for adults as it does for children in my opinion. It is a hugely engaging, poignant story that I thoroughly recommend.
Its out on 27th May 2021
You can pre order it here: