Today I am here to talk to you about a new release by Lisa Lutz, author of The Spellman Files series. Her newest book, The Swallows, grabbed me from page one. Thanks to @randomhouse #partner for my review copy!
The Swallows is a novel centered around Stonebridge Academy, a private boarding school in New England. Alexandra (Alex) Witt, our protagonist, finds herself teaching at Stonebridge after a mysterious departure from her last teaching assignment. Once immersed in life at Stonebridge, Alex finds out about the Darkroom, a website, operated by male students that rank and comment on sexual experiences they have had with the female students of Stonebridge. What follows is a timely examination of the effects turning a blind eye can have on unsuspecting victims. It further explores the expectations society sets forth for women and men, and what happens when women decide ‘enough is enough.’
I was careful with my summary, because I really wanted to keep it spoiler-free. I knew very little about this book before I started it. I just thought the cover was intriguing (black and red for the win!) and I plunged in. I can tell you–I was not disappointed. For me, this was a serious page-turner. It was well plotted, giving the perfect amount of intrigue to keep the reader engaged, interested, and turning the page. This is a multi-perspective novel, which I always enjoy–but I so appreciated that Lutz sprinkled in chapters from the perspective of minor characters throughout the book. It made the book feel both omniscient, and personal, because the actual chapters were written in first person. So good! I adored the first ¾ of this story. I loved the commentary that it made on life post Me Too and the way in which the women in the novel took agency against a systemic problem that had been fostered for years at Stonebridge.
Enter the last ¼ of the novel. While I felt the first ¾ of the book was expertly paced, I think the last ¼ of the book went off the rails. It felt rushed. Very rushed. And the characters started making choices that did not seem authentic to who I had come to know during first ¾ of the book. The female students, who I had grown to admire, made some choices that seemed totally out of character. And I wasn’t here for it. So, although I thought the majority of the book was fantastic, the end was jarring and disappointing. All of that being said, I would still recommend reading The Swallows. The ending didn’t ruin the reading experience. The story is timely and well-paced, and an important commentary on societal issues. Give it a go. I don’t think you will be disappointed.