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The Swallows' Flight

Written by Hilary McKay

Key Stage 3 Family / Home Stories Historical Fiction

LoveReading View on The Swallows' Flight

Wonderfully evocative story of four young people (and a dog) before, during and after World War Two

Longlisted for the UKLA Book Award 2022 ages 11-14

Described as a companion piece, rather than a sequel, to the acclaimed Skylark’s War, it is nevertheless a real joy to meet some of the original characters again, but new readers fear not, this book absolutely stands alone. I think that this author is unsurpassed in character development, with every wonderfully economic, but beautifully crafted phrase or fragment of dialogue we are drawn deeper into these young lives.

At first overshadowed by the threat of war and then trying to survive within it are cousins Ruby Amaryllis and Kate and across the channel and on the other side of the conflict, best friends Hans and Erik, who bond initially over saving orphaned fledgling swallows. Indeed swallows become a motif for hope throughout the book. Another real strength of the writing is in depicting recognisably real family dynamics and relationships. As the war tears families apart, we see how the strength of family can also bring people together. The multiple perspectives (including eventually Dog, the mistreated scrapyard dog abandoned in the Blitz) build a really rich and unbiased picture of lives gradually and increasingly impacted by war.

Allowing readers to empathise with the different plights on each side of the conflict is a real asset for those studying the history of the period and whilst not skirting over or underplaying any of the true horrors of war, the underlying message is  one of hope in the capacity of humanity to show compassion across all borders and barriers. Sensitive, perceptive and immensely powerful, this superb novel is a beautifully polished gem that will leave an indelible impression on the reader.

Joy Court

The Swallows' Flight Synopsis

From the Costa Award-winning author Hilary McKay, comes a moving WWII story of family and friendship on opposite sides of a devastating conflict.

The Swallows' Flight is the stunning companion novel to The Skylarks' War. Erik and Hans are German boys. Ruby and Kate are English girls. They grow up in worlds that would never meet, until war tumbles their lives together. Then one September afternoon there are choices to be made. How is courage lost, and found? Who is really the enemy? And what does friendship truly mean, in the middle of a war? Meanwhile Rupert and Clarry work secretly for peace - and a brighter future for them all . . .

The Swallows' Flight Press Reviews

Hilary McKay's The Swallows' Flight is a triumph. The beautiful clarity of her storytelling is masterful and she deserves every prize going. I admire it very much -- Philip Pullman

'An incredible, clever, compassionate story from one of our very finest writers' -- Emma Carroll

Hilary McKay has the ability to create characters so real that they live with you long after the last page, having made you laugh, cry - and love them. The Swallows' Flight is no exception; it soars like the swallows of the title as it leads its characters through the WW2 years, and ends with a glorious feeling of hope. -- Vivian French

A wonderful story full of big, wonderful characters - more than a book about war - a story about our common humanity, which feels like both a hug and a fierce warning. -- Natasha Farrant 

Heaven -- Anna Fargher

Characters are what Hilary McKay does best and, as always, she delivers in spades -- Mary Hoffman

A novel possibly even better than its predecessor: funny, poignant, wise and emotional -- Fiona Noble - The Bookseller

The sort of simple, humane storytelling we all need right now . . . a treat -- Sally Nicholls

The Swallows' Flight is a complete delight . . . a generous, warm, honest, witty and wise novel. It's a gem -- Richard Lambert

Warm and delicious and richly textured -- Katherine Rundell 

Book Information

ISBN: 9781529033335
Publication date: 27th May 2021
Author: Hilary McKay
Publisher: Macmillan Children's Books an imprint of Pan Macmillan
Format: Hardback
Pagination: 304 pages
Year Groups: Key Stage 3
Topics: Family / Home Stories, Historical Fiction

About Hilary McKay

Hilary McKay won the Costa Children's Book Award for The Skylarks' War, the Guardian Fiction Prize for The Exiles, and the Smarties and the Whitbread Award for The Exiles in Love and Saffy's Angel respectively. Hilary McKay's Fairy Tales was her first book with Macmillan Children's Books and is a critically acclaimed collection of clever retellings. You can read her character Rose Casson's blog by clicking here - and Rose's tweets on the right hand side of this page. Q & A with Hilary McKayWhat is your earliest childhood memory?Watching steam trains with my grandfather. He died before I ...

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