Read William Keepers Maxwell

“The older you get, the less courage you have.” —William Keepers Maxwell

I am in love with Maxwell’s writing. They Came Like Swallows (1937) is a reread for me. (And many thanks to my good friend Toni for introducing me to this lovely novel.) So Long, See You Tomorrow (1979) is a new read for me. Maxwell lived from 1908 to 2000 and was known for his work as fiction editor at The New Yorker.

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Both novels feature an older brother with an amputated leg due to a carriage accident. Both have a mother who dies after giving birth during the 1918 influenza epidemic. Both novels feature a family with three boys. It seems that Maxwell’s writing is highly autobiographical (his mother died in the flu epidemic) and thematic.

They Came Like Swallows is a detailed meditation on the above ideas. So Long, See You Tomorrow picks up where the death of the mother leaves off and tells a new story, one of murder, jealousy, the past, and friendship. We learn about two families’ struggles with each other because of betrayal through the eyes of a boy, the boy whose mother died in the flu epidemic. I suspect that boy is a fictional version of Maxwell. 

I highly recommend Maxwell’s writing. It’s gorgeous. 

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14 thoughts on “Read William Keepers Maxwell

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  1. The books sound great, but I take issue with his comment about losing courage with age. My experience is exactly the opposite. At 71, I am braver than at any time in my life.

    1. I love this! I am braver too than I was before. I think this particular quote is in relation to a young child becoming a teen. That time of life does seem to wreak havoc On our courage.

  2. I got “They Came Like Swallows” at the Goodwill and I’ve tried to read it several times. I like the writing, but it’s just so slow! I think I’ll probably finish it someday, though. Kudos for trying to raise awareness for a writer not many people seem to know about. 🙂

      1. I’m giving “They Came Like Swallows” another try. I only read one chapter last night and definitely didn’t get to where I was before, but I’ll probably finish it by tomorrow; it’s a pretty shot book. 🙂

  3. I grew up in the same small town (Lincoln, IL) as William Maxwell, but I know very little about him or his work. I’ve always meant to read these pieces but never have. The time is now! Thanks for this review. 🙂

    1. Oh, how cool! Does the town have a museum or site dedicated to him? The books are set in that town (if I remember correctly), so I suspect you’ll enjoy the nostalgia of reading about it. And yes, the time is now. His work is amazing.

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