The Swallows by Lisa Lutz

The Swallows - Lisa Lutz

Alex Witt left a position at a prestigious boarding school under mysterious circumstances to come to the near-bottom-of-the-barrel Stonebridge Academy - which, I'm sorry, but are there really boarding schools that have as bleak a reputation as this on? Graduates are described as barely getting into decent schools, if any. Sorry, side bar.

 

Witt is quick to discern that underneath the usual prep school atmosphere nonsense that there's something wrong with the culture of the students. Forced into teaching creative writing, she finds the answers to a routine questionnaire troubling, full of references to oral sex, objectification, and something called 'the Darkroom'.

 

Searching for answers she inspires students Gemma and Norman, and others, to act against the toxic culture of silence and manipulation. Additionally, faculty member and aspiring novelist Finn Ford provides perspective.

 

The reaction against a regressive and dangerous culture in a school setting made me think about 'Lucifer With a Book', but that may have just been shared boarding school genre tropes. This had a really great pace, and is much more than a #metoo novel. I would have liked to hear more from some of the other students - but that may have interfered with the great pace I just mentioned.

 

It was interesting that this had a Vermont setting, since I live in Vermont and border a community with a prep school - but I didn't find much resonance there. Again, if there's a weakness to the book it's that the chosen point-of-view characters are interesting, but other than Witt herself, they don't shed much light on the broader community of the school.