Lisa Lutz weaves a dark, intricate tale of students and faculty at an elite New England boarding school in The Swallows.
When Alexandra Witt joins the staff of Stonebridge Academy, she hands her creative writing class an anonymous assignment. After reading their submissions, Witt begins investigating a systemic issue of gender-based crime. When Witt becomes an informal mentor to some girls that want to fight back, she becomes embroiled in a dangerous war between the sexes.
Lisa Lutz is one of my favorite writers — she’s so versatile it’s almost disgusting. One thread that connects all of her books, from the quick, fresh, and ironic Spellman Files series through the eerie and disturbing The Passenger and into her most recent release, is her biting turn of phrase. Many of her characters, particularly the strong female types, have an acerbic sense of humor that is highly observant.
The Swallows is narrated by new teacher Alex Witt as well as one other instructor and two members of the student body. The chapters are quick, and as the story unfolds it becomes a legit page-turner.
Lutz builds her story carefully, with nuggets of information and splashes of intrigue. Then, toward the end, she brings the whole place down with spectacular aplomb.
The Stonebridge students are quick to organize, to point fingers, and to protect their own. Existing hierarchies and alliances are thrown out the window as the high school hormones, money, power, and authority are thrown into a pot with a hefty dose of shame, pretense, and revenge porn.
At times ominous and disturbing, this good-girls-turn-bad tale is a feminist powerhouse. I guarantee once you read it, you’ll never look at birds the same way again.