The Swallows: A Novel by LISA LUTZThe Swallows: A Novel by LISA LUTZ

The Swallows: A Novel


Hardcover | August 13, 2019

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A teacher at a New England prep school ignites a gender war—with deadly consequences—in this dark and provocative novel by the bestselling author of The Passenger
“Riveting . . . full of imagination and power.”—Caroline Kepnes, author of You and Providence

NAMED ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF AUGUST BY Bustle Entertainment Weekly PopSugar Refinery29  New York Post

When Alexandra Witt joins the faculty at Stonebridge Academy, she’s hoping to put a painful past behind her. Then one of her creative writing assignments generates some disturbing responses from students. Before long, Alex is immersed in an investigation of the students atop the school’s social hierarchy—and their connection to something called the Darkroom. She soon inspires the girls who’ve started to question the school’s “boys will be boys” attitude and incites a resistance. But just as the movement is gaining momentum, Alex attracts the attention of an unknown enemy who knows a little too much about her—and what brought her to Stonebridge in the first place.

Meanwhile, Gemma, a defiant senior, has been plotting her attack for years, waiting for the right moment. Shy loner Norman hates his role in the Darkroom, but can’t find the courage to fight back until he makes an unlikely alliance. And then there’s Finn Ford, an English teacher with a shady reputation, who keeps one eye on his literary ambitions and one on Ms. Witt. As the school’s secrets begin to trickle out, a boys-versus-girls skirmish turns into an all-out war, with deeply personal—and potentially fatal—consequences for everyone involved.

Lisa Lutz’s blistering, timely tale of revenge and disruption shows us what can happen when silence wins out over decency for too long—and why the scariest threat of all might be the idea that sooner or later, girls will be girls.

Praise for The Swallows

The Swallows is fast-moving, darkly humorous and at times shockingly vicious. The battle of the sexes within its pages couldn’t be more compelling. . . . Lutz delivers a frantic, morbidly funny story.”BookPage

“A decade before the #MeToo movement kicks off in full force, women are coming for the patriarchy in this big ol’ novel, ripe with idiosyncratic characterization and memorable scenes.”Refinery29
Lisa Lutz is the New York Times bestselling, Alex Award–winning author of the Spellman Files series, as well as the novels Heads You Lose (with David Hayward), How to Start a Fire, and The Passenger. She has also written for film and TV, including HBO’s The Deuce. She lives part-time in New York’s Hudson Valley.
Title:The Swallows: A NovelFormat:HardcoverProduct dimensions:416 pages, 9.53 × 6.39 × 1.34 inShipping dimensions:9.53 × 6.39 × 1.34 inPublished:August 13, 2019Publisher:Random House Publishing GroupLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:1984818236

ISBN - 13:9781984818232


Rated 4 out of 5 by from Another awesome novel by Liza Lutz! I’ve been a fan of Liza Lutz since The Spellman Files series, and THE SWALLOWS definitely didn’t disappoint. I’ve missed Lutz’s knack for writing unlikable characters (who also don’t care about being liked by other characters—the absolute best) and with adults and teens narrating THE SWALLOWS, I was reminded how great she is at writing younger voices. One thing each narrator had in common (err…except for one) was chutzpah. Whether playing a long game for revenge or suddenly wanting a change, these characters were determined to shake things up. And all they needed was a catalyst to get things going. Enter, Alex Witt. If you loved the THE NOWHERE GIRLS or THE FEMALE OF THE SPECIES, I have full confidence you’ll be into THE SWALLOWS. Smart writing, a quick pace, and feminist AF, it’s definitely a book you could read in a couple of sittings. My only critique would be the unbalanced teacher/student ratio but since this was fiction, it was easy to let that slide. I absolutely remain a fan of Lisa Lutz and can’t wait for her next release.
Date published: 2019-08-27

Read from the Book

Part IMs. WittSome teachers have a calling. I’m not one of them.I don’t hate teaching. I don’t love it either. That’s also my general stance on adolescents. I understand that one day they’ll rule the world and we’ll all have to live with the consequences. But there’s only so much I’m willing to do to mitigate that outcome. You’ll never catch me leaping atop my desk, quoting Browning, Shakespeare, or Jay-Z. I don’t offer my students sage advice or hard-won wisdom. I don’t dive into the weeds of their personal lives, parsing the muck of their hormone-addled brains. And I sure as hell never learned as much from them as they did from me.It’s just a job, like any other. It has a litany of downsides, starting with money and ending with money, and a host of other drawbacks in between. There are a few perks. I like having summers off; I like winter and spring breaks; I like not having a boss breathing over my shoulder; I like books and talking about books and occasionally meeting a student who makes me see the world sideways. But I don’t get attached. I don’t get involved. That was the plan, at least.I came to Stonebridge Academy because it was the only place where I was sure of a no-questions-asked job offer. The dean of students, Gregory Stinson, is an old family friend. I don’t know if he offered me the job knowing everything or nothing. Back then, Greg never spoke of unpleasant things.Why I wanted to give it another go is beyond me. It’s not like I thought of teaching as my life’s work. I doubt I’ll ever have that. Maybe I just wanted to wrap up my career in education with a memory that didn’t make my skin crawl.It was July 2009 when I first laid eyes on the campus. During my preliminary visit, Greg and I hammered out my contract in his musty old office, which overlooked fifty acres of dense woods. Under the thick brush of summer, I couldn’t see the veins and arteries of the interconnected hiking and cross-country-skiing trails that Stonebridge boasted of so proudly in its brochure. It seemed like too much space for four hundred or so high school students. Despite the classic prep school architecture—cathedral buildings, everything stone—I had heard rumors about the lax academic environment. Warren Prep kids had called Stonebridge students “Stoners.” I considered that detail its most attractive quality.Greg was sure I was perfect for the libertarian style of his school, and his certainty compensated for my hesitation. We discussed my course schedule for the new year. I would teach three English literature classes and one American lit.After that, Greg took me on a brief tour of the campus. His office and several classrooms were housed in an imposing stone structure that had no formal name. Later, I learned that the students called it Headquarters. It was the only building on campus without a literary appellation. You know the game where you take your first pet’s name and add the street you grew up on and, voilà, there’s your porn name? I think Stonebridge used a similar formula for naming their buildings and recreational grounds. Take the last name of a British (or occasionally Irish) poet or author and add House, Manor, Hall, Field, Commons, or Square to it. The center of campus was Fleming Square; students ate in Dahl Dining Hall; Tolkien Library and Samuel Beckett Gymnasium flanked Fielding Field.Across from Headquarters, adjacent to Beckett Gym, was the headliner of the tour: the Oscar Wilde Bathhouse. We passed through double doors with a sign that read no students allowed, no exceptions. The marble compound, which housed a whirlpool tub, sauna, and steam showers, was apparently an extravagant gift from a former student.“If this doesn’t seal the deal, I don’t know what will,” Greg said.I had a feeling that Greg was using the bathhouse as camouflage. I suggested he show me faculty housing.In silence, Greg led me across the square to a four-story brick building. There was a heavy drizzle outside, which made everything look like it was on the other side of a cheap, transparent shower curtain. We strolled past Dickens House, the boys’ dormitory. And, yes, they called it Dick House. Next to Dickens was a similar four-story brick structure. The sign above the door read woolf hall.“Yes. After you,” Greg said, opening the thick paneled door.“No thanks,” I said, taking a step back.There was no point in entering the building. I would not live among them. That was a deal breaker, I explained. I thanked Greg for the tour and told him I had to be on my way. He told me I was being rash. I had driven two hours; the least I could do was take some time to think it over.Greg gave me a hand-rendered map of the school grounds, which I think he drew himself. Either way, it was not beholden to any concept of scale or structural accuracy.Greg walked me to the edge of Fielding Field and suggested I take some time before I made a final decision. I come back to that moment again and again. So many lives would have taken a different course had I not gone for a walk in the woods. That walk changed everythingFrom Fleming Square I followed George Eliot Trail past Evelyn Waugh Way, and continued for about a quarter mile, until I came upon a tiny stone cottage. It was at least ten minutes walk from Fleming Square and, at that time of year, surrounded by vibrant wildflowers. Cedar, pine, and maple trees towered over everything. A pond nearby rippled under the drizzle. It sounded so much better than that machine I’d bought to help me sleep.The perfection of it all I now see as a trick, not of nature but of my own mind. I needed a sign, even a wink, from the universe to believe that I was making the right decision. I ignored the fact that the foundation was cracked and some of those stones resembled Jenga pieces. When I looked for the cottage on the map, it wasn’t there.For someone looking for a place to hide, that was as good a sign as any.I returned to Greg’s office and told him I would take the job if I could live in the cabin with no name. He said the place wasn’t habitable. He mentioned the absence of a shower. I reminded him of the bathhouse. He continued to resist. I told him those were my terms, take it or leave it. Greg reluctantly agreed.I returned to campus on Labor Day, after dark. Classes were to begin the next morning. I picked up the key to the cottage from the guard at the security gate and followed the blue ink on my annotated map. A muddy fire lane took me just shy of twenty yards from my new front door.Inside the cabin, I stood on the cold stone floor and wondered what the hell I was thinking. I was struck by a fresh memory of the perils of dorm life and forced myself to feel at home. I wiped down the cabinets above the kitchen sink, which contained a sparse collection of dishware and an unopened bottle of bourbon. I pulled the bottle from the shelf and noticed a small square of folded paper attached to the neck. I unfolded the paper and read the note written in small block letters.welcome to stonebridge. be careful.I sat outside on a rickety chair and considered the message. Was it a warning or just a piece of advice? I drank half the bottle as I tried to decide. Then I crawled into bed and fell asleep.

Editorial Reviews

“In her witty and charming style, Lutz offers a genre-busting work of fiction that will satisfy readers looking for a seriously engaging read. The story itself is disturbingly plausible, and the humanly flawed characters make choices, good and bad, based on their backgrounds, all blending smoothly into a darkly comedic mystery. . . . This novel keeps readers on the edge of their seats while opening a conversation about public shaming, economic privilege, gender inequity, and revenge versus justice.”—Booklist (starred review)  “It's the era of #MeToo, and literature is beginning to reflect that in a big way. In Lisa Lutz’s The Swallows, a prep school teacher ignites a gender war when she begins the question the institution's overpowering ‘boys will be boys’ mentality. She soon learns that starting a revolution and threatening the status quo comes with steep consequences.”—Bustle “A new teacher at a ritzy New England prep school ignites a fierce battle between the male and female students that ends with revenge, threats, and a fatality. So, just another average day in high school . . . just kidding.”—PopSugar“The latest campus novel teetering between thriller and satire, Lutz’s book throws readers into the drama of a New England prep school, where one inscrutable new teacher brings about ideas that ignite a deadly gender-war.”—Entertainment Weekly  “Liza Lutz is a treasure. Her Spellman Files series manages to be both charming and shrewd, and The Swallows promises to follow suit—it looks witty and caustic, winsome and clever. It’s also, and this is a classic Lutz move, a fresh, unique spin on a genre that already has been reworked a million times. . . . Lutz, searing as ever . . . illuminate[s] how various institutions excuse the oppression or silencing of women and girls.”—CrimeReads“Wes Anderson meets Muriel Spark in this delicius and vicious bayyle of the sexes set within a private school. Wickedly fun and wildly subversive but packing an emotional punch, The Swallows is as powerful as it is timely.”—Nationally bestselling author Megan Abbott“Sharpen your axes, ladies, and get ready for this fierce, fun, unsparing novel of female rage, power, and friendship.”—Camille Perri, author of The Assistants and When Katie Met Cassidy“I devoured The Swallows. You’ll laugh out loud even as you anxiously flip the pages.”—New York Times bestselling author Tess Gerritsen“[Lutz] takes no prisoners. . . . She builds her plot cannily and walks a neat line between satire and realism [in a] withering portrayal of how the #MeToo movement plays out in this rarefied setting.”—Publishers Weekly“Lutz draws on the droll humor and idiosyncratic characterizations that make her Spellman novels so appealing. . . . An offbeat, darkly witty pre-#MeToo revenge tale. The patriarchy doesn’t stand a chance.”—Kirkus Reviews