In The Swallows Uncaged, Elizabeth McLean paints a sweeping yet intimate panorama of Vietnam in the style of a Vietnamese eight-panel screen: eight narratives that each capture a moment in time and yet speak to one another. Interweaving historical and fictional characters over ten centuries, the stories portray the passions and turmoils of successive generations of the Nguy?n clan’s wives and daughters, and of their men.
When the men go away, to war or to advance their fortune, the women stay behind (not always idly or chastely). They dutifully pass down their ancestors’ traditions to their daughters and granddaughters, but also recast the iron rules to gratify their ambitions and desires. At their humble posts by the hearth, they defy authority, scheme to improve their lots, and love zestfully and wickedly.
Meticulously researched and beautifully crafted, these stories form a triumphant debut from an author with a superb gift for storytelling.
Elizabeth McLean immigrated to Canada from Warsaw, Poland, in the 1960s. She worked for several years as a CBC radio producer, a researcher for TIME Canada, and a government policy writer. In 2005, she moved to Hanoi, Vietnam, where she spent six years immersed in and researching Vietnamese culture. Her book The Swallows Uncaged: A Narrative in Eight Panels was published in 2015. Elizabeth lives in Vancouver.
“Although McLean was acutely aware of the perils of writing about another culture, the themes she addresses—themes of entrapment by society, tradition, gender, expectation and history—are universal. ” — Denise Ryan, Vancouver Sun, December 4, 2015
“Publishing a first book at age 73 might not be the typical writers’ trajectory, but for Vancouver author Elizabeth McLean, it’s another milestone in a bold life of travel, adventure, and creativity. ” — Cheri Hanson, Quill and Quire, October 2015
“The Swallows Uncaged presents history’s women as agents within the constraints of their own time—birds who occasionally take flight. ” — Jade Colbert, The Globe and Mail, October 23, 2015
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