Swallows Uncaged, The

By (author): Elizabeth McLean

Ambitious, emotionally resonant stories about the lives of women and girls in Vietnam over the past thousand years.

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 Nguyen 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 lot, 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

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. A debut author at age 73, Elizabeth now lives in Vancouver.


“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

“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.” ? Vancouver Sun


  • Alcuin Award for Excellence in Book Design (Fiction) 2016, Commended
  • Excerpts & Samples ×
    There are no other resources for this book.

    Reader Reviews

    Accessibility Detail

    No reading system accessibility options actively disabled (except)
    Accessibility summary
    Table of contents navigation
    Short alternative textual descriptions
    Single logical reading order
    Print-equivalent page numbering



    320 Pages
    9.00in * 6.00in * .81in


    September 15, 2015


    Freehand Books



    Book Subjects:

    FICTION / Short Stories



    No author posts found.

    Related Blog Posts

    There are no posts with this book.