The Swallows Uncaged:
A Narrative in Eight Panels

by Elizabeth McLean

September 12, 2015
6 x 9 paper 320 pages
CDN $21.95

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also available as an ebook:
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Ambitious, emotionally  resonant stories about the lives of women and girls in Vietnam over the past thousand years.

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, the stories portray the passions and turmoils of successive generations of Vietnamese wives and daughters, and of the men they were given to in marriage.

When the men go away, to war or to advance their fortune, the women stay behind (not always idly or chastly). 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.

The stories of The Swallows Uncaged  form a triumphant debut from an author with a superb gift for storytelling.



“Through its experimental form The Swallows Uncaged does a beautiful job of revealing many aspects of Vietnamese history… [b]ut McLean’s individual characters make that history, from the most brutal events to the most tender, come alive.” —Candace Fertile, Alberta Views, September 2016.

“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