The Year the Swans Came – Book 1 of 2.

Lizzie Dee 5.0 out of 5 stars A beautifully written story with a hint of mystery  Reviewed in the United States on December 31, 2020 : What I most enjoyed about Barbara Spencer’s novel was the beautiful descriptions and the warm family scenes she created in a post-war city, which I presumed to be Amsterdam. With hints of the past occupation but a determination to carry on and try to forget about the past, it was still evident that the scars of the past were not quite healed. I kept thinking I must pass this on to my Dutch friend, who grew up in a Dutch town and now lives close to the Anna Frank house. I think she’ll love it for the memories it would evoke. I have walked along those streets and canals many times and so I felt close to the family. I could picture the father working down in his basement, making mirrors. There was a hint of mystery about the past, particularly about the main protagonist’s brother who returned to the family home after a long absence. This made me curious. What was going on here? And who were these beautiful young men who were in love with Maidy’s best friend, Ruth. There’s a tale of love, sadness and betrayal, wrapped in beautiful prose and a lingering mystery throughout. I honestly didn’t see the ending coming until the final couple of chapters. I am reminded of a similar bit of folklore involving swans and one of the lakes near where I grew up in Ireland.

Katherine February 2020 : Heart wrenching novel of epic scope! I picked this book for the title-I love swans-but this far exceeded my hopes. Ms Spenser has woven a tale of magic and myth that will live in my heart and head forever! Two teenage girls from a land torn by war and occupation come of age together-one gorgeous and selfish, the other insightful and reserved-learning I’d love, loss, family and the frailty of outward appearances. This book seemed slow and steady at the beginning and a little too full of secrets that happened prior to the opening pages but once it got going it just flew fast and furious like a summer storm and the secrets were revealed one after another. I loved it! Thanks to #netgalley for the ARC of #theyeartheswanscame in exchange for an honest review.

“What a fantastic book. A lovely story so well written and descriptive you could feel yourself there.”

Pauline Barclay – Founder of Chill with a Book Awards         B07H7MJFB2

I Highly Recommend : Review by Mary Anne Yarde. The Coffee Pot Book Club. : 14 January 2020

With a lusciously detailed narrative that mesmerised me from the opening chapter, The Year The Swans Came is in all ways a work of exceptional scholarship. This book, these characters, captured my imagination, and I was swept away to a world that is vivid, evocative, and utterly irresistible. Words cannot express how much I loved this book. The brilliance is in the writing. The Year The Swans Came is in all ways, an absolute triumph.

With an elegant turn of phrase and a visceral understanding of human fragility, Spencer has presented her readers with some unforgettable characters. The heroine of this story, Maidy, is a character that I simply adored. Maidy reminded me a little of Hans Christian Andersen’s The Ugly Duckling. Maidy believes herself plain, unattractive even. She lives in the shadow of her best-friend — the very glamorous Ruth, who all the boys at college want to date. But like that ugly duckling, there is a swan, a beautiful, graceful, caring swan just waiting to fluff her feathers and step into the light. Maidy is entirely ignorant of how she is perceived by others, especially Zande, who is the male version of Ruth. However, her goodness is incorruptible — even Zande, who is free with his love, does not attempt to corrupt her. Maidy is an extremely likeable character and one I came to care about very much. This story is told from her point of view, which I thought gave this book a sense of authenticity, as well as a sense of realism.

All the characters in this book are fabulous, and each has their role to play. One of the characters that I took a strong dislike to was Ruth. Ruth is incredibly self-centred and a truly terrible friend. She is self-seeking and does not care for the pain she causes others. Ruth uses her good looks and her father’s money to get what she wants regardless of the consequences. Maidy slowly comes to realise the kind of person Ruth is, and as she does so, Maidy does not like what she sees. But even as they begin to drift apart, Maidy still cannot see how exceptional she is in her own right — Maidy still believes that Ruth is the one that all the boys want to be with, which isn’t true. Ruth is not quite an antagonist, I wouldn’t go that far, but her egotistical behaviours certainly demonstrates the goodness that is in Maidy’s soul.

I have to mention Zande — Zande, with his charm and easy smile which hide a lifetime of sorrow and a soul that is trapped. He is in every way a bad-boy, the one you don’t want your daughter dating. But, Maidy sees past the facade and glimpses a deep and terrible pain that she does not understand and can never understand. I thought Zande’s depiction was fabulous. 

I could not but help the strong emotional reaction that I had for these characters, and I was impressed by Spencer’s scope and brilliance in their creation. Pieter, Hans, Tristan, Jaan, Zande, Ruth, and Maidy all bring something unique to this story. Wonderful, wonderful characterisation. It doesn’t get better than this.

Strangely, no dates are mentioned in this book, only that there had been a war and the community had been invaded at one point by the enemy — one can only assume it is set after World War II and that Ruth’s family are Jewish. But surprisingly, the era seems almost timeless. It matters not what the date is, only that the story is so incredibly captivating. There is magic in the words that Spencer has written, a swirling of emotions that swept me up into its warm embrace. However, as the story picks up momentum and races headlong towards a catastrophically explosive ending, I found myself screaming silently in my head the word NO! And by the time I read the last word and noted the final full-stop, I was sobbing quietly to myself. Spencer demands every conceivable emotion from her readers, and boy does she get it. Be sure to have a box of Kleenex with you because believe me you are going to need it.

The Year The Swans Came is something extraordinary indeed. This is a book that not only deserves your attention — it deserves it again and again until the spine of the book breaks and the pages start to fall out, and you need to purchase another copy. That, is how good this book is.

If you are looking for your next great adventure which will leave you gasping and begging for more then check out The Year the Swans Came by Barbara Spencer. You won’t be disappointed. I cannot wait to read the second book in this fabulous series.

Margaret Skea November 2019 I’m not sure what I can say about this book without giving away any spoilers, except that it is beautifully written, the descriptions powerful, tender, evocative, the characters rounded – some that you will love, some that you will pity, some that you may despise or be irritated by, but all imprinting themselves on your mind and staying with you long after the end of the book – as will the ending, which is very well crafted and although it fits with all that went before I was still taken be surprise by the details. All I will say is that it had me scurrying off to look up legends about swans and I would totally recommend it as a wonderful read.