Anna and the Swallow Man by Gavriel Savit
Published by Knopf Books for Young Readers
on January 26th 2016
A stunning, literary, and wholly original debut novel set in Poland during the Second World War perfect for readers of The Book Thief.
Kraków, 1939. A million marching soldiers and a thousand barking dogs. This is no place to grow up. Anna Łania is just seven years old when the Germans take her father, a linguistics professor, during their purge of intellectuals in Poland. She’s alone.
And then Anna meets the Swallow Man. He is a mystery, strange and tall, a skilled deceiver with more than a little magic up his sleeve. And when the soldiers in the streets look at him, they see what he wants them to see.
The Swallow Man is not Anna’s father—she knows that very well—but she also knows that, like her father, he’s in danger of being taken, and like her father, he has a gift for languages: Polish, Russian, German, Yiddish, even Bird. When he summons a bright, beautiful swallow down to his hand to stop her from crying, Anna is entranced. She follows him into the wilderness.
Over the course of their travels together, Anna and the Swallow Man will dodge bombs, tame soldiers, and even, despite their better judgment, make a friend. But in a world gone mad, everything can prove dangerous. Even the Swallow Man. Destined to become a classic, Gavriel Savit’s stunning debut reveals life’s hardest lessons while celebrating its miraculous possibilities.
I received this book for free from Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
I had heard about Anna and the Swallow Man back in May at BEA. I was talking to a friend on the showroom floor and she mentioned the book and it had been in the back of my mind ever since. When I was contacted about reading it for a blog tour I immediately said yes. I knew it would be a tough read thanks to the subject matter and parts of it really were. But it was also just a beautifully written novel about survival.
It’s hard to say exactly what happened in the book since we all know the stories on what happened in parts of Europe in the 40s when WW2 was happening. People were being taken away from their family and their homes and no one would know where they went or if they would return. And this is the position Anna found herself in when her father, a single father, was taken away and she was left alone. She was 7. That was the heart of the story for me. This poor 7 year old girl had to navigate through a time in history that hurts to even think about. She had to trust a stranger and make decisions an adult wouldn’t want to make and do things I would never want to do. That was what really hit me in Anna and the Swallow Man.
And even with all that violence and death and sadness the writing shined through. The author did justice to what they were writing about even though it was difficult to do I would imagine. It was done with tact and class and with a certain kind of beauty. It made Anna and the Swallow Man a hard read but a beautiful read when all is said and done.