Anna and the Swallow Man by Gavriel Savit
Publication Date: January 26, 2016 by Knopf Books for Young Readers
Genre: Young Adult Coming of Age
[Special thanks to the publisher for the review copy!]
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.
Honestly, I had a hard time writing this review because I didn’t know what to say.
I’m more of the confused (and at the same time, awed) reader who just wants to express my thoughts about this book.
Let me start by saying that this is historical fiction. And maybe that’s why I had a hard time reading it – I don’t really like history. I try to read more books under historical fiction, and that’s why I decided to give this book a shot.
There was a time when I felt like DNF-ing it. But something inside me felt I should finish it. And thank God, I did finish it.
I’m wondering what really happened to Anna’s father and why he seemed to be an important character but ended up as someone in the background. The Swallow Man is the star here, and he’s a very complex character I didn’t fully understand. I’m sorry I won’t be able to say much about him.
I liked seeing Anna grow and watching her realize a lot of things about life – and what I got from her journey is this: Life is a collection of metaphors.
Words (in different languages) played a big part in this story, and I think it’s the use of language here that makes it unique. I’ve read some reviews and saw that other bloggers appreciated this very much.
I believe people who have read lots of classics will enjoy this book. I admit I lack a library of what the world considered as classic books, but I hope to read more of them soon. It’s just that at this point in my life (college stress and life happens, you know), I prefer to read the relatable books – the books with the swoony feels. I’m glad I gave this book a chance, though. It widened my reading paradigm. This is a book that contributes to the diversity of the bookish community.
Overall, this book was a good read. Anna and the Swallow Man presented one (of the many) stories of World War II. Yes, it may be fictional, but it still tells us that we only know what history tells us. There is so much more about the war than we think.
Final Rating: 3/5
Life is a metaphor. You’ll figure it out someday.