“Anna and the Swallow Man” by Gabriel Savit
Publication Date: January 26, 2016
Genre: Children’s Fiction, Historical
Page Length: 230 pages (ARC copy)
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. (description from NetGalley)
Anna and the Swallow Man is an enchanting story that is a mix of historical fiction, magical realism, and fantasy. It shows readers the perspective of WWII from a young girl’s point of view. The novel has a nicely paced narrative that is easy for readers to follow and at a little over 200 pages it is a very short and fast read.
The two’s journey feels surreal and fantasy-like, but small details like gunshots, how food is constantly scarce, and the intense winter brings you back to reality. Anna is a very intelligent and inquisitive girl, who over the course of the story grows into a young woman. She knows many languages, catches on quickly to survival techniques, and is curious about the world that surrounds her. As you read the book you will see how the horrors of war affects Anna and completely shatters her childhood innocence. The Swallow Man, however, is a secretive man who is full of secrets and his mysterious nature will have readers guess what his true intentions are.
I loved the attention to detail in this novel used to describe the picturesque and war-torn winter landscapes. It pulled me into the story and makes you feel that you are traveling on the same journey. The only downside of this novel was that some things felt unresolved and that the plot still left some questions unanswered at the end of the book. I would gush more about how amazing this book is, but it’s difficult to discuss the plot without giving too much of the story away.
A charming, but sad story about two strangers who end up on a difficult journey in a turbulent time of history.
FTC Disclaimer: I received this book from Netgalley in exchange for a fair and honest review.