Genres: Historical, Young Adult
Published by Random House on January 26 2016
Amazon, Book Depository
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.
“I’m sorry,” she said through a wide yawn “I know it’s not good for a girl to be without a father these days. But is it any better for a father to be without a daughter?”
There was a silence in the grove of trees for a long time.
And then she heard the thin man being to chuckle, low and bright and impossibly sunny in the dark night.
I’m not quite sure how to phrase my review for this one, and honestly this review is going to be pretty short.
This book is…something else. In fact, I’m not even sure if this is actually Young Adult, but it’s definitely not Middle Grade.
Anna and the Swallow man has the atmosphere of a book that’s bluntly written, but the dark undercurrent is veiled in words that weave itself together into a whimsical story of magic men and the language of birds. There are layers upon layers of meaning, giving me the feeling that I could read this book again and again and find something new between the lines of text every time. I could analyze it all day and still wouldn’t be able to find all the things that Savit wished to say.
Not to say, though, that I was as entranced with this book as I’d hoped to be. I found myself bored many times–though that’s typically my reaction when it comes to reading classics (I know I’m terrible). There were bits of it that felt slow and made me actually feel a bit sluggish myself. But frankly, that’s probably more on me than the story itself.
What I absolute adored about this book was that, because of our main character’s young age, we see the world at war as a brighter place than it is in reality. The Swallow Man does much to paint the world a sweeter color for her, and it was almost moving to see how Anna took all his words to heart. They may not have been father and daughter, but they developed the bond over time, and the bond between the two is unmistakable.
Anna does grow up as the story progresses–as do all characters. She’s forced to face the darker aspects of life, and it’s absolutely heartbreaking. But that’s all I’ll say on the subject.
This story is one for the ages and has an ageless feel to it, despite its historical genre.