Anna and the Swallow Man is a stunning, literary, and wholly original debut novel, perfect for readers of The Book Thief. Krak w, 1939. A million marching soldiers and a thousand barking dogs.
This is no place to grow up. But Anna Lania is just seven years old when the Germans take her father and suddenly, she's alone. Then she meets the Swallow Man. He is a mystery, strange and tall. And like Anna's missing 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. 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 . . .
Destined to become a classic, Gavriel Savit's stunning debut reveals life's hardest lessons while celebrating its miraculous possibilities.
Seven-year-old Anna lives in Krakow with her father, a professor of linguistics, in 1939 when one day he does not return home from work.
Confronted by a locked house and not being wanted by their friend Doctor Fuchsmann, she comes across a tall thin man and speaks to him in Yiddish, Russian, German, Polish and French, but not Bird, a language she had heard him speak to a swallow.
This begins an incredible journey trekking across mostly Poland, but also neighbouring Russia, as they try to avoid notice and thus remain alive in a warzone.
Most of their conversations are instructive with the generally quiet Swallow Man teaching Anna the language of the Road, which allows them to appear to fit in wherever they go, even when they pass border crossings.
It is an entrancing read written to a higher audience than books like The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas and Morris Gleitzman’s Once series.
This novel probably tackles war less, focusing instead on human relationships and perceptions in times off great hardship, and is therefore best suited to readers 15+.
Reviewed by Rob