Review Blog

Jan 27 2016

Anna and the Swallow Man by Gavriel Savit

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Bodley Head, 2015. ISBN: 9781782300533
(Age: 12+) Highly recommended. Anna and the Swallow Man tells of the heartbreaking search of a little girl for meaning after her father, a professor of linguistics, disappears in Poland nearing the end of 1939. The country is in turmoil and bears and wolves are everywhere, determined to maintain control of the nation while Germany's forces expand. The story centres on Anna, whose life is about to change forever. A little girl with nothing more to lose, and everything to gain.
Having been left in the care of a German shopkeeper, Anna expects her father to return at any moment. When he doesn't return, Herr Doktor Fuchsmann refuses to have her in his shop any longer. Ever the good girl, Anna respects his wishes, waiting outside of the shop. Instead of her father appearing, Anna is approached by a tall, slender man in fine clothes and a red neck tie. Curious about her, he begins asking her questions, switching from language to language, unaware that she can understand them all. United by their multi-lingual talents, Anna follows the man out of town; hence, her new life begins.
Life is hard. Days are spent walking, foraging and avoiding patrols. Like her father, the Swallow Man is incredibly knowledgeable. He teaches her about the birds in the wetlands and how to be deceptive. He shows her how to get what she wants, what she needs, from people without ever having to ask. He teaches her how to survive. He has become everything to her. A friend. A mentor. A father. But can he maintain such a relationship when even her real father could not? Like her Swallow Man, she must do all that she can to stay alive, never to give in.
Already, this novel has been said to sit together with The Book Thief and The Boy in the Stripped Pyjamas. I would highly recommend it to all readers above twelve. While being set among very real events, the story possesses qualities of magical realism and enough intrigue to keep a reader guessing.
Kayla Gaskell (age 19)

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