The practice of lying is concerned with attempting to overlay a thin paper substitute atop the world that exists in order that it seem to suit your purposes. But the Swallow Man didn’t need the world to suit him. He could make himself suit whatever world it pleased him to agree existed” Anna and the Swallow Man, Gavriel Savit
Initial thoughts: The title of the book was strange enough to entice me to read it on a whim. When perusing through my local library’s electronic website, I was immediately drawn to Anna and the Swallow Man long before I even knew this book’s synopsis. Even though I was reading three books at the same time, I decided to give this one ago. What’s one more book, right?
In 1939, in Krakow Poland, seven-year-old Anna is separated from her father, a language professor, and is left as an orphan at the beginning of the second world war. As Anna roams through the city, she finds herself utterly alone without family or friends to take care of her. Then, out of nowhere, a mysterious tall thin man who can speak many languages appears. Anna befriends the stranger and together they try to escape the dangers of the war. However, this man, the Swallow Man, isn’t what he seems.
About the Book
Title: Anna and the Swallow Man
Author: Gavriel Savit
Year Published: 2016
Genres: Historical fiction, fiction, World War II, young adult fiction
I was pleasantly surprised by how this book captured my imagination. Anna and the Swallow Man is Gavriel Savit’s first novel. For a debut author, he has created a masterpiece. I was instantly struck by the eloquent effortlessness of his writing. This book is beautifully written. And I am not the only one who feels this way. This book won several awards such as the Odyssey Award (2017), and The Sydney Taylor Book Award for Teen Readers (2017).
The novel is told by an unnamed narrator who tells the story of young Anna as she journeys through the devastations of World War II with a mysterious man. Some authors tend to belittle children’s thoughts by enhancing their naiveté. Gavriel Savit has found a perfect balance between Anna’s innocence as a child and her precocious curiosity. I was thoroughly entertained by her thoughts, and even though this is a remarkably grim book (it’s World War II, what do you expect?), there is a clever wit underneath all the gloom.
Even though the book focuses on war and survival, the book is also a coming-of-age story. As the book goes on, Anna begins to unravel the layers of protection that the Swallow Man uses to protect her from reality. The fairy tale begins to dissolve only to leave Anna to understand a world that has ceased to make sense. The Swallow Man himself is a character of many contradictions and ambiguity. Even when I had stopped reading this book, I began to speculate “who is the Swallow Man?” The fact that his background and personality is shrouded in mystery made me appreciate him as a character. Every tid-bit of information that was given to me while reading, I mentally stored it away and later tried to piece together the identity of this mysterious man. Therefore, Gavriel Savit is a master at creating complex and interesting characters.
Once I had finished the novel, I was left with many unanswered questions. I will not spoil the ending. However, if you prefer for a book to leave you with a clear and concise ending, this is not the book for you. Instead, the ending is up to your own speculation. I cannot even be upset at Gavriel Savit for creating such an ambiguous ending. The ending fits perfectly for the style in which it is written.
Although this book is supposedly targeted for a middle grade audience, I would recommend it primarily to high school students or anyone with an interest in historical fiction during the second world war. This book has often been compared to Marcus Zusak’s The Book Thief. If you enjoyed The Book Thief, you will definitely enjoy this book. I would also recommend this book to those who enjoyed The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas by John Boyne, and Milkweed by Jerry Spinelli.
Final Grade: A
Until Next Time,