Book Reviews, Books and Me

Review: Anna and the Swallow Man by Gavriel Savit


Anna and the Swallow Man by Gavriel Savit 3/5

6tag_191217-114202Kraków, 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.


Anna’s story starts in Krakow in WW2 when her father doesn’t come back to collect her from her neighbour. Anna waits for him, but she knows something is wrong. When she meets Swallow Man, she attaches herself to the only adult who seems to care enough to teach her to survive her new life.

Savit’s way with words is poetic to say the least. The way he creates the Swallow Man’s tongue, known as ‘road’, is quite something. He speaks easily to young Anna in a way she can understand. I must get a younger person’s opinion on this book to see how well they fared with the round about explanations.

I enjoyed the book, but I didn’t love it. At times, I wondered where the story was actually going. As a reader, we only know as much as Anna knows. She is incredibly naive in many ways, and worldly in others. I’m confident this POV would appeal to a young teen more. Again, I really want a younger person’s opinion on this book to see how it varies from mine.

The ending was abrupt and unsatisfying. I’m not entirely sure what to make of this story, and its rare that I say that.

The opinions expressed here are those of K.J.Chapman and no other parties

All books reviewed on this blog have been read by K.J.Chapman

K.J.Chapman has not been paid for this review