Anna and the Swallow Man by Gavriel Savit @GavrielSavit : intriguing, poignant wartime story @PenguinRandomNZ

Posted: January 18, 2016 in Intermediate, Secondary
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Anna and the Swallow Man

By Gavriel Savit

ISBN 9780552575270



Anna Lania is only seven years old when on the 6th November, 1939 her father is taken by the Germans to a prison in Krakow and she is left alone waiting for his return, which of course isnt going to happen. While waiting ever so patiently, just as a good girl should, she meets the Swallow Man. Anna’s father had taught and encouraged Anna to speak many languages and she is very skilled at pulling the languages she needs to communicate with others. This mysterious man also speaks many languages and it is this ability which first brings them together.

After a brief talk and instructions to “stay out of sight”  Anna decides to follows him, not quite sure if she was meant to or not but it is here their journey of survival begins.

Together they journey through cold harsh winters with nowhere to sleep and nothing to eat. The war is happening all around but they hover always on the edge of capture, never quite being caught. The Swallow Man tells Anna stories to pass the time as they tread on and on throughout the seasons, across different borders and back again, all while the war continues. The writing of this novel flows beautifully. It is both subtle and sophisticated. There is little dialogue but the story unwinds without the need of it and is indeed part of the mystery behind this quiet, strange man.

One of the strengths in this novel is Anna’s trust in the Swallow Man. It is honest and absolute and I couldn’t help but be moved by their relationship and intrigued by the man himself.

They avoid strangers but one day they meet a man, Reb Hirschl who joins them and the impact of this is both wonderful and dangerous. I loved Reb for his enthusiasm and philosophical look on life. He is in stark contrast to the Swallow Man and this creates its own problems.

This is a poignant, yet intriguing novel with perhaps a somewhat ambiguous ending but that itself is part of the mystery and what gives this book its power to move readers.

Watch out for this book coming in January. Aimed I feel, at Intermediate and Secondary school readers, but adults too will get much out of this novel.


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