Anna and the Swallow Man


“I know it's not good for a girl to be without a father these days. But is it any better for a father to be without a daughter."

Anna, a young girl in pre-war Warsaw finds herself alone when her academic father is taken away by the ruling elite. She is immediately faced with a very stark reality that friends may not remain friends when the “world as it exists is a very, very dangerous place".

Thankfully, she finds a new companion in the guise of the Swallow Man who speaks a number of languages including Bird and who entrances her by bringing a swallow to rest about her person. She decides to follow him on a uncharted journey as her best option...

Swallow Man teaches Anna to bend with the river banks as a means of survival. “A river goes wherever the riverbank does. It never had to ask which way, but only flows along.” He teaches her economy of words and truth to create a safer existence.  He equally entrances German soldiers and only exhibits the persona that enables him to continue along his way to inhabit a space on the periphery of the war-torn world in which they find themselves. In turn, Anna teaches Swallow Man that friendship remains central to the human condition and exhibits an admirable and touching loyalty which adults have been forced to abandon. It is a compelling exploration of their journey together (both the physical and metaphorical journey) and a real eye-opener to the reality of survival in a violent and dangerous society. It is as relevant today as a reflection on conflict between humans as it is a narrative on a historical period.

I absolutely adored this book. It is raw in parts, but beautifully crafted and well written. It isn't entirely clear to me who Savit is writing for. I found the style and some content to be very adult and yet it is about a very young protagonist and is marketed for YA. The ending leaves us with the same uncertainties that Anna and her companions would have felt throughout.  Read it and find out for yourself-I don't think you will be disappointed...

Anna and the Swallow Man  by Gavriel Savit

Alfred A. Knopf Books   ISBN: 978-0553513349