Title: Anna and the Swallow Man
Author: Gavriel Savit
Publisher: Bodley Head
Kraków, 1939, is no place to grow up. There are a million marching soldiers and a thousand barking dogs. And Anna Lania is just seven years old when the Germans take her father and suddenly, she’s alone.
Then she meets the Swallow Man. He is a mystery, strange and tall. And like Anna’s missing 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.
Over the course of their travels together, Anna and the Swallow Man will dodge bombs, tame soldiers, and even, despite their better judgement, make a friend. But in a world gone mad, everything can prove dangerous…
Having just completed my History degree, I decided that I would branch out into historical fiction books finally. This one caught my eye as it was newly released when I first spotted it in Waterstones, and I hadn’t seen or heard of it anywhere in the book community. I have only read one or two historical fiction books, one of which I have posted an old review of on this blog a few weeks back. This was really another dip into the genre. Now this is nothing against historical fiction, but I wasn’t really sure how I felt about this book. I know some people may read this and call it beautifully written and it was, but it just wasn’t the style of writing for me. There was a lot of description and just writing, as opposed to dialogue. I really enjoy dialogue filled books, but this wasn’t exactly that.
So they story goes, Anna begins as a seven year old girl in Krakow, 1939. Her father, a scholar, goes to work one day and never comes back. This is the beginning of war, you know. So Anna stops with one of the friends her dad has, before meeting the Swallow Man. We never learn his name, and honestly, we never learn much about him at all. With the Swallow Man, Anna goes on a journey, although the destination, who knows? Although set in World War Two, we don’t get to see many of the effects of war or destruction except for in one part of the book where we do get a glimpse of war on the Eastern front. Other than that, it seems to just be woods and walking for the majority of the book.
This book was very poetic in it’s prose, or at least that’s the closest to how I felt it was written. For this reason, I couldn’t quite throw myself into it wholeheartedly because books that are written in this way – perhaps ‘purple prose’ – are books that I find myself slipping into my own thoughts with because they don’t fully capture my attention. I also felt like this story and book was as if you were sat in a donut on a lazy river. It was slow and not fast paced at all. It was very confined to the characters and did not tend to branch out much from them until the end. The ending was also very abrupt, or at least I thought so.
A short review for a short book. I was a little disappointed in this book and I really am hesitant to give it 3 stars, I feel it was perhaps 2.5, especially having a little time to digest it a bit more.
So, would I recommend this book? Possibly. It really depends what you like. If you’re in to books that are poetic and mysterious then this book might be for you. It is not for you if, like me, you want answers and fast paced books. If you have read this, please let me know what you think. I have not seen it much round the book community!
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