Anna and the Swallow Man

Finished Anna and the Swallow Man by Gavriel Savit.  I received a copy from the publisher for review.

Summary (from Goodreads):

A stunning, literary, and wholly original debut novel set in Poland during the Second World War perfect for readers of The Book Thief.

Kraków, 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.

Destined to become a classic, Gavriel Savit’s stunning debut reveals life’s hardest lessons while celebrating its miraculous possibilities.”

This is literary YA dealing with World War II. It’s very good but it’s compared to The Book Thief and I think that did Anna a disservice. The Book Thief is incredibly beloved and this book kept me at a remove.

It worked well for the story and the horror of war (and the fact that Anna and the Swallow Man were essentially strangers) but it also kept me from loving the book.

Even so, the writing is gorgeous and the story is intelligent and intense.

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