Book Title:
Anna and the Swallow Man
Book Author:
Gavriel Savit
Publishing Date:
January 26th, 2016
Knopf Books for Young Readers
Date Read:
February 1st, 2016


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.

My Review

I tend to really enjoy historical YA novels, so I was really looking forward to Anna and the Swallow Man It sounded like it had such an adventurous premise and I was so excited to get lost in Anna’s world, but when I finally picked it up, I found myself a little disappointed.

There are some negative things about this book that prevented me from enjoying it as much as I had hoped I would, but the book also has some positive points, and I want to talk about those first.

First of all, the writing in Anna and the Swallow Man is beautiful.  It is descriptive and almost poetic in spots; making for a reading experience that you would think would completely engulf you in the story.   The author describes things in ways that I haven’t seen before, taking plenty of time to talk about the setting, the happenings in the novel, and most of all, the characters.  This can be a really positive aspect for books, and it can set it apart from other books who do not pay enough attention to detail.

The book is also pretty short, at just 240 pages, so it really wouldn’t take too long to finish it.  I usually like books that I figure will be a quick read, because I read a lot and end up finishing books within a day when they are this short.

However, I had a difficult time finishing this one.  I did, don’t get me wrong, but I’m not going to lie – it took me over a week to get through it.  I think the reason why had to do with the writing style that I talked about…it was just too descriptive in parts, and what was a joy to read in the beginning started to feel like a bit of a chore.  Some parts of the book just went on and on, and I really felt like the story could have been wrapped up in half the amount of pages.  The descriptions of some of the settings and characters is beautiful, don’t get me wrong, but they’re just so long that sometimes it starts to get a little bit boring.

The story, however…it was definitely well though out and written, and I can’t help but give it plenty of praise.  It was heartbreaking at times and at other times it made me smile. I felt bad for poor Anna, who was essentially left alone when her father was taken by the Germans.  When she meets the Swallow Man, things look like they might take a turn for the positive for Anna, and she sets off on an adventure with him, which spans over a few years.  Anna learns lessons and survival skills from him, while trying her hardest to earn his friendship.

I don’t want to go into the story too much, because I don’t want to give any parts of it away.  The synopsis of the book wraps it up pretty nicely.  The ending was something I wasn’t expecting, and I was really hoping it would have ended it a different way, but I guess it was somewhat suiting to the rest of the novel.

I wish I had enjoyed it more, because it was one of my most anticipated reads for the beginning of this year, but I just had a hard time getting into it, despite how hard I tried.  The story itself was really lovely, though, and if you like historical fiction, and very descriptive writing styles, then I would say to check this one out.  

Note: I received an ARC copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.


3 stars
This entry was posted in Historical, Reviews, Young Adult and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Anna and the Swallow Man by Gavriel Savit

  1. Great review. I was excited for this one, but I’ve been seeing a lot of “Meh” reviews. Now I’m not sure if I want to read it.
    Aj @ Read All The Things! recently posted…Top Ten Tuesday: Books With Awesomely Weird SettingsMy Profile

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