STARRED REVIEW
February 2016

An unlikely caretaker and ally

By Gavriel Savit
At the beginning of the German invasion of Poland during World War II, a young girl matures and crafts a life out of the madness of war.
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At the beginning of the German invasion of Poland during World War II, a young girl matures and crafts a life out of the madness of war.

Seven-year-old Anna and her father, a professor, maintain a pleasant routine in the city of Kraków. One day, Anna’s father leaves her in the care of a friend while he attends a mandatory university meeting, but her father never returns. When the friend subsequently abandons Anna, she falls under the authoritative scrutiny of the Swallow Man, a tall, very thin, rather scary man who has the ability to communicate with birds.

Anna decides to place her trust and her life in the Swallow Man’s hands. Her instincts serve her well, as he keeps Anna safe for several years, teaching her to survive in the wilderness. They walk endlessly through forests, avoiding towns and people, even at times removing items from dead soldiers in order to survive.

Gavriel Savit’s debut novel doesn’t avoid the hard topics as it addresses the extermination of Jews and lays bare the devastating effects of war. However, all is not grim once the Swallow Man allows a cheerful young man to join them. This newcomer adds a semblance of normalcy to a world strafed by war, and the ending sees Anna heading toward a bright future.

 

This article was originally published in the February 2016 issue of BookPage. Download the entire issue for the Kindle or Nook.

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Anna and the Swallow Man

Anna and the Swallow Man

By Gavriel Savit
Knopf
ISBN 9780553513349

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