I received a free ARC of this book from the publisher.
Anna and the Swallow Man is set in 1939 Poland as Germany begins to exert its power over the country. The story follows Anna, a sheltered seven-year-old girl, after her scholar father has been taken by the Germans. She meets a man who, like her, can speak many languages and dubs him the Swallow Man after he shows her how he talks to birds. Seeing that she is alone, he takes her under his wing and the two struggle to survive as the world erupts into war.
I saw this book being compared to Markus Zusak’s The Book Thief and knew that I needed to get my hands on it. I’m happy to say that I wasn’t disappointed. The story, though not narrated by Anna, depends largely on what she experiences and because of this we learn more as she grows and begins to see things differently. We see the Swallow Man as an almost magical character at the story’s beginning and by the end have a much better understanding of him as a man. In this way, the book relies on the reader to fill in some of the blanks that Anna leaves and it kept me hooked as I tried to put together the pieces throughout the story.
Anna and the Swallow Man follows Anna and the Swallow Man as they move throughout Poland; avoiding soldiers when they can and deceiving them when they cannot. Though the two depend on each other to survive, they share very little of their pasts with one another. The Swallow Man refuses to even share his name, posing instead as Anna’s father in front of others and allowing her to call him Swallow Man when the two are alone. By bartering and befriending strangers, the two are able to survive even the harsh winters of Poland as they move from place to place on a mission that the Swallow Man finally reveals to Anna when she questions their journey.
This book was absolutely beautiful; from the language used to the beautiful watercolor pictures at the beginning of each chapter. It’s also safe to say that more than a few tears were shed during the reading of Anna and the Swallow Man. Seeing what was happening to Poland through Anna’s young eyes was heartbreaking. Twists and turns kept me reading late into the night and I felt as though I were holding my breath to the very end. I would wholeheartedly recommend this book to anyone, no matter their age.