Author: Gavriel Savit.
Anna Lania lives in Krakow in 1939, and she’s only seven years old. She doesn’t understand what’s happening, or why her father is gone. But she does understand that a little girl needs a father, so when the Swallow Man goes past she’s ready to follow him. The Swallow Man is an enigma, but he’s in danger, like her father, and he is a speaker of many languages – like her father. He may be reluctant to take on a little girl at first, but she’s a very intelligent child, and there’s nowhere else for her to go. Together, Anna and the Swallow Man will travel for leagues, slipping between the cracks and corners of war.
Anna and the Swallow Man opens in the perspective of a precocious seven-year old girl. Through the story, she will grow and mature, but right now she’s just a little kid lost in a world gone mad. There’s a lot of reading between the lines to be done, because of the view point, and even then it’s confusing in several places.
The writing is beautiful, the characters and dynamic compelling. On the one hand we have the girl, who understands how the Swallow Man can speak so many languages and yet not have his own, who knows that ‘precocious’ is a word used by grownups to describe a child who says uncomfortable things they would rather laugh off. On the other hand we have the enigmatic Sparrow Man himself. Throughout the book, he has no more permanent name than this, and although tantalizing hints of his past are revealed, such is his ingrained wariness that the walls will never go completely down. This is a picture of the brutality of war blurred through a child’s innocent eyes.
Together, they weave a story of journey and survival.
Sexual content: Man comes upon a girl in the woods, “eyes lingered on the hem of her outgrown, too-short dress”, he asks her companions if he can take her on a short walk. Through other context it is clear to older readers what he wants, but younger readers may miss it. Man takes desperate young girl to a backroom, tells her to undress, to pose herself for him to look at.
Language: 2 F-words.
Violence: Two soldiers force a man with a broken leg to jump up and down. Twenty people are shot out of sight, screams heard. A character’s finger is shot off. One character kills a sleeping man. One character is hung off screen. The main characters pick over many dead bodies on battle fields to survive.