Monday, January 18, 2016

Review: Anna and the Swallow Man

Anna and the Swallow Man by Gavriel Savit
Publisher: Knopf
Release Date: January 26th, 2016
Source: Book Expo America
Date Read: 5/29/15 to 5/30/15
240 pages
Rating: 1/2 

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.

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I received this ARC in exchange for an honest review. Quotes taken from ARC may or may not be in the published edition.

I guess after ALL the WWII books I've read, All The Light We Cannot See, The Book Thief, etc., it's going to be hard to live up to them all, and my expectations. And here we are with Anna and the Swallow Man, a short read featuring a young girl, her demon-like companion, traveling through Poland during WWII. Even though I enjoyed reading it, it wasn't the WWII book I wanted.

With her Linguistics professor father (!!!) taken away from her, Anna is kicked out of the store where she usually waits for her father. From there on, it's pretty hopeless, especially since she's young, and has no way of getting back into her home. Until she ends up sneaking up and following a man who can speak to swallows. 

The book is unique in the way that it shows how many languages you can speak in. You can speak a regular natural language, like German, French, or Polish. Or you can speak to birds and animals, but not directly. Or you can speak the way of the road, which is what is emphasized here. Anna learns a lot from the Swallow Man, especially how to survive in a country filled with war.

Unfortunately, I had a couple of problems, mostly due to my preferences when it comes to WWII books, and other books in general. First off, there were tons of paragraphs of just description, rather than dialogue, which is what I wanted more so than the former. But then on the other hand, some scenes would be so abrupt and curt. When someone died, it went something like "And the next day, he was found dead." How am I supposed to react to such a sudden thing?

Due to this, I felt a lack of connection with the story and the characters. I started to crave plot rather than what was happening development wise with the characters. And then, there's the ending. It was definitely one of the most open ended books I have ever read. And as mystical the ending was made to seem, I don't accept it. At all.

In the end, Anna and the Swallow Man wasn't anything emotional, or memorable really. It wasn't the WWII book I was looking for or expecting, and with all the amazing WWII books out there, this one kind of just felt like a copy. (Which makes me sad to say!) NOTE: I don't think this is middle grade! There are some scenes in here that....yeah no it's not.
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