Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Review: Anna and the Swallow Man

Author: Gavriel Savit
Genre: Young Adult Fiction
My Rating: 3.5 Stars

Every book lover knows and understands the irrational feeling of falling in love with a book at first sight. Sometimes it is a promising title, sometimes it is a gorgeous cover, sometimes it is an interesting blurb at the back promising an unforgettable story, sometimes it is a combination of these. Very rarely do you come across a book where it is all 3. Anna and the Swallow Man was one of those rare ones. A book that made me ignore every other book on my TBR pile. A book that I just HAD to read the minute I received a review copy in the mail. And of course, the Young Adult tag only added to the allure. I am a huge fan of young adult novels! I happy to say that the book lived up to its promise.

Anna is a 7 year old girl living with her linguistics professor father in 1939 Krakow, Poland. When he is summoned to a meeting suddenly one morning, he leaves Anna in the care of a friend and heads to the university unaware that he's being rounded up with other Jewish intellectuals by the Nazis. The "friend", when he realizes what's happened, takes Anna back to her building to save himself. When Anna slowly comes to terms with her father's disappearance, she runs in to a strange man - multilingual like her dad but very mysterious. The swallow man takes her 'under his wing' and together they begin a journey in the quest of a "beautiful rare bird". The swallow man masks the gruesomeness of Nazi occupation and the German, Russian attacks on Poland in a metaphorical story in the beginning but eventually as the years pass, he's unable to hide Anna from the reality. Beneath the cool, calculated, mysterious nature of the swallow man, there is an undeniable soft spot for the little girl he rescued from the streets of Poland. So much that he's ready to tag along a jewish musician that Anna found and became attached to. 

Savit's writing is like poetry. There is a hint of a magical realism element to his story that is appealing. The innocence of Anna, the mystery surrounding the swallow man and the tragedy of the war are all very nicely depicted in the book. 

Towards the end, the tightness in the story line slips a bit. Anna and her friends seem travel aimlessly and the quest for the metaphorical bird seems to be forgotten. It's hard to see Anna beyond the 7 year old that she is in the beginning of the book. 

But in spite of the minor slips, this is a fantastic read. A great debut novel by the very talented Gavriel Savit. I can't wait to read more of his writing. I definitely recommend Anna and the Swallow Man!