Anna and the Swallow Man


Author – Gavriel Savit

Age – 13+

The first thing that struck me reading this novel set in Poland in the 1940’s, was the beautiful use of language. Each sentence was to be savoured. Some would say it was waffly, but I found it beautiful.

Anna is 7 years old and is very close to her Papa. He’s taught her several languages and has taken her with him when he meets with other scholars like himself. She is encouraged to ask questions and speak her mind and is not treated like a child. But when he leaves Anna with a friend for the day, after being called to the University where he works – he never returns. His so-called friend lets Anna sleep in his shop on the floor for one night then tells her she has to leave.

She sits on the front step, and can’t help but cry after hours of waiting for her beloved Papa to return. When a soldier notices her, another man does too, coming to her rescue. He is tall and thin and speaks to her in different languages to determine who she is. It is only when he whistles a certain way, and a swallow swoops down to land on his hand, that she stops crying.

This is where their journey together begins. We never learn the Swallow Man’s name. As the years pass by, he keeps Anna safe by teaching her another language – the language of ‘Road’ and how to survive Polish winters, German checkpoints and every other trial they face just staying alive. Absolutely loved it.

(War, Poland, Survival, Friendship, WWII, Literary)


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