Anna and the Swallow Man by Gavriel Savit
Published by Knopf on January 26, 2016
Genres: [Adult/YA] Historical Fiction, Magical Realism
Format: Paperback, ARC
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Rerated: 4 Stars
4.5 Stars, Completed December 31, 2015
– SPOILER free –
“I need a SparkNotes interpretation of this” was the first thought that popped into my head when I finished page 232.
Initially, I thought this was going to be a light historical fiction novel set during the early years of World War II (but then again when is a book about WWII every light?), but I’m quite surprised by how this read more like a fairy tale mixed with some magical realism. And strangely, as I was flipping through each page I had these sudden urges to recognize every rhetorical device and wanted to annotate the entire thing. Anna and the Swallow Man rekindled the literature student in me (in a pleasant way).
In Anna and the Swallow Man, readers meet young, precocious Anna. Her father is a linguistic professor and naturally he knows many languages. In fact, so many that Anna doesn’t know what her father’s native tongue is. She grows up not really knowing how to identify herself. All she has are the many ways to say Anna. Anja. Khannaleh. Anke. Anushka. Anouk. But then one day her father leaves her in the care of an old friend and he never returns. Soon after, with the war wearing down the civilians, the hospitality her father’s friend once has dissipates and she finds herself at a level of despair and fear she’s never anticipated to experience before. All changes when she meets the mysterious Swallow Man. Despite his intimidating looks, Anna grows attached to this tall and peculiar man because he’s just like her and her father, one that is skilled in many tongues. They embark on a seemingly aimless journey and he teaches her his language, Road. A language that uses deceit for the purpose of protection and survival.