Review: Anna and the Swallow Man

Anna and the Swallow Man


I have been hesitant about this WWII story since it was published. There are so many out today – and that’s wonderful! – but I personally feel that not all of them are knock-it-out-of-the-park great. Certain ones like Salt to the Sea or Shades of Grey  or The Girl In The Blue Coat have set the bar high in my eyes. Sadly, this one fell a little flat for me. I don’t believe it lived up to the expectation I had in my head.

This is a relatively short story so it was over quickly, but the path it took was a bit odd. The MC, Anna, was very young when she was kicked out of the store where she usually waited for her father. Her father was a linguistics professor so she grew up learning and speaking many, many languages. She quickly discovers she is on her own until she chooses to follow a man that can talk to swallows. He is only known as Swallow Man and chooses to take care of young Anna. He protects her as if she is his own daughter. Over the years and throughout their constant travels, he teaches her everything he knows – including how to be mindful of surroundings and how to survive in a country that is at war.

I am finally starting to have a deep appreciation for historical fiction stories, I felt this one was devoid of an actual plot. I wanted to know why Anna and Swallow Man were constantly on the move? Why was Swallow Man so secretive of his former life? What was the necessity of taking the pills from the brown glass bottle? What illness did he have? What happened to everyone at the end? I had so many questions that were never answered. I also wanted to know why the author felt the need to give so much description to things that really did not help move the story along, yet left out details on items that needed clarification. An example was when it was noted what happened to Anna’s father. All I was told was that he died. It really was mentioned as a short sentence. That was it. I’m not saying I needed a full account of what happened to him, but maybe something more than, “and then he was found dead.” Kind of abrupt, no? I was given more detail about what happened to the clarinet playing guy than Anna’s father. That bothered me in a way that really is hard to describe.

I had a hard time connecting to this story. Mainly for the above reasons. I was not given a lot of insight or detail about the characters. Again, I don’t feel there was a lot to the plot either. There were too many holes in the story that left me wondering what was going on. Especially that ending. What in the ever loving crap was that all about. It wrapped nothing up at all. It could have meant a plethora of things, none of which I’ll ever get answers to. It could also be seen as a weak-ass ending or a cop out.

I’m not upset that I read this story but it certainly wasn’t memorable enough for me to tell people to read it. I don’t feel it was as noteworthy as some people say it is. It is one book I have checked of my want to read list and I’m moving on. Will I recommend? No, not at all. There are certain scenes that are far more detailed and gruesome than they should have been. I would caution people before they pick this up, if they do choose to pick it up. There are much better WWII books out there.



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