Toward the end of last year, I requested this book from the publisher because the summary sounded interesting. What do they mean by a man who can speak to birds? I was curious and thought that I’d get a wonderful, fantastical tale. What I got instead was a profound story that hints at magical realism and focuses on a girl growing up in the midst of World War II with only a mysterious man to protect her.
The story begins when Anna is seven living in Poland with her father, a linguistics professor. Due to her father’s influence, Anna is well versed in several languages at that age. Anna loves her father and spends much of her time with him and visiting his friends. One day, her father does not return from work and Anna finds herself alone on the street when she meets a most unusual man, who she calls the Swallow Man because he can speak to the birds.
The Swallow Man cares for Anna and protects her from the war that surrounds them. They spend much of the war walking in forests, only visiting towns and speaking to others when they need to. The Swallow Man also has a knack for languages like Anna, and is skilled at blending in with whomever he is around, a skill he teaches Anna to help them survive the war. He tries to preserve her innocence for as long as he can, but he can’t shield her from everything. And as the war continues and the Swallow Man begins to change, it falls to Anna to protect and provide for them both.
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