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Book Review

Publisher's Note:

A New York Times Bestseller A Publishers Weekly Best Book of the Year A Shelf Awareness Best Book of the Year A Bulletin Blue Ribbon Book Winner of the Indies Choice Book Award Winner of the Sydney Taylor Book Award "Exquisite." —The Wall Street Journal "This is masterly storytelling." —The New York Times Book Review A stunning, beautiful, and ambitio…

Anna and the Swallow Man

by Gavriel Savit

Overall Book Review:

Anna and the Swallow Man–where does one even begin with this book?  It is so hard to categorize–in so many ways.  Being published by Knopf Books for Young Readers might lend one to thinking it is a young adult book, but one of the characters is a little girl and the other an older man.  The writing style also lends itself to an older reader.  It didn’t feel like a young adult book.

If you are a reader who likes answers and closure, don’t pick up this book or get used to disappointment.  The author even in the epilogue delivers a thinly veiled message to the reader, saying that questions are better than knowledge.

This book’s language is absolutely and utterly exquisite.  Beautiful descriptions, metaphors, fables, similes–the best that language has to offer.  If you love language, you will love this text.  The genre itself falls somewhere between historical fiction and a fable.

However, this novel left me feeling completely mixed.  In some ways it was brilliant, but it was so sorrowful and cruel I also hated it.

I initially picked up this book in audiobook form because the audio version had won an award, and I am always on the hunt for a great audiobook.  The reader, Allan Corduner, was magnificent.  Frankly, I don’t know if I would have been as enchanted with the paper version because of the long descriptive passages and lack of plot (for a while I was convinced the author was French), but this listener, well, he had me hanging on his every word even though I ultimately can’t conclude how I feel towards this book.

Review of the unabridged audiobook


Content Analysis:

Profanity/Language:  3 religious exclamations; 1 scatological word; 2 f-word derivatives.

Violence/Gore:  Report parent taken to camp with implied death; bullet casings found; girl hears sounds of gunfire in mass execution nearby and sees the bodies later, intense scene; reference and talk about soldiers, battles, WWII, ghettos and concentration camps, possibility of being killed; characters are shot at by soldiers and injury results; young girl and adult forage for food from bodies of dead men; characters, including young girl, come across open mass grave and young girl walks across bodies and starts to forage but is stopped by adult, intense scene; a house has been bombed and girl sees a “blue hand” in the rubble; character is shot and injured severely with mention of blood; medic is described briefly as being covered in blood; girl and adult come upon someone who has been hanged and they cut the body down; character said that he slit someone’s throat in thei rsleep; character says (not in jest) that the meat they saw wrapped in a package was actually a human arm.

Sex/Nudity:  A man would like to have his way with a young girl and verbally implies that; implied that a girl is starting to go through puberty; adult male forces as girl/teenager (exact age is unclear) to undress and do unspecified things as he watches, no specific descriptions, but a very upsetting scene.

Mature Subject Matter:

Death, death of a parent, anti-Semitism, homelessness, prejudice, war, Jewish ghettos, murder, starvation/extreme living conditions, sexual exploitation of a minor, mental disorders/illness.

Alcohol / Drug Use:

Adults drink vodka; adults smoke; mention of cigarettes.

Overall Book Rating
Profanity/Language
Rating:
6
10
Violence/Gore
Rating:
5
10
Sex/Nudity
Rating:
5
10

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About the Reviewer

An accountant and CPA by profession, I found myself a book reviewer for Squeaky Clean Reads by happenstance. When the opportunity came to transform that website into Compass Book Ratings, I was excited to seize it and meld my business background with my love of books. As the mother of three teenage sons, I have read a large number of children and young adult books and I believe that there is great value in a content review service. As much as we would love to read everything our children read, there just isn’t enough time. I also appreciate being able to select books for myself that are really worth my precious and limited reading time. I believe there is a book out there for everyone–they just have to find it!