|Title:||22 Britannia Road|
|Publisher:||Penguin Group (USA)|
|Imprint:||Penguin Books USA|
|Pub Date:||April 24, 2012|
|Category:||FICTION - ADULT: Literary|
Amanda Hodgkinson's debut novel 22 Britannia Road is a harrowing and gripping tale about the lengths a mother will go to protect her child. A wrenching story of WWII and its effect on families, 22 Britannia Road is most touching in its depiction of one couple's desperate desire to create a home in the aftermath of war when neither can quite remember what home is. Echoing books like Suite Française, 22 Britannia Roadearned great critical acclaim when it was first published in hardcover with writer Penelope Lively describing it as "A most accomplished first novel-powerful storytelling and entirely convincing in its evocation of post-war England."
It has been six years since Silvana has seen her husband, Janusz, when she boards a ship that will take her from Poland to England with their eight-year-old son Aurek. Asked for her occupation, "housekeeper or housewife?," Silvana first responds softly, "survivor." She and Aurek spent much of the war hiding in the forests of Poland, and when they arrive in England, they will have to learn a new way of living, and face an intense emotional adjustment to the new place they will now have to call home.
Meanwhile, in small-town England, Janusz prepares for his wife and son's arrival. He rents a little house at 22 Britannia Road and plants a quaint English garden. Determined to be an Englishman now, Janusz wants to forget the war, his memories of both his own bravery and his shameful cowardice. With the sweet albeit awkward reuniting, Janusz, Silvana and Aurek enter their new life. But six years apart have changed all of them.
A lifetime without a father and a wild, almost feral existence in the woods of Poland has made Aurek suspicious of this man who expects him to sleep apart from his mother, and he begins to think of Janusz as "the enemy." Janusz still has the letters from a love in France whom he cannot forget. Silvana is skittish and struggles to play the role of proper English housewife, but the shattering secret she keeps-an act permissible in the midst of war but unthinkable during peacetime-stands between husband and wife. When the dashing father of Aurek's only friend shows up and makes Silvana feel like a woman again for the first time since the war began, the charade of contented family on Britannia Road comes crashing down.
22 Britannia Road is an unforgettable story about maternal love, overcoming hardship, and ultimately, acceptance - a tour de force that will pierce your heart.
About the Author . . .
Amanda Hodgkinson was born in Burnham-on-Sea, Somerset, England and grew up in a small fishing village in East Anglia. She earned an MA in creative writing from the University of East Anglia. She currently lives in an old stone farmhouse in the south-west of France with her husband, two daughters, some chickens and two cats. This is her first novel.
In order to survive, Silvana and her infant son Aurek hid in the woods of Poland for the six years that Janusz was away during World War II. By the end of the War, Janusz is now living in England. With the help of the Red Cross, he finds Silvana and Aurek, only to discover that six years away from one another is a lifetime of secrets. Although they attempt to put things back together, the attentions of another man toward Silvana cause the facade they have so carefully built to come crumbling to the ground.
This is my kind of novel; the one that keeps you up all night reading "one more chapter". Set in World War II and post-WWII, primarily in Poland, France, and England, Ms. Hodgkinson has drawn such a clear picture of what it was like in those areas that the reader can almost feel as though they have stepped into Silvana or Janusz's shoes. Her descriptions of the forests were so vivid that I could almost smell the earthy smell of the forest. Silvana's character is such a sympathetically written one that even when the reader finally understands what she has done to survive, it is easy for the reader to understand and forgive.
If this is what she can do for a first novel, I look forward to reading Amanda Hodgkinson's future works. 5 stars