“Housekeeper or housewife?” the soldier asks Silvana as she and eight-year-old Aurek board the ship that will take them from Poland to England at the end of World War II. There her husband, Janusz, is already waiting for them at the little house at 22 Britannia Road. But the war has changed them all so utterly that they’ll barely recognize one another when they are reunited. “Survivor,” she answers.
Silvana and Aurek spent the war hiding in the forests of Poland. Wild, almost feral Aurek doesn’t know how to tie his own shoes or sleep in a bed. Janusz is an Englishman now determined to forget Poland, forget his own ghosts from the way, and begin a new life as a proper English family. But for Silvana, who cannot escape the painful memory of a shattering wartime act, forgetting is not a possibility.
One of the most searing debuts to come along in years, 22 Britannia Road is the wrenching chronicle of how these damaged people try to become, once again, a true family. An unforgettable novel that cries out for discussion, it is a powerful story of primal maternal love, overcoming hardship, and, ultimately, acceptance-one that will pierce your heart.
Silvana and Aurek, mother and son, are reunited with Janusz, Silvana’s husband, after six years of separation, during which time they had no way of contacting each other or even knowing if the other was dead or alive. A lot can happen in a person’s life during these tumultuous years. Years that change each of them in very deep ways. This is the journey of hope, expectations, broken dreams, healing, self-discovery, forgiveness and so much more.
World War II is not an era that I am normally attracted to, but I was completely engaged with the characters. I came to care for them in a way that is unique to only some of my favourite reads.
Amanda Hodgkinson wrote in such an honest and raw way that there are small bits of the book that are downright uncomfortable to read, but that is also a sign of an exceptional book. Life is not always comfortable and Hodgkinson does an exceptionally good job of bringing her characters to life and exposing their true thoughts, an important piece when a novel is told from the perspective of these characters.
The setting was nicely done, placing every detail in my mind’s eye without hand feeding it to me. (Thank you for giving the reader a little credit, Amanda Hodgkinson). Long after finishing the book, I can still remember each scene in vivid detail.
Although 22 Britannia Road is told in alternating POV’s, between husband and wife, and goes back and forth between time, it is nicely written and easy enough to follow. It is the debut novel of Amanda Hodgkinson and she set the bar pretty high for herself. I look forward to more from her.