techeditor, November 29, 2011 (view all comments by techeditor)
22 BRITANNIA ROAD by Amanda Hodgkinson is a wonderful book. It was rated one of the best of 2010 by amazon.com, but I just got around to reading it. Hodgkinson manages to tell four stories at once without confusing the reader. Instead, her organization of the four stories to tell one story creates more drama.
This is the story of a Polish couple, Silvana and Janusz, and their baby/child, Aurek, during and after World War II. They were separated for 6 years when Janusz went off to join the Polish army. Therefore, Silvana's story of her experiences during the War is told separately from Janusz's story of his experiences at the same time.
In chapters between these chapters are the stories of Silvana, Aurek, and Janusz after they are reunited in England. These stories are told from Silvana's point of view and Janusz's point of view.
Sound confusing? It isn’t.
I'm so glad I didn't read many reviews of this book because reviews often say too much. I promise I won't. But, as a teaser, I will say that there comes a point in Silvana's story after the War when she divulges a secret that just about knocked my socks off. You may do as I did and page through what you already read, looking for a clue. It's there. I missed it.
Kathleen Kane, September 11, 2011 (view all comments by Kathleen Kane)
A heart wrenching account of the horrors of WWII.It is a poignant portrayal of a family finding their way back to each other and their lives.The author has vividly documented the fragility of life during war time and the long journey to forgive each other.
Deb Baker, September 1, 2011 (view all comments by Deb Baker)
Hodgkinson's skillful use of different points of view enhances the telling of this story about a Polish couple separated during WWII and reunited in England after, along with their son. Janusz and Silvana are trying to put together the pieces of their lives and live normally, but there is much that they each kept hidden in wartime that is hard to reveal or admit in peacetime, even to themselves. Left to guess about each other's experiences they make a mess of things, and then try to undo the tangle and put the family back together again -- although I won't give away how it ends, I will say it's a pleasantly ambiguous denouement which would offer book clubs plenty to discuss. Hodkinson presents their story with gorgeous, cinematic scenes and vivid details that will keep you glued to the page. Aurek, the boy who has only known war and hiding, will break your heart. A searing, beautiful book about the aftermath of war, the resilience of the human spirit, and the ability to love and trust when everything one has known has been destroyed.
"Publishers Weekly Review"
by Publishers Weekly,
"In her powerful debut, Hodgkinson takes on the tale of a family desperately trying to put itself back together after WWII. Silvana and Janusz have only been married a few months when the war forces them apart. Silvana and their infant son, Aurek, leave Poland and disappear into the forests of Eastern Europe, where they bear witness to German atrocities. Meanwhile Janusz, the sole survivor of his slaughtered military unit, flees to France. There, he takes up with a local girl and, though he loves her, awaits the war's end so that he can go in search of his wife and son. He eventually finds them in a refugee camp and they travel to England together, where they attempt to put the past behind them. But the secrets they carry pull at the threads of their fragile peace. Hodgkinson alternates viewpoints to relay the story of three desperate characters, skillfully toggling between the war and its aftermath with wonderfully descriptive prose that pulls the reader into a sweeping tale of survival and redemption. (May)" Publishers Weekly Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
"Hodgkinson's portrait of the primal bond between mother and child . . . leaves an indelible impression." —The New York Times Book Review
Debuting its first week on the New York Times bestseller list and earning comparisons to Sophie's Choice and Sarah's Key, 22 Britannia Road is an astonishing first novel that powerfully chronicles one family's struggle to create a home in the aftermath of war.
With World War II finally over, Silvana and her seven-year-old son, Aurek, board the ship that will take them to England, where Silvana's husband, Janusz—determined to forget his ghosts—has rented a little house at 22 Britannia Road. But after years spent hiding in the forests of Poland, Aurek is wild, almost feral. And for Silvana, who cannot escape the painful memory of a shattering wartime act, forgetting is not a possibility.
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