Customer Reviews for

22 Britannia Road: A Novel

Average Rating 3.5
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Most Helpful Favorable Review

4 out of 6 people found this review helpful.

The War Within

I chose to read this book because of my Polish heritage and the many stories I heard when I was growing up of the hardships that the Poles faced during WWII. So, when this book came along it was easy for me to want to read it. At the beginning of WWII, a young Polish fa...
I chose to read this book because of my Polish heritage and the many stories I heard when I was growing up of the hardships that the Poles faced during WWII. So, when this book came along it was easy for me to want to read it. At the beginning of WWII, a young Polish family is separated: husband Janusz goes to fight for his country leaving wife Silvana and their infant son Aurek at home in Warsaw. The next time the three are reunited it is seven years later in England, the war has ended and all have endured hardships and horrors they would rather forget. Janusz has crossed Europe and joined the RAF. Along the way he has fallen in love with a French girl. While his initial attempts to resist her become weaker, he rationalizes that his family are probably dead anyway, he ultimately gives in and falls in love with Helene. They exchange letters during the war and Janusz keeps these letters even after his reunion with his wife and son. Silvana, I believe, has the worst of the situation. Left on her own to keep her child safe, she is in her apartment when the Germans invade Warsaw. In an attempt to flee she makes it as far as the first floor of her apartment building. She ducks into a vacated apartment and hides her son as a German officer rapes her, telling her that he would like to have her as a mistress and that he can provide for her. But she will have to lose the child. When he leaves, Silvana helps herself to extra clothing and blankets from the apartment and boards a bus with her baby. Everything goes downhill from there. She spends the remainder of the war years a step or two ahead of the German troops, essentially living and raising her son in the forest. Janusz manages to find his way to a small English town and with Allied assistance tracks down his little family and brings them to England. Here is where the story gets interesting. Both Janusz and Silvana try to put the horrors of war behind them. They simply don't want to talk about those years. They try to become assimilated into the English way of life. Aurek, the seven year old boy, is so wild that he clings to Silvana, calling Janusz 'enemy'. There is so much inner turmoil, with both husband and wife thinking that they have failed their spouse as well as the boy, that neither one seems to understand that the other is hurting inside. It takes another emotional upheaval, this time shared by both Janusz and Silvana, before each is willing to open their hearts and learn what the other has experienced. The author has created extremely complex characters that carry the book forward on their own with little assistance needed from secondary characters. The story is strong, the characters are strong. We experience the horrors of war secondhand yet they seem as real as when they happened. Although set during and after the Second World War, the inner wars that are fought by those who experience war are common to all who have fought or lived in countries torn asunder by wars regardless of the year or locale. I highly recommend this book. I am giving it five stars for its readability and strong characters. I look forward to Ms. Hodgkison's next novel.

posted by MarionMarchetto_author on September 6, 2011

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Most Helpful Critical Review

1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

For a debut novel it was fantastic!

22 Britannia Road is a fiction romance set during WWII.

Silvana Nowak is a young Polish woman living in Warsaw at the time the Germans take over the city. When her husband, Janusz is called away to fight for their country, he leaves her and their young son, Aurek, b...
22 Britannia Road is a fiction romance set during WWII.

Silvana Nowak is a young Polish woman living in Warsaw at the time the Germans take over the city. When her husband, Janusz is called away to fight for their country, he leaves her and their young son, Aurek, behind.

After setting out on the train with his unit, they are attacked by German planes and he becomes lost from his troops. However, after months go by, he realizes that his heart is not in this and he is befriended by two other deserters and the trio make their way across Poland to France in order to join up with troops already stationed there.

Along the way many things happen to Janusz that changes who he was and after the war is over, he settles in England to become a proper Englishman and buys a house located at 22 Britannia Road. He then sets out to find what happened to his family.

Silvana and Aurek are soon left at the mercy of the German soldiers and after being raped, she escapes with Aurek and stunned, scared and lonely, she follows the other people heading out of the city. She wanders for weeks and along the way she befriends a woman who helps them find shelter for the winter.

When Silvana and Hanka part ways, her and Aurek must learn to take shelter and survive in the woods. Finding another group of survivors they spend the winter with them before moving on to another family, who save them from near death.

Always Silvana is fighting for their survival, seeking shelter and food when there was none to be found. When the English find them, they are taken to a refugee encampment. It is there that she learns that Janusz is alive and is looking for them.

However, Silvana has mixed feelings about returning to her husband's arms. She has many secrets that she cannot share, and many situations she wishes never to have to remember again.

When the three finally come together, they must learn to live and love all over again. Will their love be enough to see them through the past; a past they had no control over? Or will their lies and secrets drive a wedge through them forever?

I thought this was a fantastic debut novel. The period that the book was set in was wonderfully written. It had clarity and mystery and immersed you into the novel, wearing the heartaches that Silvana had to endure.

The horrors of the war were graphic and the imagery given made you grip the book as you read on. Then the realization sets in that things really did happen this way; war really does this to people. It was heart-rendering to read at times as the prose left you aching at humanity's animalistic barbarity.

The characters were strongly portrayed and balanced the plot with grace and understanding. The back story characters were equally impressive in their impressions upon the reader. I did happen to guess all the secrets of the two early on in the book but I do believe the hints were subtle in their rendering and I am quite sure those who enjoy love stories will enjoy this book.

posted by Heavensent1 on September 8, 2011

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  • Posted June 28, 2011

    War in indeed horrific

    This was a good read. The story was gripping and tragic but it the characters somehow didn't seem real. The mother and child were not appealing and believable. The war torn woman was void of compassion and I could not understand that. There was nothing about the child that could make me care for him, I was hoping he'd get claimed by another mother. All in all the book would have been better if it had the weight and impact of a true to life drama, which it did not. The book was forgettable upon completion.

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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    Posted August 3, 2011

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    Posted August 1, 2011

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