22 Britannia Road: A Novel

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Overview


A tour de force that echoes modern classics like Suite Francaise and The Postmistress.

"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 ...

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2011 Hard cover New in new dust jacket. Tight binding with clean text. New. Glued binding. Paper over boards. With dust jacket. 323 p. Audience: General/trade. One of the most ... searing debuts to come along in years, "22 Britannia Road" takes readers from war-torn Poland to England and chronicles how damaged people try to become, once again, a true family. Read more Show Less

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22 Britannia Road

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Overview


A tour de force that echoes modern classics like Suite Francaise and The Postmistress.

"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.

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Editorial Reviews

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)
Library Journal
This debut novel moves between wartime Poland and postwar England as it follows the shifting fortunes of Janusz Nowak and his wife, Silvana. Their young marriage is tested by the German invasion as Janusz enlists and Silvana finds herself left behind in Warsaw with their young son, Aurek. Janusz loses his regiment and ends up in England after spending time on a farm in France, where he has a passionate love affair. Silvana and Aurek escape into the forest and endure years of privation and abuse at the hands of their protectors. Their unexpected postwar family reunion is marred by the guilty secrets they each harbor. And in spite of Janusz's good job and comfortable home, the path to happiness is complicated by Aurek's mistrust of his father and the appearance of a dashing widower with a murky past, who is drawn to Silvana. VERDICT Fans of novels like The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society and Sarah's Key, who can never have too much of a good war story, will warm to this fine debut. Recommended.—Barbara Love, Kingston Frontenac P.L., Kingston, Ont.
Sarah Towers
It is Hodgkinson's portrait of the primal bond between mother and child, her visceral understanding of the gorgeous, terrible weight of love mothers must carry, war or no war, secret or no secret, that leaves an indelible impression.
—The New York Times
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780670022632
  • Publisher: Penguin Group (USA) Incorporated
  • Publication date: 4/28/2011
  • Pages: 336
  • Product dimensions: 6.22 (w) x 9.22 (h) x 1.16 (d)

Meet the Author

Amanda Hodgkinson was born in Burnham-on-Sea, England, and earned an MA in creative writing from the University of East Anglia. She now lives with her husband and two daughters in a farmhouse in the southwest of France. This is her first novel.

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Reading Group Guide

INTRODUCTION

World War II has just ended and Silvana Novak and her eight-year-old son Aurek arrive in Ipswich, England, where they are reunited with Silvana's husband, Janusz, after six years of estrangement. Silvana and Aurek have spent that time hiding from both the Germans and the Russians in the forests of Poland. Janusz, meanwhile, escaped to France before settling in England.

Relieved and deeply grateful to have his family back, Janusz has set up a brand-new life for them in a small house in a town in East Anglia. He's found work in an engineering firm and he's hoping they can start, despite what they have lived through. Aurek, who's grown up eating raw bird's eggs and tree bark, will have to learn how to tie his shoes and interact with children his age. Silvana will have to readjust to living in a real house, with a real bed and bathtub. Fiercely protective of her son, she will have to learn how to trust other people again, including her husband. Slowly but surely, they embark on this process together: Silvana finds work at an area factory; Janusz teaches them English; Aurek begins school and makes a new friend. They start to socialize with their neighbors who seem to accept them as one of their own. And Janusz builds a beautiful English garden with a treehouse for Aurek.

Yet even as their shared dream of postwar life takes shape, the past continues to haunt them. Both Silvana and Janusz are harboring painful secrets about what really happened during their separate wars. And these secrets are threatening to tear their fragile new bond apart.

In Amanda Hodgkinson's commanding debut novel, these empathetically drawn, emotionally damaged characters must learn how to recreate a family under the most difficult circumstances, when the horrors of war have stripped them of everything but their most primal instincts. By turns poetic and grippingly suspenseful, 22 Brittannia Road is a heart-wrenching story of how love and forgiveness can pave the way to new life.

ABOUT AMANDA HODGKINSON

Amanda Hodgkinson was born in Burnham-on-Sea, England, and earned an MA in creative writing from the University of East Anglia. She now lives with her husband and two daughters in a farmhouse in the southwest of France.

A CONVERSATION WITH AMANDA HODGKINSON

Q. What drew you to this particular story of Polish World War II survivors living in England?

As a child, I was always fascinated when the adults around me talked about World War II. These were older family members who had lived through it and I would try to stay quiet so I could listen without being discovered. Their voices changed to lower registers, there were weighted silences in the conversations, sad looks, secretive whispering, and then somebody would notice me and send me out to play, their voice swinging up a register to convey a gaiety they probably didn't feel.

The stories were about families and relationships. Mostly they were about the difficulties of people coming back together in peacetime. Of damaged men coming home from war and women trying to pick up the pieces. Of families broken by separations and children born out of wedlock. Of British GI brides waving good-bye to their families, joining American husbands, and of European immigrants, pale and gaunt, arriving on ships, hoping to begin new, safe lives in postwar Britain. I would go to bed at night, sick at heart thinking about these stories, and wonder how the world ever managed to get back to the normal after that war.

Looking back, I think I never stopped wondering. Years later, I was standing in my kitchen and heard a Russian woman on the radio, describing her experiences of being a child during the war.

"We were so hungry," she said, "we ate the bark of the silver birch trees."

An image came to me, so clear and strong, it was more like a memory than an act of my imagination. I wrote down what I saw; a young woman in a silver birch forest. I had begun to write my novel…

Q. From Silvana's exile in the forest to the petrol rations in postwar Ipswich, you paint a vivid picture of the novel's historical settings and events. What sort of research did you do to get the details right?

I balanced my own imaginative input with research. I read social history books on the war and the postwar period, including a lot of oral histories on Polish immigrant experiences. I also read wonderful Polish poets like Zbigniew Herbert and Tadeusz Rózewicz, among others. I studied Polish fairy tales and classic Polish literature from the nineteenth and early twentieth century. I discovered that tango music had been very popular in Poland during the thirties, so I listened to some fabulous clips on YouTube and imagined myself there, in the 1930s, dancing at a club in Warsaw, just as Hanka, one of the characters in the book talks to Silvana about. I immersed myself in books, music, and literature and then I put aside all research and let my imagination go to work. Whenever I was unsure about a scene, I turned to my own thoughts and feelings, relying on my ability to imagine a moment and on my empathy for the characters rather than history books, and I think this approach helped me really understand my characters and the time.

Q. The story of what happened to both Janusz and Silvana when they were separated for six years is told through flashbacks, alternating with the present moment in which they have been reunited. How did you decide on this structure for the narrative? Did you write chronologically and reorder the scenes, or did you always know it would be told this way?

It was very important to me to find the right structure for this novel. It wasn't enough to tell the story. I knew I wanted a structure that added an emotional intensity to the novel and was part of the novel itself.

First, I made the decision to use present tense for the characters when they begin their new life in Britain, because it is, in a way, an uncertain tense. Present tense seems to me to unroll in front of your eyes and has a way of showing that everything can change—that nothing is certain. I used past tense for the back stories because they were stories that needed to be "laid down" in order to help make sense of the fragile present that Silvana, Aurek, and Janusz inhabit.

Alternating between flashbacks and the present allowed me to show, all the way through the novel, how the past affects the present, how the decisions the characters make are in many ways, driven by what has come before. At the end of the novel, Silvana tells Janusz the story of her war.

"She lays it out like a book, filling in details, moving back and forth over time until the whole six years they have been apart are accounted for. Some of it is hard to hear, but he listens. He does not turn away from her. She says she wants no more secrets between them."

For me, this was Silvana revealing the structure of the novel and keeping the reader close to the characters. I really wanted the reader to share these people's lives. So this small scene becomes, for me, a confessional moment that reveals the structure. There are no more secrets, not even in the putting together of the novel.

Writing the scenes, I worked chronologically, from the moment Silvana and Janusz met before the war to the moment they meet again after the war. Then I continued writing the present tense story in Britain with the knowledge of what had gone before. Finally, I folded both stories together. In order for the back story and the present story to be as tightly woven together as possible, I did end up with a huge amount of material I didn't use, but I needed it in order to really know the characters and really understand the story myself.

Q. What does the title, the address of the home Janusz chooses for his reunited family, represent to you symbolically? Why that particular address?

I wanted a very ordinary address, a typical English home. You can find a Britannia Road in most English towns, and there is no mistaking the pronounced sense of place in this address. Janusz wants what the address offers: a new life and a new country. Ironically, this address, with its connotations of national identity and pride, also serves to highlight the sense of displacement that Janusz, Silvana, and Aurek, as an immigrant family, must have felt in a small town in Britain.

Another reason I used an address was to show how important home was to the characters. For me, the novel is about finding a home—physically, psychologically, and metaphorically. Home is a small word that holds within itself complex meanings. Change one letter and you have the word hope. And Janusz, Silvana, and Aurek hope to make a home together.

Q. A powerful theme in this book is the pain of survival—even Janusz, who had a relatively easy escape from Poland, suffers from having outlived Hélène and other loved ones. What personal discoveries did you make about this theme while writing the book?

Writing the book and researching it made me very aware of how people are still suffering under wars. The mass movement of displaced people around the world continues and the number of children who are orphaned and families disrupted and broken by war does not diminish.

Q. You do an exceptional job capturing the psyche of young Aurek, who has clearly been traumatized by his experiences. Did you draw from case studies of children with similar experiences, or did you find your way to this character instinctually?

I wrote Aurek very instinctively. I felt I knew the boy from the moment I first wrote a small, tentative description of him, crouching in the back garden at 22 Britannia Road.

I read Through The Eyes of the Innocents: Children Witness World War II by Emmy E Werner, which conveys the heartbreaking experiences of children, and that fed my own understanding of what Aurek might have been through but really, when I was writing Aurek, I found I could connect with him best on an emotional level. So I wrote what he felt. I tried to go beyond language with him and bring out his primitive sense of survival, his desire to feel loved, and his need to love others.

Q. Love is a redemptive force in this story, but love is also fraught with secrets, unmet fantasies, and unquenchable need. Given their painful personal histories, do you think these characters would be better off with something more pragmatic than love?

Well, I think there are many acts undertaken in the novel in the name of love but that ultimately, love in this novel is about the need for forgiveness and the need for a sense of belonging. The freedom, in fact, to love and be loved in return. Perhaps that is a pragmatic approach?

Q. When it comes, the revelation about Silvana's past is shocking, throwing everything into question for the reader. Were you concerned about how this moment in the book might affect the reader's opinion of your protagonist or the reliability of the narration?

I was very concerned about this. In no way did I want to trick the reader or undermine her belief in the characters, but I also didn't want to surprise the reader with something out of the blue. I hoped that the novel built to this moment so that although there is a sense of shock, there might also be a sudden, deeper understanding of everything that has gone before.

Another important question the novel raises is about parenthood—and whether an adoptive or long-separated parent can have the same kind of bond with his child as someone who has been there all along. Can someone like Janusz be a real father to Aurek?

Parenthood is fraught with questions of love and bonding and full of the difficulties of familial relationships. I believe that Janusz's love for the semi-wild Aurek, even in the light of Silvana's actions, shows how our human desire to nurture and love can survive and flourish in the most extreme situations. I think Janusz's experience shows how difficult separation can be, but ultimately, I think, he is the right father for Aurek, because he is committed to his role and loves the child unconditionally.

Q. You have given your readers a rare thing—a happy but authentically satisfying ending to the story of the Novak family. Was this ending obvious to you from the beginning of the writing process? What sort of future do you imagine for these characters?

I knew I wanted the characters to find something good in their lives and that they had to find it within themselves, but really, the characters led me to the ending themselves.

And their future after the novel ends? I like to think that they make a successful life on their own terms in Britain. I'd like to think that Janusz finds satisfaction in his work (because he has a strong pride in his own work ethic) and that Silvana learns to trust the world again.

Aurek is another generation. He would have been a young man in the early 1960s and it would be interesting to see what he made of his life. I hope the optimism of that decade would carry him toward whatever goals he wanted to achieve. My feeling is that he fell in love with a local girl and surprised himself by having a large family—a lot of lively grandchildren who would delight and worry Janusz and Silvana in equal doses.

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS

  • On the ship to England, Silvana is asked if she's a housekeeper or housewife. Why does this question jar her?
  • Aurek thinks of Janusz as "the enemy." How do his feelings change over the course of the book, and why?
  • Hodgkinson toggles back and forth from the past to the present in this novel. How does telling the story in this particular way affect the experience for the reader? Could she have told it in any other way?
  • Janusz longs for an English life. What are some of the things he does to try to adapt and assimilate to his new homeland?
  • The relationship between Silvana and Janusz and their English neighbors Doris and Gilbert is complicated. Do you believe they are genuinely friends?
  • Silvana is obsessed with discarded clothes and photographs of children. What do these objects represent for her, and how do they comfort or help her?
  • What is it that draws Silvana to Tony? How does her relationship with Tony differ from her relationship with Janusz?
  • When he learns the truth about Silvana, Janusz tears up his English garden and begins planting trees. What does this act accomplish for him?
  • Almost everyone in this novel has a secret—is there any instance in which keeping the secret might have been better in the end? Are secrets always destructive in relationships?
  • In the final third of the book, there's a shocking revelation about Silvana's past. How did you react to this development? How did it make you feel about her as a character?
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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 3.5
( 56 )
Rating Distribution

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(14)

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(17)

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 57 Customer Reviews
  • Posted September 6, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    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 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.

    4 out of 6 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 17, 2011

    Different approach to war- good read

    War changes you and whether that is for the better or not, you deal with it. This book took a different approach to war and had the reader dealing with the rekindling of a relationship that WW II tore apart. This marriage was strong before the war and after the war the relationship had secrets that neither party was ready to let go nor ready to put on the table and discuss. Silvana lived in a hostile environment with a small child without her husband for 6 years and finally was reunited with her husband in a foreign county. She tried to play the part of the good wife but the secrets from the past came flooding back and haunting her. Janusz's secrets kept flashing back to him and his emotions were all over the board. Their son Aurek was the interesting character. They say you are a part of your environment and well, this 6-year old holds true to that saying.
    This book is not a happy story but it is reality and it sure held my attention. Amanda did a great job with the details of the characters as I felt the emotions of the characters and enjoyed them as they developed in the story. This book does a lot of flash-back and present-day presentation and sometimes I get lost when reading these books but Amanda did a great job(awesome really). I also enjoyed how she has the some chapters split up between Silvana and Janusz. Enjoyed this story.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted October 16, 2011

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    Heartbreaking Novel

    This was such a great book!!! The novel revolves around the separation of a husband and his wife and son during WWII. The narration switches back and forth between their experiences during the war and their life in England as they attempt to put their lives back together after the war. The secrets they carry and the past that haunts them is devastating. Can two people who loved each other before the war still love one another despite what happened and how they've changed? As the novel answered this question, I was heartbroken, shocked, and floored. I could not put the book down!! I highly recommend it!!!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted September 8, 2011

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    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, 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.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted July 10, 2011

    LOVED IT

    Great story

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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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 5, 2014

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    Beautiful Writing

    I enjoyed reading this one. I rather liked the story, even though it’s dark and moody. The setting and the theme was well done and although Silvana and Janusz are supposed to be together, you can feel the detachment between the two of them because of the war. It changes everything and when they do get together, the love just isn’t there. You’d have to wonder if it was lust at first sight instead of love. You don’t quite connect with the characters here. Again, it feels like detachment is the main theme of this story. The characters themselves don’t quite connect with each other either. So I can see why this book might not be for everyone. Nevertheless, despite this, I liked how it was written and the mood overall was very well done. There is a little twist in the plot. It’s not mind numbing or shocking, but it sort of livens up the story a bit and it was an unexpected twist for me. I’d have to say Silvana’s story while she was trying to survive was a good one. She endured a lot and while reading her side of the story it’s filled with how people would just take advantage of one another during these times (or in any time during a war). It’s just a matter of survival and how humanity would take drastic steps to do so even if it means stepping over particular boundaries that one wouldn’t normally do in other circumstances. Historical fiction readers may like this book for its’ beautiful writing. I thought it was worth the read. It may not be for everyone, but it’s worth a read through.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 5, 2014

    Lyddia

    First of all my clothes are on second no seeriously bye.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 6, 2014

    Rachel

    Left as well

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 13, 2014

    Chuck

    Grabss it and rubs it

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  • Posted April 11, 2013

    22 Britannia Road By Amanda Hodgkinson
    3.5 Stars Round up

    22 Britannia Road By Amanda Hodgkinson<br />
    3.5 Stars Round up to 4<br />
    <br />
    22 Britannia Road is a novel surrounding a family and their home in England. Janusz, Silvana and Aurek all live there after surviving WWII in Poland. It tells their stories alternating between the present with them united in England and the past involving what Janusz and Silvana went through during the war. They were not together as a family at that time. Janusz left Silvanna and their infant son Aurek to join the military. That begins traumatic events that span 6 years until they are reunited after Janusz searches for them in war ravaged Poland. <br />
    <br />
    I have read many books surrounding WWII both fiction and non-fiction. They all seem the same in the tragedies that were suffered and are all very emotionally driven. This one was a page turner for me and I finished it in two days; I don't have a lot of reading time. I liked the format of alternating chapters in the past and present. It was powerful and hit me emotionally. Everytime I read a book in this era recently it surprises me the impact this war had and all the prespectives there are. I know that sounds ridiculous, I know it was called a World War for a reason. I focused and I think a lof people do so much on Germany and Hitler that the others involved are forgotten. At least for me that is how it was, I never really even focused on the Japanese involvement until I read Unbroken and Hotel on the Corner Of Bitter and Sweet. <br />
    <br />
    I am clearly drawn to this time in history and I am glad that I spent time with this one. I'm sure there are many more to come.<br />

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  • Posted July 6, 2012

    Excellent 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

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 18, 2012

    22 Brittannia Road

    Not bad. Short, easy read. Historical fiction of wwII families split and the impaxt on thenhusband, wife, and child. The main storybi fekt dragged behind thebtwo flashback storylines until about 2/3 in. Then after the author built the background of their two lives, she started hitting you with twists and turns just whenbyounthink ypu got it figured out. Then the main story becomes more important than the flash backs because you want to swe what drcisions will be made, and what the characters will ultimately choose. Recommended to everyone with even a semblance of fictional interest in history, family dynamics, romance, mystery, and pschological. Wartime grief and suffering.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 27, 2012

    Great historical novel

    My favorite genre ( above) is one, I found time ago, not all authors manage to balance. This author succeded! 5 stars. Characters are believable ( contrary to what I believe others reviewers here posted) and their voices were consistent to their situations and ages. Take Aurek, the authir didnt give him the voice of a mature person (The Secret of the Bees). And yes, chapters going back and forth in time works efficiently...too short, some of them, perhaps.
    This novel is not a factually charged historical one...like many others were authors are more into describing cultures and societies than in developing a plot amidst...Read this book!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 19, 2012

    The concept for the novel was wonderful, but the story itself, w

    The concept for the novel was wonderful, but the story itself, while touching, was also in some way lacking. I liked the &quot;spare&quot; approach allowing the storyline to build slowly, but I never really connected to either Janusz or Silvana all that deeply. I found it difficult to understand why the two did not talk to each other about anything significant in all the time they were together, and while I understood their secrets, it seemed like they didn't share much of anything about their time apart. I hate to say this, but I liked the character of Tony better, and was left feeling sorry for him and wanting to know more about him. Still, this was a very good debut novel and worth reading.

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  • Posted February 16, 2012

    Recommended highly.

    A great "period" piece from WW2. Well written and captures you very quickly mentally.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 2, 2012

    A woman's struggle through out WW11 and beyond.

    Remarkable how a woman could live through this time the way she did. Protect her child and carry on. Could any of us have done this, we will never know, hopefully.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 31, 2011

    Good Book to read

    I really liked this book. It was a little depressing in the beginning but got better as it went on. I ended up loving it in the end. Reminded me a little of Sarah's key, in that there were a lot of simalarities in the time frame and how it went back and forth between current and the past.

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  • Posted September 30, 2011

    Easy read

    Liked the flow of the story until the

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  • Posted June 12, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    Wartime+and+Its+Aftermath

    A+period+piece+set+during+ww2+about+love%2C+loss+and+sacrifice.++

    0 out of 9 people found this review helpful.

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