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22 Britannia Road

22 Britannia Road

3.4 56
by Amanda Hodgkinson

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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


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.

Editorial Reviews

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
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.

Product Details

Penguin Publishing Group
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Penguin Group
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File size:
327 KB
Age Range:
18 Years

Meet the Author

Amanda Hodgkinson was born in Burnham-on-Sea, England, and lives with her husband and two daughters in a farmhouse in the southwest of France. This is her first novel.

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22 Britannia Road 3.4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 56 reviews.
MarionMarchetto_author More than 1 year ago
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.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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.
Aggie2010 More than 1 year ago
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!!!
Heavensent1 More than 1 year ago
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.
lfraz More than 1 year ago
Great story
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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Sensitivemuse More than 1 year ago
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.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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mgoodrich718 More than 1 year ago
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 />
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
THESELF-TAUGHTCOOK More than 1 year ago
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
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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.
bill80 More than 1 year ago
A great "period" piece from WW2. Well written and captures you very quickly mentally.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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