A tour de force that echoes modern classics like Suite Francaise and The Postmistress. (Trish thinks this is WAY BETTER than 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.
Let me just say: I LOVED THIS BOOK. I thought 22 Britannia Road by Amanda Hodgkinson was beautiful and heartbreaking and the writing was fabulous and I practically ran in to the book club meeting, clutching this book, saying, “I can’t wait to talk about this book!!”
Hodgkinson told the story by jumping back and forth between 1939 Poland and 1946 England. Silvana and Janusz’s story is told simultaneously. I thought this worked extremely well. I actually felt a bit of tension as I wondered what had happened in the years during their separation.
As Silvana and Janusz try to come back together as a family, they have fits and starts at being successful. Secrets and lives that had moved past their marriage are obstacles they will have to overcome.
Here’s a few quotes to whet your appetite:
They (the clothes) will travel on, into the arms of men and women and children who have arrived at the end of the war with nothing but the curious realization that they have survived something and a dull sense that they might not survive the beginning of something else.
And if Janusz knew Silvana’s secret, would he forgive her? She has no words for what happened. No: it is better to guard her secret, to keep it dark, pickled, and slippery, like a jar of something forgotten, pushed so far to the back of the pantry that not even she can remember what is floating in there.
Anyway, fabulous fabulous book. I hope it gets the attention it deserves.
Rating: 5 out of 5 stars