Monday, January 9, 2012

Review: 22 Britannia Road by Amanda Hodgkinson

22 Britannia Road
Author: Amanda Hodgkinson
Published: April 28, 2011
Genre: historical fiction
Hardcover: 336 pages
Source: borrowed from the library

My Rating: 3.5 stars

Synopsis (from GoodReads): "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 Roadis 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.

My Thoughts: 22 Brittania Road is not your typical World War II novel. It follows a young couple from Poland and their separate experiences during the war and Silvania's experiences following the war. The chapters alternate between the past (the war) and the present (immediately following the war), but you aren't quite sure what is happening during the war sections to feel like you have a grasp on what you are reading. Amanda Hodgkinson is a clear writer, but you can tell that there is something more brewing beneath the surface of this young family.

I found the story to be very interesting. The plot isn't driven so much by the war as by Silvania and Janusz (husband and wife). Their thoughts and actions are what drive the story, and it feels as if the war is something that is just happening in the background. The war did determine their living situation, but their individual stories of survival had little to do with the fighting and conflict going on around them. Silvania and Janusz both grow as characters throughout the story, as you witness them from young people falling in love to people who are thrown across Europe at the whim of the war, to reconnecting several years later. Hodgkinson expertly develops both of them, struggling with and without one another and maturing into adults right before your eyes.

For me, my biggest complaint about this novel was that it seemed rather stagnant until the last half of the book. I had heard so many good things about this book that I pushed myself through that first half, and I'm glad that I did. However, it did seem to drag at times and I felt as though I was waiting for the story to begin. If you enjoy WWII novels, then this is a book that you might be interested in reading. While not dealing specifically with the war, this novel deals with the affects that it has on a young couple and their fledgling relationship.

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