Merrimon Book Reviews

Grave of Polish fighter killed during the Warsaw Uprising

From Merrimon Book Reviews
22 Britannia Road
22 Britannia Road by Amanda Hodgkinson
by Amanda Hodgkinson


World War II shatters the lives of Janusz and Silvana.  Janusz goes off to war to protect Poland but soon gets separated from his regiment.  He flees to France.  Silvana flee into the forests of Eastern Europe with her son Aurek where they witness the brutality of the Germans.  After the war, Janusz learns of her status in a refugee camp.  In 1946, the story's opening, Silvana travels to England to reunite with her husband.  Together they try to reestablish their marriage and lead a proper British life.  Will this family, now reunited, be able to put the war behind them?  Secrets have a way of returning.  Will they be able to cling to each other instead of the past?

In her debut novel, Amanda Hodgkinson writes a moving tale of a Polish family's attempt to put the pieces of their lives together in the aftermath of war.  The narrative alternates between past and present (the present day being post-WWII) as well as between Janusz and Silvana, giving the reader insight into both characters.  Janusz clings to an idea of living the perfect English life with a sense of control over his surroundings.  Now safe, the effects of war linger on within Silvana.  Often times, in contrast to her husband, she seems a passive agent in the world around her.  Aurek shows the effects of war most dramatically in his difficulty in relating to the people and world around him. 

22 BRITANNIA ROAD is a sad yet heart-warming account of one family's attempt to reconstruct their lives in the aftermath of war and displacement from their roots and family.  22 BRITANNIA ROAD focuses on the familial relationship rather than historical details of the war.  The reader feels the war through its effects on the daily activities and hearts of the individuals within the story.  The melancholic tone of the story resonates from a prose that is at times poetic in its pace and imagery.  Moments in the narrative are often simple yet precise and all the more moving in the author's ability to focus on the small moments in life that reveal so much.  Amanda Hodgkinson does not overwrite scenes.  The emotional power of her narrative emerges from the simple uncluttered writing style, a style that focuses in on daily life.  From these daily routines and the characters' response to them, the sometimes slight incongruities evoke the depth of the war's effects hidden within the heart.  Several twists at the end force the characters to make choices, choices that force them to cling to life rather than the past.

Publisher: Pamela Dorman Books (April 28, 2011)
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Reviewed by Merrimon, Merrimon Book Reviews
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