Sunday, September 16, 2012

22 Britannia Road

For newlyweds Sylvana and Janusz, World War II takes them to the limits of human experience.    Sylvana spends the war foraging in the forest with her son Aurek, after fleeing rape by German soldiers in her home in Warsaw.  Barely surviving, she needs every ounce of her courage and ingenuity to feed and protect herself and her son.

Meanwhile, Janusz joins a Polish unit that is routed and wiped out by the Germans.  He walks across several countries before finding refuge with a French family and making his way to England to join the army against the Germans and ultimately to settle at 22 Britannia Road in Ipswich..

22 Britannia Road opens as Sylvana and Aurek arrive in England from a refugee camp to rejoin Janusz.  Sylvana's obsessive protectiveness of Aurek and Aurek's paranoid distrust of Janusz make for a troubled household, but Janusz persists in constructing his dream home and family just as he meticulously cultivates his flowers in the back garden.

This is a story of three people trying to rebuild their life after the trauma of the war.  Dark secrets hang over their lives, threatening their new life in England.  Their progress toward understanding and acceptance is erratic.

The novel alternates between present day Ipswich and gradually unfolds the back story of their lives during the war.  The characters are well drawn and the description of their ordeals is most engaging, albeit not particularly credible.  This is Amanda Hodgkinson's first novel and I hope to see more of her writing.

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