Book Reviews

‘The best moments in reading are when you come across something - a thought, a feeling, a way of looking at things - which you had thought special and particular to you. And now, here it is, set down by someone else, a person you have never met, someone even who is long dead. And it is as if a hand has come out, and taken yours.’ Alan Bennett

“Many a book is like a key to unknown chambers within the castle of one’s own self.” ― Franz Kafka

Wednesday, 20 July 2011

22 Britannia Road - Amanda Hodgkinson

‘The war has changed all of them.’

This is a moving, powerful first novel. It tells of young couple Silvana and Janusz, and their young son Aurek. Living in their homeland of Poland at the start of World War Two, Janusz sets off one morning intending to join the fight to defend his country, leaving behind his wife and young son. The novel begins in spring 1946, in England, where Janusz has made a new home for his family in Ipswich, at 22 Britannia Road, and is preparing for and awaiting the arrival of his wife and son. The narrative is divided between chapters and sections telling the story from both Silvana and Janusz’s viewpoints, both in the present day and in the intervening six years. So it is only gradually revealed to the reader what has happened to them both during this long separation, what they have had to endure, how they have changed, and how this will affect them now as they try to be a family again.

I was engrossed by this story, and moved by the experiences of Silvana and Janusz, and the lengths they had gone to in order to survive the war, and then the new struggle to see if they can rekindle their relationship and keep their family together in a new country after all that has happened to them. I liked how Janusz got on in England with his work and so on, and his determined efforts to do his best and fit in. It is an engaging, fascinating read, beautifully written, with likeable, well-rounded characters. I will definitely be recommending this novel to others, and I will certainly look out for future novels by this author. 


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