Book Review: 22 Britannia Road by Amanda Hodgkinson

The year is 1946. Silvana and seven year old Aurek leave post war and now communist Poland, and emigrate to England to be with husband Janusz. Janusz came to England during the war, he has decided to stay. He finds a home to rent, furnishes it, paints and puts up new wall-paper. Janusz works to prepare the house for the family he's not seen in six years. Silvana and Janusz both realize it has been many years since they've seen each other and feelings change; the traumatic events Silvana has lived through has certainly changed her. Their minds are a swirl of past memories: when they were first together, when they married, when Janusz left, and how the war has affected them. Her world, her focus, her survival, has only been for Aurek. 
The opening line began with, "The boy was everything to her." (Page 1). Those six words express the entire book. She existed only for his sake.
Janusz was isolated from the bombings, starvation, homelessness that affected Silvana in Poland. He does not understand what she lived through. She does not understand why he left.

I read the entire book in one day, all 336 pages on September 1. I could not put the book down, I was hooked from the first sentence.
22 Britannia Road is a sad, depressing story. There are no joyful moments. There is only a deep sadness.
The sadness is for the horrible affects of war on civilians, women, children. The sadness is for the lost hopes and dreams that can not be renewed. The sadness is for the inability to express feelings. The sadness is for questions that can never be answered or resolved. The sadness is for lost time that can never be made up.
Janusz and Silvana are two people who loved each other once, but a war tore them apart, life changed for them, what sliver of a string that holds them together may not be enough.

Positive Points:
  • Silvana is portrayed movingly. Her story is powerful. Her character is transparent. The emphasis is not on making her a martyr or heroine. Her story is plainly told and the reader is left to make up their mind about her. I loved that. That I was not persuaded to like her or dislike her, but had the freedom to make my own choice. I chose to not make a judgment about her, but to instead make a judgment about the horrific price of war.
  • Symbolism is a strong element in this book. One example is the sky. "The sky is chewing gum gray." (Page 8.) Silvana's hair was gray. Janusz often looks up into the sky, but it is gray. Gray to me defines gloom, something worn-out, depressing, sad, absence of life or vibrancy or hope. The sky is used often in this book, whether it is stormy, or blue, or "the sun turning red in the sky casting a rosy light across the clouds." (Page 34). 
  • I was affected by this book. I was invested in the story. The most emotional moment for me was what Silvana thought about herself, she was thinking about what she had lived through and the memories that haunt her and on looking at herself she thought she looked "like a wet cat, as though the bathwater had shrunk her." (Page 36). I wanted to weep.
  • The story is a mix of dialogue amongst characters, but more about what was going on inside them. Even young Aurek has a internal voice in the story. I believe that by giving me insight into their internal voices I became intimately acquainted with them, I had more empathy for them.
  • The author writes with the ability to use words that like music stir the heart with emotion. 
  • Every story must have a villain. The villain in 22 Britannia Road is not a person, but the war.
  • Splendid story for a first novel. 
Negative Points:
  • The reader is moved back and forth in time. This was not always a smooth transition. I was lost a few times and had to read or back-up and find where I was. 
  • I was not shocked by the ending, I guessed in the first few pages what the story would reveal. 
  • The sky is probably used too much for symbolism. There are others used, but sky is used too often. 
Published by Penguin Books 2011
336 pages
Historical Fiction/World War II/Poland/Germany/Nazi Party/England

Link @ Barnes and Nobles:
http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/22-britannia-road-amanda-hodgkinson/1100093621?ean=9780143121046
Paperback $10.98
Nook $9.99

Comments

  1. It say a lot that you breezed through this one in a day. I have a copy of this book but haven't read it yet. I really need to get to it.

    ReplyDelete
  2. wow -- any book read in one day needs to go on my to read list!
    Thanks!

    ReplyDelete

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