Excerpt from 22 Britannia Road by Amanda Hodgkinson, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

Summary |  Excerpt |  Reading Guide |  Reviews |  Beyond the Book |  Readalikes |  Genres & Themes |  Author Bio

22 Britannia Road

A Novel

by Amanda Hodgkinson

22 Britannia Road by Amanda Hodgkinson X
22 Britannia Road by Amanda Hodgkinson
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

  • First Published:
    Apr 2011, 336 pages
    Paperback:
    Apr 2012, 336 pages

    Genres

  • Rate this book


Book Reviewed by:
Sarah Sacha Dollacker
Buy This Book

About this Book

Print Excerpt

SPRING 1946. TO ENGLAND.

The boy was everything to her. Small and unruly, he had a nervy way about him like a wild creature caught in the open. All the dark hearts of the lost, the found, and the never forgotten lived in his child's body, in his quick eyes. She loved him with the same unforgiving force that pushes forests from the deep ground, but still she feared it was not enough to keep him. So she was taking him to England, determined that Janusz would love him and keep him safe.

On the ship's sailing list she was named as Silvana Nowak. Twenty-seven years old. Married. Mother of a son, Aurek Josef, aged seven years.

"What is your profession?" the British soldier asked her, checking the identity papers she put before him.

She looked at the documents on his desk and saw pages of women's names. All were listed as housewives or housekeepers.

Behind her, hundreds more women, dressed as she was in donated clothes, stood silently with their children. Above the soldier's head, a sign in several languages including Polish, detailed the ship's rules. All blankets and sheets remain the property of the ship. All stolen items will be confiscated.

Silvana tightened her grasp on her son. The soldier glanced at her quickly and then looked back to his papers. She knew why. It embarrassed him to see a woman so unkempt and a child with such restless ways. She touched her headscarf, checking it was in place, and pressed her other hand into Aurek's back, trying to make him stand up straight.

"Profession?"

"Survivor," she whispered, the first word that came to her.

The soldier didn't look up. He lifted his pen. "Housekeeper or housewife?"

"I don't know," she said, and then, aware of the queue shifting impatiently behind her, "Housewife."

So that was it. She was recorded, written neatly into a book in indelible black ink. She was given a transport number, a label pinned on her lapel that corresponded with the details on the ship's passenger list. Proof that she and the boy were mother and son. That was a good start. Nobody, after all, could disagree with or dispute an official document. Only the title housewife looked questionable. Together or separate, Silvana was sure nobody would believe the words house or wife had anything to do with her.

All night, while the sea carried the ship and its passengers toward another land, Silvana worked at remembering. She found herself a space in one of the crowded corridors below decks and sat, arms crossed, legs tucked under her. Curled into herself in this way, with Aurek hidden under her coat, she breathed through the odor of sweat and diesel, the throb of the engines marking time, while she tried to recall her life with Janusz. Always, though, the same memories came to her. The ones she didn't want to own. A road she didn't want to travel. A filthy sky full of rain and planes coming out of the clouds. She shook her head, tried to think of other things, to cut off the image that would surely come. And then there it was. The wet mud shining underfoot. Trees twisting in the wind and the child swaddled in a jumble of blankets, lying in a wooden handcart.

Silvana pulled Aurek tighter to her, rocking him back and forth, the memories departing. He snaked a bony hand out from under her coat and she felt his small fingers searching her face. And how was it that love and loss were so close together? Because no matter how she loved the boy - and she did, furiously, as if her own life depended on him - loss was always there, following at her heels.

By the time the dawn sky leaked light into the darkness, Silvana was too tired to think anymore and finally closed her eyes, letting the heartbeat drone of the engines settle her to a thankfully dreamless slumber.

Morning brought with it a pale sun and salt-laden winds. Silvana pushed her way through the crowds to the upper decks, Aurek hanging on her coattail. Gripping the handrail, she let him settle in a crouch between her feet, the weight of him against her legs. Green waves lay far below and she stared down at them, trying to imagine what England would be like, a place she knew nothing of except that this was where her husband, Janusz, now lived.

  • 1
  • 2

Reprinted by arrangement with Viking, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc., from 22 Britannia Road by Amanda Hodgkinson. Copyright © 2011 by Amanda Hodgkinson.

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" articles
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $12 for 3 months or $39 for a year.
  • More about membership!

Beyond the Book:
  The Nazi Invasion of Poland

Join BookBrowse

Become a Member and discover books that entertain, engage & enlighten.

Find out more


Today's Top Picks

  • Book Jacket: Honor
    Honor
    by Thrity Umrigar
    First Impressions readers enjoyed being transported to India via Thrity Umrigar's novel Honor, with ...
  • Book Jacket: What Storm, What Thunder
    What Storm, What Thunder
    by Myriam J. A. Chancy
    What Storm, What Thunder illuminates life in Haiti during and after the massive earthquake on ...
  • Book Jacket: Noor
    Noor
    by Nnedi Okorafor
    Noor's heroine goes by the moniker AO. Though officially this stands for her given name, Anwuli ...
  • Book Jacket: Five Tuesdays in Winter
    Five Tuesdays in Winter
    by Lily King
    Lily King's two recent novels Euphoria and Writers & Lovers could hardly be more different: one has ...

Book Club Discussion

Book Jacket
Her Hidden Genius
by Marie Benedict
Dr. Rosalind Franklin's pivotal but overlooked role in the discovery of DNA gets her due in Benedict's latest novel.

Readers Recommend

  • Book Jacket

    The Latinist
    by Mark Prins

    A page-turning exploration of power, ambition, and the intertwining of love and obsession.

  • Book Jacket

    The Paris Bookseller
    by Kerri Maher

    How a humble bookseller fought incredible odds to bring one of the 20th century's most important books to the world.

Who Said...

Discovery consists of seeing what everybody has seen and thinking what nobody has thought.

Click Here to find out who said this, as well as discovering other famous literary quotes!

Wordplay

Solve this clue:

A P O B Y Houses

and be entered to win..

Books that     
entertain,
     engage

 & enlighten

Visitors can view some of BookBrowse for free. Full access is for members only.

Join Today!

Your guide toexceptional          books

BookBrowse seeks out and recommends the best in contemporary fiction and nonfiction—books that not only engage and entertain but also deepen our understanding of ourselves and the world around us.