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Summary and book reviews of 22 Britannia Road by Amanda Hodgkinson

22 Britannia Road

A Novel

by Amanda Hodgkinson

22 Britannia Road
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  • First Published:
    Apr 2011, 336 pages
    Paperback:
    Apr 2012, 336 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Sarah Sacha Dollacker

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About this Book

Book Summary

A tour de force that echoes modern classics like Suite Francaise and The Postmistress.

At the end of the Second World War, Silvana and eight-year-old Aurek board the ship that will take them from Poland to England. After living wild in the forests for years, carrying a terrible secret, all Silvana knows is that she and Aurek are survivors. Everything else is lost. Waiting in Ipswich is Silvana's husband Janusz, who has not seen his wife and son for six years. He has found his family a house and works hard planting a proper English garden to welcome them. But the six years apart have changed them all. To make a real home, Silvana and Janusz will have to come to terms with what happened during the war, accept that each is different, and allow their beloved but wild son Aurek to be who he truly is.

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...

Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!
  1. On the ship to England, Silvana is asked if she's a housekeeper or housewife. Why does this question jar her?

  2. Aurek thinks of Janusz as "the enemy." How do his feelings change over the course of the book, and why?

  3. Hodgkinson toggles back and forth from the past to the present in this novel. How does telling the story in this particular way affect the experience for the reader? Could she have told it in any other way?

  4. Janusz longs for an English life. What are some of the things he does to try to adapt and assimilate to his new homeland?

  5. The relationship between Silvana and Janusz and their English neighbors Doris and Gilbert is complicated. Do you believe they are genuinely friends?

  6. Silvana is obsessed with discarded ...
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Reviews

BookBrowse

22 Britannia Road is a beautiful story about the lengths to which a family will go to heal itself. Told in lyrical prose with sharp dialogue and precise detail, we are brought into a world emerging from catastrophe and into a family that will do anything to protect itself.   (Reviewed by Sarah Sacha Dollacker).

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Media Reviews
Booklist

Hodgkinson's debut is an eloquent, heart-wrenching account of one couple's struggle to reunite as a family after devastating wartime experiences... A stellar example of literary WWII fiction.

Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. [S]killfully toggling between the war and its aftermath with wonderfully descriptive prose that pulls the reader into a sweeping tale of survival and redemption.

Library Journal

Starred Review. Fans of novels like The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society and Sarah's Key, who can never have too much of a good war story, will warm to this fine debut.

Kirkus Reviews

Starred Review. Hodgkinson enters boldly into well-trodden, sensitive territory and distinguishes herself with freshness and empathy.

Reader Reviews
Lynne Hersh

Stunning Read
Amanda Hodgkinson has written a gem of a book! Her use of language compels the reader to continue to actively think while reading the story. What evils did the characters witness during the war? Why are they so reluctant to speak of the experiences ...   Read More

bobbie d

Escape
About escaping the Germans from Warsaw. I thought it was a well-written book and it held my interest. Read it over a year ago.

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The Nazi Invasion of Poland

In Amanda Hodgkinson's 22 Britannia Road, Silvana and Janusz are plunged into war when Germany invades Poland in 1939. Though the invasion catches them (and their real-life counterparts) by surprise, Polish-German relations had been increasingly strained since the signing of the Treaty of Versailles, which redrew European borders at the end of World War I in 1919. A German-Polish Non-Aggression Pact, signed in 1934, had promised to keep relations between the two countries cordial, but, among other reasons, Germany's unwillingness to cede the Polish Corridor, per terms of the Treaty of Versailles, strained diplomacy.

Polish Corridor map As Hitler gained power, he focused his vision of a hegemonic Germany, taking territories from surrounding countries to ...

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