Monday, May 16, 2011

22 Britannia Road by Amanda Hodgkinson

22 Britannia Road, by Amanda Hodgkinson, is a first novel about the struggle of two-Polish ex-patriots readjusting to life after WWII in England.  In this ambitious novel, Janusz, Silvana and their son Aurek are split up during the war while Janusz goes to fight and Silvana and Aurek try to survive.  It is a good (not great), readable, sentimental novel. 

The novel proceeds with three story lines -- Janusz's experience fighting against the Nazis; Silvana's struggle to take care of her infant; and their attempt to reconstruct a family and rebuild a life in England after the war.   At the outset, Janusz goes to battle and ends up joining the English military.  He has difficult war experiences.  Silvana and Aurek flee Warsaw and survive in the forests and on the benevolence of peasants.  When the family is reunited in England after the war, Aurek, who grew up in the forest, must learn to cope in civilization (a slight hint of Room by Emma Donaghue here).  Silvana, who is fiercely protective of her son, must rebuild a relationship with her husband across the chasm of horrific experiences and choices they each have made.

Hodgkinson develops the main characters reasonably well (the supporting characters are very stereotypical) and delivers a few interesting plot twists.  That said, Silvana's development is a bit predictable and while Janusz has hard experiences, he does not make hard choices.  While the novel is a very good debut, the story does not hit it out of the park. 

There have been several highly favorable reviews.  Waterstones (the Barnes & Noble of Britain) picked this as one of their favorites of 2011.  Amazon picked it as a Best of the Month Selection.  Several bloggers have gotten behind this book (see Lemuria Bookstore Blog here, Gillian Hamer here and Burton Books here). 

If you liked Major Petrigrew's Last Stand (my review here), The Invisible Bridge, The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society or other similar books, you probably will enjoy this one. If those are not quite for you, you should pass on it.

The book's promotion site is here.

Author interview here.  Sorry, I couldn't find any videos with the author.

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