22 Britannia Road, by Amanda Hodgkinson – Book Review

22 Britannia Road, by Amanda Hodgkinson
22 Britannia Road by Amanda Hodgkinson

Even though I have heard many stories by now about writers, début novels, and how the first published novel is not necessarily the first finished novel, I am still impressed when début authors manage to publish wonderful novels the first time out. Amanda Hodgkinson’s 22 Britannia Road is one such début, exploring what happens to a Polish family attempting to reunite and build a new life in England after being separated for six years during World War II.

When Janusz Nowak finds his family in a refugee camp, he is told that his wife, Silvana, had been living and hiding in the woods outside Warsaw with their six-year-old son Aurek. Janusz has secrets from the war, and Silvana, only a shadow of her former vibrant self, has secrets of her own. However, the couple is determined to put the horrors of war behind them to raise their son. Janusz has bought and painstakingly prepared a home for them all at 22 Britannia Road. Silvana, fixated on Aurek having a relationship with his dad, goes about learning to keep house, until the secrets from the intervening years threaten to destroy the tenuous hold they have on being a family.

Hodgkinson has a lot going on in this story, not least of which is beautiful prose, crystal clear imagery, and complex characters. The past and present stories of Janusz, Silvana and Aurek unfold in alternating chapters that are captivating, and the weight of what they have endured is evident,even as we learn of the past experiences which have transformed them into who they are. Different characters and time periods were seamlessly woven, and my interest in the story never wavered, no matter which character I was with—past or the future.

Getting to know the  characters, being able to feel the depth of their emotions, and learning what they hope to attain in their new lives made reading this novel incredibly moving and worthwhile. The love that Silvana has for her son is fierce (the bond strengthened by trauma), and Aurek’s slow adjustment from a starving wild child to one who is safe and loved, is carefully illustrated. Janusz’s mostly patient manner is tempered with frustration and high hopes for his family and relationship with his troubled son. There is a beauty in the way that Hodgkinson guides the reader between  past and future events. I had definite ideas about what may have happened to them all, and it was rather nerve-racking see what would play out, and what would not, in this heartbreaking yet satisfying read.

Giveaway – I have two copies of 22 Britannia Road to give to readers with a US or Canadian address. Please fill out this form for entry to win a copy by Saturday, May 7th.


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  1. I have stacks of books collapsing on top of me, but I can’t help but sign up for this one. The Polish story is one that I hear over and over again from my husband’s family. I can’t resist.

  2. I have this one waiting to be read …. sounds like I should bump it up on the list.

  3. I love these war books, they really do give us a good indication of what life was like. I can not even begin to imagine what it must be like to be apart from your family for so long.

  4. This one sounds amazing! I just finished another awesome Holocaust novel this year, and now I’m excited to check this out.

  5. I’ve been attracted to this one ever since I saw the cover. I’m such a cover junkie! Thanks for offering the giveaway. The story sounds really interesting.

  6. I just found out today that I’m getting this one from Goodreads First Reads – and now, after reading your review, I can’t wait!

  7. I have this book, and am hoping to read it soon. I like that the characters are so fleshed out and that the story is so compelling. I always marvel at debuts that are so well done and powerful as well, and am really looking forward to reading this book now that I have read your review. Thanks!