What happens to refugees of war-torn countries who must run for their lives before an oncoming enemy? Amanda Hodgkinson answers this question in her debut novel, 22 Britannia Road, with great success.
At the heart of this novel is Silvana, who is left with her infant son Aurek in Warsaw, Poland, as the Germans are advancing in World War II. Her husband Janusz has left to fight and becomes hopelessly lost. There is nothing for Silvana to do but run for the woods and hide out until help comes. It is years later when she stumbles onto a roadway as jeeps roll by. The soldiers tell her the war is over. How she finds her way to 22 Britannia Road in Ipswich, England, and to her husband and how they try to take up the threads of their life again makes for an important, engrossing, heart-rending tale.
There’s nothing new about what war does to families. The loneliness, worry, separation, and loss are unbearable. For Silvana, added to this burden is trying to assimilate to a new language, new customs, and a whole new way of life. Her young son was a child of the woods who was more at home climbing trees and making bird sounds than learning to behave at school in Ipswich. In addition, her reunion with her husband was not ideal since they both carried psychic scars, secrets, and haunting memories of the war years.
Of all the themes in this book, the overriding one was the depth of a mother’s love and the lengths she will go to to protect her own. In Silvana’s case, there emerges a surprising dimension to this love.
Through necessity the author jumps from locale and time periods with multitudes of flashbacks that break the continuity, but the story is too spell-binding to be weakened. What I came away with from this gripping first novel is the love of the homeland, the old country that these surviving refugees would never see again in addition to their families left behind. An emotional short epilogue just solidified the feeling of loss.
The reader cannot help but be moved by this incredible book. Be one of them.
I give 22 Britannia Road 4 bending birches.
Happy reading from Beverly!