Those are the thoughts of Janusz Novak when his dream of the perfect English life for his family begins to unravel around him.
Amanda Hodgkinson is a remarkable writer who has written a remarkable novel. Closing the final page, through blurry eyes and with a lump in my throat, I realised that I’d become more than just a reader. I’d become a character, immersed totally in the story of Janusz, Silvana and Aurek. From their beginnings in pre-war Warsaw to their final destination at 22, Britannia Road – and every step of their tumultuous journey in between.
We follow separate threads as Janusz and Silvana are separated during the German invasion of Poland. Neither of them take a normal path through the war years, and the author doesn’t hold back from the gritty reality of their lives. But survive the war they do, in very different ways. But fate brings them back together, and both are eager in their own ways of burying the past and moving onto a new life together in England.
What we discover in this book is that nothing can ever be taken for granted. Peace time does not mean instant happiness, being together does not make a family, and hidden secrets can never remain hidden forever.
22, Britannia Road is a wonderful book by a gifted author, whose writing style and voice is unique and beautiful. It’s hard to believe this book is a debut novel.
It will sit on your bookshelf for many years, watching over your life like an old friend, ready to offer you escape and solace in your dark days, or warmth and companionship through good times.
The book demands the reader consider a new perspective on both the fragility of life and the strength of the human spirit, and just what people will endure to survive. The story and the characters in these pages will stay with you for a very long time in the way only great writing can do.
If you think you’ve read every type of war story there is, you haven’t. Not until you’ve read 22, Britannia Road.
Released in UK 28th April, and US 1st May 2011.