Wednesday, August 17, 2011

22 Britannia Road - Amanda Hodgkinson

Maybe after three years of two-books-a-week I was tired? Or, maybe it simply isn't possible to consume that many books when working full time? The latter definitely seems likely. Certainly, my reading has been in the slow lane for the last month or so. I have been taking it easy, that, or I have been ridiculously busy. Both really...

Anyway, I'm back in the saddle! I have been reading and reading quite a lot and loving it. I read a book almost cover to cover on Saturday and it was bliss. That book was 22 Britannia Road - a new book (April) and everything. And it was good; enjoyable and uncomplicated, cosy in tear-wrenching kind of way. Doesn't that make it sound like a nest of contradictions? It isn't really.

The novel tells the story of a Polish family recovering from the aftermath of WWII. Husband and wife, Silvana and Janusz, were separated at the beginning of the war and Janusz travels across the continent eventually ending up in Britain fighting for the Allies. Silvana spends much of the war hiding out in the forests of Poland and trying to raise her baby son alone and in the wild. The Red Cross eventually find these two in a refugee camp and transports them to Ipswich, where Janusz has bought a cottage and is trying to build a new life. The family craves stability and normality but the war has changed them all and secrets threaten to tear them apart.

The thing that drew me to this novel was the feral child aspect. Actually Aurek isn't feral so much as rough around the edges and unaccustomed to society or strangers. He makes bird calls but he can speak and adjusts to life in England surprisingly quickly. Still, it is an interesting twist on an established genre. I have contradictory feelings about the Second World War as a basis for modern novels - it is dramatically appealing and weirdly comforting (I've talked about this before, a misspent youth reading When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit and A Little Love Song among others means that WWII gives me the warm and fuzzies/blissful cathartic weepies and it is becoming increasingly distanced and there is a lot of misplaced nostalgia etc.) but also cliché-ed and overdone... It does make for a reliably good read though.

This book didn't change my world and I probably won't remember it in 1, 2, 5 years time but it made for an enjoyable Saturday and would be a good holiday read. I did have a little weep towards the end. Recommended if: you enjoyed The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, it isn't as insubstantial or comic but it is in a similar vein. Although there is something history-lite about it Hodgkinson is relatively sympathetic and the occupation of Poland hasn't had much coverage in this kind of fiction. Good.

Sorry this isn't very eloquent. I am using my eloquence on my latest day job and it is definitely having an adverse effect on the blog. Also, our internet has been mysteriously absent the last few days for no apparent reason. Seems to be back now though...

Chuck x


  1. Thanks for the honest assessment - I'll be checking your blog more often for book reviews!

  2. Oh, darling girl, anything you write is such a joy to read! Not sure if I'd get this particular book because somehow I just don't like anything even remotely related to WWII... but I just love every post of yours! x

  3. I'll read almost anything to do with WW2, so this is going on my to-read list. I also enjoy a book that doesn't always require too much from me. Your review is great; these things need not be complicated or overly thought out! xx