22 Britannia Road, by Amanda Hodgkinson (Fig Tree/Penguin, RRP $40):
This story starts, as so many do, with a young couple meeting and falling in love.
However, in 1937 Poland no love story could be straight forward.
As war approaches, Janusz enlists, leaving his wife Silvana and young son Aurek back in Warsaw.
As the story moves on we follow the lives of both Janusz and Silvana as things don’t always go as planned and Germany invades Poland: the young mother and child living wild in the forest for years and a loving husband who struggles to remain faithful.
The couple finally reunite after the war in England.
Janusz hasn’t seen his family for six years and is doing all he can to prepare for their arrival: finding a house, planting a garden and trying to keep his mind off the secret he carries. But he is not the only one who has changed and as hard as he tries to hold on to his secret his marriage begins to fall apart.
Eventually it is the actions of Aurek – a child who has seen incredible hardship during his short life and who is bordering on feral because of that hardship – that puts everything into perspective for the adults.
Author Amanda Hodgkinson has done an amazing job with this novel, creating characters that feel incredibly real, which makes their heartache and pain feel equally real.
22 Britannia Road isn’t the type of book I normally go for but after reading some of the reviews online I decided to give it a go.
I’m pleased that I did because this is one of the most moving novels I’ve read in a long time.
Is is a love story that isn’t sappy, a war story that isn’t blood-thirsty. It’s simply a perfect mix of drama, tragedy and warmth.