22 Britannia Road: A Novel
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"Hodgkinson's portrait of the primal bond between mother and child . . . leaves an indelible impression." —The New York Times Book Review
Debuting its first week on the New York Times bestseller list and earning comparisons to Sophie's Choice and Sarah's Key, 22 Britannia Road is an astonishing first novel that powerfully chronicles one family's struggle to create a home in the aftermath of war.
With World War II finally over, Silvana and her seven-year-old son, Aurek, board the ship that will take them to England, where Silvana's husband, Janusz—determined to forget his ghosts—has rented a little house at 22 Britannia Road. But after years spent hiding in the forests of Poland, Aurek is wild, almost feral. And for Silvana, who cannot escape the painful memory of a shattering wartime act, forgetting is not a possibility.
killed. Tomasz—his brother—wanted to escape so he could take Franek home. “We had a plan to get him back to his family. Tomasz and I were going to take him home and then join the underground movement. We were being marched to a camp when we ducked out and ran into woodland. Franek fell over. The boy’s got two left feet. Down he goes and I stop running to help him. “The Russian guards came after us. I was trying to get Franek up, but his ankle was twisted badly. The guards were coming closer, so
with the blade of his pocketknife. “I’d never been out of my village before I joined up. What about you, Janusz?” Janusz looked at the fire burning in the hearth. “I have to get back to Warsaw. I have to see my wife.” “Be my guest.” Franek waved his knife in the air. “Warsaw is in that direction. Just follow the German tanks and the guns. Nice knowing you, dead man.” Bruno wiped his hands clean on his trousers. “The best you can do is get out of Poland. There are truckloads of men heading to
Rogers replies. And they never lose sight of each other again. “Beautiful,” whispers Silvana as the credits roll. “Just beautiful.” By the time they are walking back home, up the hill to Britannia Road, Silvana’s new shoes have given her blisters. Doris and Gilbert are up ahead, Gilbert complaining about the pubs closing early and not getting a drink, Doris talking about sponge cakes and whether her grandmother’s recipe is better than Gilbert’s mother’s. Silvana stops walking. She takes
anonymous faces, the backs of heads, the crush of men, everybody covered in fine layers of earthy black coal dust. As the ship dipped and groaned, the men shifted back and forth in the gloom, hundreds of Polish lads rolling together like a cartload of potatoes rattling across a vast furrowed field. IPSWICH Aurek knows it is best to look from underneath. Keep your head down and push through with your shoulders. From underneath they appear as a dark spot in the branches. Like a diver swimming
headscarves, he felt a hand brushing his pocket and he dodged sideways, falling into step with some soldiers, hoping that the hawkers and pickpockets would leave him alone if they saw he was going to fight for his country. “Bloody chaos, isn’t it?” said a voice next to him. “Terrible!” Janusz yelled back, glad to find somebody to talk to. He looked for the man, to find the eyes that belonged to the voice. “Are you . . .” But the soldier had already gone and he was talking to the back of