Sunday, May 1, 2011

22 Britannia Road

Flower, it's May!

The 22 Britannia Road of the title is the destination for a young family destroyed by WWII. Silvana and Janusz Nowak and their 8 year old son Aurek are Polish refugees. When the novel begins it's 1946 and they are all about to start a new, picket fence life in England. They have been separated since 1939 when Janusz left his wife and son to fight for Poland against the Germans. Each of these spouses then spent the next seven years struggling with the choices that would keep them alive. Once the war began the lives of all three of the Nowaks became equal parts horrific and terrifying but so far peace has not brought them a happy ending. Their efforts to reunite as a family are stymied by years worth of suffering and guilty secrets.

After reading 22 Britannia Road it's difficult to believe that it is author Amanda Hodgkinson's first novel. She confidently travels well trodden territory with a fresh eye in this book. The characters lives go from storybook to nightmare to somewhere in the middle of each of those extremes in 300 pages. Through each of those stages Hodgkinson details not only the events of the story but the emotional circumference of her characters. Janusz, Silvana and Aurek are well defined, charismatic characters who are lucky enough to come out the other side of war but may or may not be able to win their peace. Amanda Hodgkinson brings a sensitive but authoritative voice to what could have been soap opera historical fiction.


P.S. What do you think of the cover on 22 Britannia Road?

It fits the story and it's invitingly mysterious but I find it excessively annoying. It's such an obvious attempt to lure in anyone who liked Suite Francaise, don't you think? Not that this kind of thing doesn't happen all the time. I think however that there are talented enough designers and art directors working at Penguin that they could have come up with something that suggested Suite Francaise without making 22 Britannia Road look like a sequel to Suite.

Here's the U.K. cover for 22 Britannia Road. Any thoughts?

 I'm on the fence about this one. There are elements I like, in particular the coat the female is wearing but over all I'd say this cover is more of a nice start than a finished idea.

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