22 Britannia Road is a story of a Polish family reunited after the end of World War II. Janusz was a soldier in the army while his wife and son, Silvana and Aurek, were run out of Warsaw and lived in the forest for years. After six years of being apart, the family is reunited and live in England. There, they have a nice house with a proper English garden and kindly neighbors. But it is still a struggle to move on with their lives after the horrors they have each seen. Throughout the book, the underlying questions is this: does living in a house with a garden enough to make a family? Can a new car or an education for Aurek erase the past enough to build a future?
Told in alternating points of view and through flashbacks throughout the war, 22 Britannia Road shows a wide portrait of the effects of WWII – effects both immediate and lasting. An image that stays with me is that of Silvana cutting the pictures of lost and orphaned children from the newspapers, and sleeping with them under her pillow so the grey ink stains her hands and her pillowcase. The imagery throughout is lovely, haunting and often heartbreaking. But through the course of the story, Hodgkinson shows the resilience of the human spirit and love. Wonderfully written, 22 Britannia Road hits home.