June 21, 2011

22 Britannia Road by Amanda Hodgkinson (audiobook): Review

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"Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way." Yes, Mr Tolstoy, you couldn't be more correct about the unhappy family in 22 Britannia Road by Amanda Hodgkinson. They are truly unhappy in a unique way.

Janusz just found his wife and child who have been living in the forests of Poland for most of the previous 6 years. When Janusz last saw them, he was leaving them in Warsaw to fight the Germans during World War II. He had given them up for dead but now he believes he can have the family he always wanted. There are a few problems though, he's still trying to forget the girl he had a lot of sex with fell in love with back when he was in France. While he was frolicking in the haylofts, his wife Silvana and son Aurek were eating bark and witnessing horrific acts of inhumanity that can't be unseen. Now Janusz thinks he can have a picture perfect life with a pretty house and a garden and a car. It's all very American Dreamy except it's in Jolly Olde England with tea and crumpets and whatnot. While Janusz is working hard to be your average Brit, Silvana is tamping down all her memories and secrets from the war. Big Secrets. And those secrets she really wants to tell to the debonair Tony, the local pet shop owner (and smuggler).

Rather unfairly all my sympathy was with Silvana. Sure, lots of bad things happened to Janusz but if they were giving out awards for Most Horrific Experiences, Silvana would have him beat. So when Janusz was thinking about all the pretty flowers he wanted to plant and wondering why his wife wasn't quite ready to make some more babies, I was mentally squishing his head. Of course Silvana has some Big Reasons of her own for not being down with Janusz's plan.

The story alternates between the past and present of both Janusz and Silvana's experiences (with a few of Aurek's thoughts tossed in). The mystery of what happened during the war is revealed slowly throughout the novel. Once everything is out in the open that's when things start falling apart.

22 Britannia Road examines the cost of war on the survivors, especially those who've been separated by time and tragedy. Although I wouldn't say I enjoyed 22 Britannia (is that possible considering the heavy topic?), I did find it to be an engaging story. There were a few things that bothered me about this debut. Maybe it's me or the fact that it was an audiobook, but there were a few inadvertently funny scenes, you know, the kind that were supposed to be serious and poignant but gave me a case of the giggles. That really wasn't the author's intention. It was rather a slow go at times too.

If you're in the mood to read something gloomy or are interested in the post-World War II era, 22 Britannia Road is for you.

About the Audio: Narrated by Robin Sachs. It was a little weird hearing such masculine voice impersonating a Polish woman but somehow he made it work.

Rating:

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13 comments :

  1. Mentally squishing his head. hahahahaha! I SQUISH YOUR HEAD!

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  2. I have the audio of this one as well. I am drawn to these types of stories but I've not yet tried an audiobook. Do you think it would make the story more or less powerful?

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  3. Hmmm... I was considering purchasing this on audio but wasn't really sure. I love this review because you are so candid and honest about wanting to squish his head and getting the giggles.

    I wonder if the format makes a difference on this one?

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  4. Great review! I'd probably want to squish his head too, at least based on what you've told me about him here. Sorry to hear it's slow, but I still really want to give this one a go. I'll link to your review on War Through the Generations.

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  5. Sassy- I was hoping someone would get my Kids in the Hall reference.

    Suzanne & Teresa- I'm thinking that I might have liked it more in print. Some books just don't do it for me as audio. I usually keep to lighter fare.

    Anna- You might love it, you never know. I thought it was good but a little slow. And thanks!

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  6. I like to read books like this - they remind me of how lucky we are and what some people went through in the past to get us here today.

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  7. I just read this book last week and definitely found it moving. I think we were meant to feel more sympathy for Silvana, at least until the big reveal of the secret, which I guessed within the first few pages.

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  8. What a horrifying story. It sounds very depressing but that doesn't put me off.

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  9. I have been trying to put my finger one why I didn't enjoy this book more and I think it was because it was predictable. The secret was pretty obvious, the charming Italian, the prim judgmental neighbor. It was okay, not spectacular but okay.

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  10. Kathy- Yes, I don't know how people manage to get through things like that.

    Marg & Pburt- The secret was pretty easy to figure out- the story was more about how that secret was going to come out.

    Lola- Yes, it is sad but sometimes a sad story is just what we need. :)

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  11. This sounds interesting but I'm kind of burned out on post WWII books

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  12. I have the book which I'm planning to read next month, its had some good responces but I have to be in the mood for WWII stuff

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  13. I'm liking the new rating system! And I can see why this got the single cupcake. *g* I do think it sounds interesting though, so I shall add it to my TBR list. Thanks!

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