A tour de force that echoes modern classics like Suite Francaise and The Postmistress.
"Housekeeper or housewife?" the soldier asks Silvana as she and eight-year-old Aurek board the ship that will take them from Poland to England at the end of World War II. There her husband, Janusz, is already waiting for them at the little house at 22 Britannia Road. But the war has changed them all so utterly that they'll barely recognize one another when they are reunited. "Survivor," she answers.
Silvana and Aurek spent the war hiding in the forests of Poland. Wild, almost feral Aurek doesn't know how to tie his own shoes or sleep in a bed. Janusz is an Englishman now-determined to forget Poland, forget his own ghosts from the way, and begin a new life as a proper English family. But for Silvana, who cannot escape the painful memory of a shattering wartime act, forgetting is not a possibility.
©2011 Amanda Hodgkinson (P)2011 Penguin
This lovely book unfolds deliberately, allowing us to fully immerse ourselves in the characters of Janusz, Sylvana and Aureck. The book goes back and forth between the present day, as they are trying to get to know each other again after being separated during the war, and the past, as we gradually learn what they have faced. Janusz's desire to be a proper Englishman and have a perfect small town life seems impossible considering what they have faced and the secrets they keep from each other. But as we get to know them, they get to know each other, and the horrors of war become part of what they share instead of what divides them. The narrator of this book is excellent, easily able to switch between Polish, French, and British dialects. I especially appreciated that the stories of their separate lives during the war were presented honestly but not dramatized or over-emotionalized. Just like the present day, the past is what it is -- nothing more.
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I kept reading in hopes that this book would get less depressing. It didn't. It was well written, though I think if would have been better to have read it rather than to have listened to it. The reader added to the slow, sadness of it. Even the ending, while hopeful, was not uplifting. Sigh.
I was not sure I was going to listen to this audiobook, but I am glad I did. The narrator was excellent with his ability in the various languages and the author wove a compelling thread throughout the story bringing the past and its secrets into the future. I highly recommend it!
I normally enjoy historical fiction. There was something out of place in this story. I was unsettled by the way the husband gave up and left his family behind rather than returning and attempting to find them. Once they are all together he seems to believe that the wife and child should simply forget the way they had lived for the last what 5 or so years. It just left me very disappointed.
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Nice story – I don’t, really have much to say about it.
It was boring at first because it took me a while to start caring about the characters, but once I did it moved along nicely.
The story seemed to drag on forever before anything happened. The only reason a purchased this audiobook is the narrator. I love Robin Sachs. After hours of blah blah blah the ending was very disappointing. Not worth the credit, in my opinion.
The story was much too dragged out, going back and forth - Sylvana and her history, and Janusz and his. It is a simple story. And some of the scenes are well written and presented well by the narrator, but I felt myself getting impatient with going back and forth,and not much happening to move the story forward. Finally, near the end,it began to move. The secrets they had between them, of course they had secrets... they never thought they would see one another again. It was all so sad, but glad it had a good ending. I was impatient listening to this book.
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