Initially I was put off reading 22 Britannia Road by the title, I'm not really sure why, but I'm glad I took the time to read some reviews and give it a try anyway as it is an impressive debut. Author, Amanda Hodgkinson, has skilfully created three very distinctive voices and weaved them all together to tell a sad but ultimately hopeful tale.
Janusz is a Polish immigrant settling down in England after fighting with the Allies in WWII and he shares the narration with his wife, Silvana, and young son, Aurek. The story focuses on the tale of their reunion in England after the end of the war - Aurek doesn't remember his father and in the six years that Janusz and Silvana have been apart their young idealistic notions about life have been shattered completely. They don't know how to be together, they don't know how to be a part of English society, and they don't know how to share their feelings about the horrors they've lived through while apart, and the measures they went to in order to survive them.
Janusz doesn't actually want to share it all anyway. He wants to put it all behind him and make the most of the new life they have in England. He wants to do well at work, he wants a son to be proud of and a wife that loves him. Instead he gets a son who is bordering on the feral after spending the majority of his life living in the forests, and who has no concept of school or societal and patriarchal expectations. He also gets a wife who is filled with secrets and doesn't want to be parted from her son. When Janusz separates them to make Aurek attend school, he becomes the enemy in both their eyes.
With the details of the happy past before the war, and the war years themselves, weaved into the present day tale, its Janusz's naivety that made him stand out for me. That despite what he had witnessed he still held on to the simple belief that love will make it all better in the end. Whether it does or not, I won't reveal!