Silvana Nowak is a young Polish woman living in Warsaw at the time the Germans take over the city. When her husband, Janusz is called away to fight for their country, he leaves her and their young son, Aurek, behind.
After setting out on the train with his unit, they are attacked by German planes and he becomes lost from his troops. However, after months go by, he realizes that his heart is not in this and he is befriended by two other deserters and the trio make their way across Poland to France in order to join up with troops already stationed there.
Along the way many things happen to Janusz that changes who he was and after the war is over, he settles in England to become a proper Englishman and buys a house located at 22 Britannia Road. He then sets out to find what happened to his family.
Silvana and Aurek are soon left at the mercy of the German soldiers and after being raped, she escapes with Aurek and stunned, scared and lonely, she follows the other people heading out of the city. She wanders for weeks and along the way she befriends a woman who helps them find shelter for the winter.
When Silvana and Hanka part ways, her and Aurek must learn to take shelter and survive in the woods. Finding another group of survivors they spend the winter with them before moving on to another family, who save them from near death.
Always Silvana is fighting for their survival, seeking shelter and food when there was none to be found. When the English find them, they are taken to a refugee encampment. It is there that she learns that Janusz is alive and is looking for them.
However, Silvana has mixed feelings about returning to her husband's arms. She has many secrets that she cannot share, and many situations she wishes never to have to remember again.
When the three finally come together, they must learn to live and love all over again. Will their love be enough to see them through the past; a past they had no control over? Or will their lies and secrets drive a wedge through them forever?
I thought this was a fantastic debut novel. The period that the book was set in was wonderfully written. It had clarity and mystery and immersed you into the novel, wearing the heartaches that Silvana had to endure.
The horrors of the war were graphic and the imagery given made you grip the book as you read on. Then the realization sets in that things really did happen this way; war really does this to people. It was heart-rendering to read at times as the prose left you aching at humanity's animalistic barbarity.
The characters were strongly portrayed and balanced the plot with grace and understanding. The back story characters were equally impressive in their impressions upon the reader. I did happen to guess all the secrets of the two early on in the book but I do believe the hints were subtle in their rendering and I am quite sure those who enjoy love stories will enjoy this book.
War changes us all, and sometimes we no longer recognise ourselves . . .
'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 the war, to Janusz, her husband. But she isn't sure any longer that she is a wife of any kind or whether she has a house. After living wild in the forests for years, carrying a terrible secret that she is now bringing back to her husband, all Silvana knows is that she and Aurek are survivors.
In Ipswich, Janusz is getting ready for the arrival of the wife and son he hasn't seen in six years. After fleeing Poland and the war that left him a deserter, he has found his family a house. He works hard planting a proper English garden to welcome them and to distract him from his own secret.
But the six years apart have changed them all, and they must learn that love can't work unless there are no secrets. To make Aurek a real home, Silvana and Janusz will have to come to terms with what happened to them during the war, accept that each have changed immeasurably and allow their beloved but wild son to be who he truly is.
** Disclosure: I did not accept any compensation from the sponsors other than review copies, my views are my own, reviewed by me..as I see it~!! **