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22 Britannia Road Summary
SuperSummary, a modern alternative to SparkNotes and CliffsNotes, offers high-quality study guides that feature detailed chapter summaries and analysis of major themes, characters, quotes, and essay topics. This one-page guide includes a plot summary and brief analysis of 22 Britannia Road by Amanda Hodgkinson.
22 Britannia Road, a historical novel by Amanda Hodgkinson, follows Polish couple Silvana and Janusz Nowak, who become separated during World War II when Janusz joins the army. Silvana flees Poland with their son, Aurek; they search for Janusz for years before finally meeting in England when she learns he has survived. The novel explores the different forms of trauma created during this atrocity: Silvana’s from her experiences of alienation, displacement, and grief, and Janusz’s from suppressing his emotions and memories in order to survive the war. The novel is celebrated for its realist portrayals of the transformations people underwent during World War II.
22 Britannia Road opens near the end of the war. It has been six years since Silvana and Aurek have seen Janusz, but now they are finally traveling to meet him in England. Silvana is heavily traumatized, the causes of her trauma revealed gradually throughout the novel. The rest of the novel cycles back and forth through three time periods: the 1930s, wartime, and the immediate postwar stage. Each period depicts the world through both Janusz and Silvana’s perspectives.
Back when Janusz and Silvia first meet, they are young Polish adults living in Warsaw. They get married, then move into a flat together. Aurek is born and grows into a happy two-year-old boy. The inexorable expansion of World War II ends their hopeful coexistence. Believing that he has an obligation to fight for Poland, Janusz enlists in the army. Not long after joining his unit, Poland is bludgeoned by Hitler’s army on one side, and the Russians on the other. Janusz loses track of his unit but meets two defecting soldiers, Franek and Bruno. Together, they make plans to escape to England to join the English military, where their chance of survival is much greater. They make their way to Marseilles, France. Franek dies on the way, and the other two nearly die from exhaustion.
Janusz meets and falls in love with a French woman named Helene. Her family gives them their blessing, and Janusz all but intends to stay with them indefinitely. However, when Hitler’s army turns its sights on France, Janusz and Bruno decide to move on. They make it to Britain just as the Germans strike Marseilles, killing Helene. Janusz survives his service in the military, but Bruno perishes in a plane crash. Janusz has another girlfriend, who ultimately sends him away to find the family he left behind.
In parallel to Janusz’s timeline, Silvana and Aurek delay in Warsaw as their nation’s security collapses around them. They leave Warsaw, but Aurek dies during their escape. Traumatized and grief-stricken, without anyone to support her, Silvana finds an orphaned baby and decides to raise him just like Aurek, even endowing him with the same name. For the next few years, they hide in the forests of Poland, subsisting on the occasional kindness of farmers and on the food and shelter they can forage for in nature. They do not make it out of Poland but are eventually found by British soldiers and sent to a camp for refugees. Janusz locates their refugee camp and reunites with them.
At the end of the novel, Janusz, Silvana, and Aurek travel back to Britain. Aurek is now seven, and though Silvana still grieves over the death of her first son, she loves this Aurek as her own. Janusz buys a house at the titular 22 Britannia Road, symbolizing the return of normalcy and stability to their family. Janusz hopes to rebuild his family in an idyllic fashion, while Silvana, the more realistic of the two, only hopes that Janusz will be a father figure for Aurek. Though the passage of time has created an emotional gap between Silvana and Janusz, they both work to mend it.