A Polish family shattered by World War II struggles to reunite in peace-time, in a strikingly mature British debut.
What comes after surviving? asks Hodgkinson in her ambitious, emotionally incisive first novel threaded with primitive human instincts for safety and companionship. Her central characters Silvana and Janusz Nowak meet and fall in love in 1937, marrying and moving to Warsaw when Silvana falls pregnant. As war approaches, Janusz joins up, expecting Silvana and their son Aurek to move in with his parents, but these plans are disrupted and Silvana ends up foraging in the forest alongside other survivors while Janusz embarks on a trek through Hungary and France to England. Reunited as British immigrants in a Suffolk town in 1946, the adults are scarred by their long separation, the events they witnessed and their secrets. Janusz had a French lover, HÃ©lÃ¨ne, while Silvana's savage and deprived existence has left Aurek half feral. In their new suburban existence the three try to restore normal relationships but simple yearning isn't enough and eventually the secrets drive them apart, Silvana into the open arms of Tony, the father of Aurek's school friend. Janusz now enters a period of destructive grief and Silvana has lessons to learn about Tony; it takes a gesture from Aurek to bring about a conclusion of surprising grace.
Hodgkinson enters boldly into well-trodden, sensitive territory and distinguishes herself with freshness and empathy.Copyright Kirkus 2011 Kirkus/BPI Communications.All rights reserved.
This debut novel moves between wartime Poland and postwar England as it follows the shifting fortunes of Janusz Nowak and his wife, Silvana. Their young marriage is tested by the German invasion as Janusz enlists and Silvana finds herself left behind in Warsaw with their young son, Aurek. Janusz loses his regiment and ends up in England after spending time on a farm in France, where he has a passionate love affair. Silvana and Aurek escape into the forest and endure years of privation and abuse at the hands of their protectors. Their unexpected postwar family reunion is marred by the guilty secrets they each harbor. And in spite of Janusz's good job and comfortable home, the path to happiness is complicated by Aurek's mistrust of his father and the appearance of a dashing widower with a murky past, who is drawn to Silvana. VERDICT Fans of novels like The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society and Sarah's Key, who can never have too much of a good war story, will warm to this fine debut. Recommended.--Barbara Love, Kingston Frontenac P.L., Kingston, Ont.[Page 84]. (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
In her powerful debut, Hodgkinson takes on the tale of a family desperately trying to put itself back together after WWII. Silvana and Janusz have only been married a few months when the war forces them apart. Silvana and their infant son, Aurek, leave Poland and disappear into the forests of Eastern Europe, where they bear witness to German atrocities. Meanwhile Janusz, the sole survivor of his slaughtered military unit, flees to France. There, he takes up with a local girl and, though he loves her, awaits the war's end so that he can go in search of his wife and son. He eventually finds them in a refugee camp and they travel to England together, where they attempt to put the past behind them. But the secrets they carry pull at the threads of their fragile peace. Hodgkinson alternates viewpoints to relay the story of three desperate characters, skillfully toggling between the war and its aftermath with wonderfully descriptive prose that pulls the reader into a sweeping tale of survival and redemption. (May)[Page ]. Copyright 2010 PWxyz LLC