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. (from Goodreads)
I enjoyed reading this one. I rather liked the story, even though it’s dark and moody. The setting and the theme was well done and although Silvana and Janusz are supposed to be together, you can feel the detachment between the two of them because of the war. It changes everything and when they do get together, the love just isn’t there. You’d have to wonder if it was lust at first sight instead of love.
You don’t quite connect with the characters here. Again, it feels like detachment is the main theme of this story. The characters themselves don’t quite connect with each other either. So I can see why this book might not be for everyone. Nevertheless, despite this, I liked how it was written and the mood overall was very well done.
There is a little twist in the plot. It’s not mind numbing or shocking, but it sort of livens up the story a bit and it was an unexpected twist for me. I’d have to say Silvana’s story while she was trying to survive was a good one. She endured a lot and while reading her side of the story it’s filled with how people would just take advantage of one another during these times (or in any time during a war). It’s just a matter of survival and how humanity would take drastic steps to do so even if it means stepping over particular boundaries that one wouldn’t normally do in other circumstances.
Historical fiction readers may like this book for its’ beautiful writing. I thought it was worth the read. It may not be for everyone, but it’s worth a read through.
I give it a 9/10
Thanks Penguin for the review copy!!!! Much appreciated!