I have been reading a lot of World War II fiction recently, purely by chance. 22 Britannia Road by Amanda Hodgkinson fit so neatly into the timeline of a previous WWII book that I had read that I noticed myself mixing storylines. Once I realized, I paid more attention and started taking notes (Taking notes is more than okay to do! Even when you’re not in school.) This novel was enjoyable and I found myself connecting to most of the characters.
22 Britannia Road tells the story of a family’s rediscovery of each other after World War II. Silvana and Janusz were married right around the beginning of the war. Their marriage began sweet and full of promise with each other’s past left fully in the past. Silvana’s family was less than caring about her, while Janusz is very close to his. Silvana and Janusz settle in Warsaw where they work at keeping their marriage together. Janusz leaves Silvana and their young son to join the military. Years pass, both during the war and after the war, with Silvana and Janusz doing whatever they have to in order to survive.
Once reunited the family moves to England where they struggle to put the past behind them. Both Sylvana and Janusz have secrets though, plus the area where they are living brings its own issues to the surface. Janusz has very much adapted to the English way of life, while Sylvana and their son still mostly speak Polish and have troubles adapting to their new normal life. Settling into their new house, Sylvana and Janusz begin a tentative new life, rediscovering each other and their new home after the ravages of war. Each of them carry secrets that even before they are voiced begin to eat away at Silvana and Janusz inside. What did Janusz do those six years that he was gone? Where did Sylvana and their child end up? How did they survive?
This novel juxtaposes both the present day and the past to show what happened to Silvana, Janusz, and their son during the time when they all were separated from each other. I greatly enjoyed the flashbacks because it helped me to justify and see some of the reasons that each family member behaves the way that they do. This psychological fiction really had me thinking about the secrets we keep from the people we love and the secrets that we’ve become so accustomed to that they eventually feel like our normal life.
This book is also available in the following formats:
If you’re looking for a new television show that will immediately grab your attention and, most importantly, keep it until the very last episode, I recommend Quantico. This riveting mystery begins by introducing viewers to a set of new recruits going through training at the FBI Quantico Base. Alex Parrish is one of these New Agents in Training, aka “Nats”, a thoroughly vetted group of recruits from all across the US considered to be the best and brightest the FBI has ever seen.
Conspiracy, seduction, and suspense rock the recruits as they struggle to complete their training and not get kicked out of the program. Each recruit is subjected to high levels of scrutiny with their trainers digging into their lives and subjecting them to immense pressures all to prepare them for the rigors of daily FBI cases. Each NAT has their own secrets and complicated pasts, but they are all considered to be the best. This series flashes between Alex and her fellow agents training time at Quantico and the present where a bombing has rocked New York, shattering the FBI and the nation, while leaving Alex to try to figure out the truth of what really happened.
A deadly bombing has destroyed Grand Central. This event is the most lethal attack on New York since 9/11 and Alex is being framed as the mastermind. She must race against time as well as the judgments of her fellow FBI agents and the public to prove that she isn’t behind the attack. Alex is in a race against time to find the real culprit in order to prevent future destruction. Her task becomes even more difficult when it becomes apparent that the bomber is working from inside the FBI. Alex is forced to betray her friends and colleagues to find the truth and to prove that she is not a sleeper terrorist.
All The Summer Girls by Meg Donohue focuses on the lives of three friends: Philadelphia lawyer Kate, Manhattan mom Vanessa, and San Francisco writer Dani. Kate’s fiancé has dumped her on the same day she found out she was pregnant. Vanessa is dealing with news that her husband cheated on her with another woman and is searching the internet for a man she dated eight years ago. Dani has just been fired yet again in San Francisco and is turning to her good friends (drugs and alcohol) to cope.
Kate, Vanessa, and Dani have been best friends for years, but have drifted apart. Their separation is as much to do with where they each live, their adult lives, and a major event that happened eight years ago during their last summer at the shore, as it is with normal daily life. The three plan a long weekend getaway at Dani’s father’s house in Avalon, the place where they spent two weeks out of their summer every year until one deadly night eight years ago. Being back in this familiar place brings tension to the surface of their friendship, making them all realize just how much their choices eight years ago have shaped their lives today. Each woman is holding onto a big secret, one that each is afraid to tell, and yet all of their secrets are interconnected. Kate, Vanessa, and Dani are forced to come to terms with the decisions they made eight years ago as their friendship hangs in the balance.
This book is also available as an e-audiobook through OverDrive.
A phone call wakes you up in the middle of the night: “This is Detective Inspector Bowles from the Metropolitan police, Mrs. Busfield. We’re outside your house. Can you please let us in?” You scramble out of bed in shock, your first thoughts running to your two grown children and the one sleeping down the hall. Are they okay? You open the front door to find two policemen telling you your husband of twenty-eight years has been found dead, floating in a river. Not possible. He’s supposed to be in Dubai on business. You are in denial.
Fast forward to the funeral. As you walk to the crematorium flanked by your children, everyone stares. Standing outside, you hear wailing coming from the parking lot and see a grown woman on her knees keening. As she staggers to the door, you’re infuriated that she dare intrude on your grief. She reaches the vicar standing on the steps, grips his arms, and demands to know what happened to your husband and wants to know who organized the funeral without telling her. He politely tries to disengage, while asking who the woman is. She grips his arm and says, “I’m his wife.” You are shocked. She can’t be.
Two women. One husband. Deception, betrayal, and death. If this description has caught your interest, check out Tamar Cohen’s War of the Wives for more information about Selina, Lottie, their families, and the dead patriarch of the family, Simon Busfield. Just remember: Not everything is as it seems.
What Alice Forgot is a great novel for audio, due in large part to the wonderful narrator, Caroline Lee.
Lee’s lilting, open Australian accent is critical to understanding Alice’s character. The 1998 Alice is wonderfully innocent, quirky and enthusiastically in love with her husband.
The 2008 amnesiac Alice, who is living ten years in the past, is, in her own mind, still that person. She gradually begins to put together the puzzle of her new identity. To the listener, it’s almost like a mystery. You wonder who the new Alice is and how she got that way. Like Alice, you’re also relying on what people are telling Alice, and no more. Both Alice and the reader/listener are frustrated when it seems other people are withholding information.
Liane Moriarty’s breezy style keeps the story light, while delving into the darker sides of Alice and her family’s journey over the last decade. Life has gone on; there have been births, deaths and marriages. Alice confesses to her sister that she has no idea how to feed and take care of her children, or any children for that matter. She speculates that a diet of sausages would probably be popular.
Elizabeth, her older sister, is a great foil; she had always been Alice’s protector and support which allowed Alice to be the funny, spacey one. One of the mysteries is why they had grown apart. The many well-drawn characters make this rather long audiobook absorbing to the end.
Dana Catrell’s life is in chaos. She’s married to a lawyer who makes her feel trivial, as if stuck inside his pocket like loose change. She’s also sliding toward the brink of insanity. Devastated by mania, part of her bipolar disorder, Dana finds that there are troubling holes in her memory, including what happened on the afternoon of her friend Celia’s death. She’s horrified to learn she’s the only other person with a key to Celia’s house – and the last person to see her alive. She and Celia had shared recipes and gossip. But not secrets – until that final afternoon. Closing her eyes, Dana can see images, loose pieces of a hazy puzzle. Sangria in a glass, a tiny rip in Celia’s screen door, Celia lying in a pool of blood, the broken vase beside her head, the kitchen knife just so above her hand. But there are infuriating, terrifying gaps. Is murder on her mind–or is it all in her head?
As evidence starts to point in her direction, Dana will use the clarity her mania brings her to fill in the blanks and clear her name before her demons win out. But her husband’s odd behavior and the persistent probing of Detective Jack Moss complicate Dana’s search for answers. The closer she comes to piecing together shards of her broken memory, the closer Dana comes to falling apart. Is there a killer lurking inside her . . . or is there one out there in the shadows of reality, waiting to strike again?
A story of marriage, murder, and madness, The Pocket Wife is a sophisticated, gripping tale of psychological suspense that explores the world through the foggy lens of a woman on the edge. (description from publisher)
Recently, I met best-selling author Brad Meltzer in a Chicago book store. Naturally, I picked up an autographed copy of his newest novel, The Inner Circle. (He had a large following — I had to wait in line a long time!)
The book revolves around Beecher White, a young archivist who loves his job at the National Archives. When his childhood crush, Clementime, shows up seeking help in tracking down the father she never knew, he takes her on a private tour, and even shows her the secret vault used only by the President. Within moments ( is it by accident or plan?) they discover a priceless artifact hidden under the President’s chair. Minutes later, the security guard who admitted them to the vault is found dead. In hours, Beecher is on the run, unsure who he can trust, yet frantically trying to stay one-step ahead of his pursuers by successfully decoding concealed messages.
This is a fast-paced read and those interested in political conspiracies or action-packed thrillers will be entertained with all the unexpected twists and turns. Initially, I wasn’t certain about the ending, but then it made more sense when I read that Meltzer has a sequel planned, using Beecher again as the primary character. He is a rather lovable archivist, after all.
For those who may be further intrigued by the mysteries of symbols and codes, check out the author’s show on the History Channel, Brad Meltzer’s Decoded.
I Can’t Keep My Own Secrets: Six-Word Memoirs By Teens Famous & Obscure is a collection of writings gathered by Smith Magazine editors Rachel Fershleiser and Larry Smith from over 800 teens who share autobiographical truths about themselves – in just six words. These lines, more succinct than haiku, provide insightful glimmers into their day-to-day thoughts and realities.
Late For School Every Single Day
I fulfilled my awkwardness quota today.
My mom had my boyfriend deported.
Willing to share with us your six-word reality? Use the comment section below.
Set in England the years surround World War I, The House at Riverton by Kate Morton follows the decline and fall of a once-proud English family. Devastated by the ravages of the war, torn apart by secrets, disgraced by a very public scandal, the family unravels against a backdrop of war and the Roaring Twenties.
David, Hannah and Emmeline grow up in an idyllic, privileged atmosphere at the beginning of the century. When Grace Reeves begins service as a housemaid at Riverton, she becomes witness and confidant to the siblings and keeper of their secrets. Told in flashback many years later, an elderly Grace relives the tragedy that changed them all forever.
Part Upstairs Downstairs, part Brideshead Revisted and even a little Sense and Sensibility, The House at Riverton will keep you guessing with it’s twists and turns until its shocking end.