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I was born in the mid 1960s in Somerset to a wonderfully optimistic and very young, hippy couple who were both artists and dreamed of living the good life. My mother wove fabric to make our clothes. My father was a potter and made all our cups and bowls and plates. We didn’t have any money but we ate off pretty plates and my clothes were unusual to say the least.
When I five years old, we moved to a small fishing village in Essex and my memories of childhood are of shingle beaches and mudflats, grey-green heather colouring the wide salt marshes that surrounded the village, and the never ending call of seagulls.
We collected samphire off the marshes and dug for cockles at low tide. We gathered mussels and razor clams, winkles and oysters. My father bought a boat and took me with him on fishing trips.
I learnt about the tides’ ebb and flow and the moon’s effect on them. I laughed at tourists who parked their cars by the quay where the incoming tide always flooded the road waist high, the water finally receding at the boatyard where the locals parked their cars.
And then aged ten, I turned my back on the sea and fell in love with books. My parents opened a second hand book shop and our home filled up with cardboard boxes full of books. There were four of us children by then and my elder brother and I were left to care for our younger siblings while our parents ran the shop. My brother sat in his room playing guitar. My younger brother and sister watched TV for hours on end and I rummaged through cardboard boxes full of books and read and read and read. I think it was then that I decided I wanted to be a writer.
Many years later, with two children of my own and a long line of jobs under my belt, I finally decided to follow my dream. I took an MA in Creative Writing at the University of East Anglia and started to write seriously. After that, I followed another dream, this time my husband’s. We moved to south west France to live. I thought I would finally have the time to write my novel but we bought a wreck of a house and I spent the first few years of our new life mixing concrete. We also had to learn French, settle our daughters into French school and deal with the ups and downs of a new life miles away from friends and family.
Finally though, we did it. We all learned French and we did all settle in and make a real home here. And I finished the novel…
The second novel from historical novelist Amanda Hodgkinson whose debut 22 Britannia Road garnered lots of praise and attention. Beginning in early 20th century Suffolk and moving through to the period after WW2, Spilt Milk is a compelling read about sisterhood, motherhood, and secrets across generations that cannot be laid to rest.
After living wild in the forests for years, carrying a terrible secret, all Silvana knows is that she and Aurek are survivors. Everything else is lost. While Janusz, a Polish soldier who has criss-crossed Europe during the war, hopes his family will help put his own dark past behind him. But the war and the years apart will always haunt each of them unless they together confront what they were compelled to do to survive.
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, 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.