Fans of Carlos Ruiz Zafóns The Shadow of the Wind and Sebastian Faulkss Birdsong will fall in love with Winter in Madrid, the arresting new novel from C. J. Sansom. In September 1940, the Spanish Civil War is over and Madrid lies in ruins while the Germans continue their march through Europe. Britain stands alone as General Franco considers whether to abandon neutrality and enter the war.
Into this uncertain world comes Harry Brett, a privileged young man who was recently traumatized by his experience in Dunkirk and is now a reluctant spy for the British Secret Service. Sent to gain the confidence of Sandy Forsyth, an old school friend turned shadowy Madrid businessman, Brett finds himself involved in a dangerous game and surrounded by memories. Meanwhile, Sandys girlfriend, ex-Red Cross nurse Barbara Clare, is engaged in a secret mission of her ownto find her former lover Bernie Piper, whose passion for the Communist cause led him into the International Brigades and who vanished on the bloody battlefields of the Jarama. In a vivid and haunting depiction of wartime Spain, Winter in Madrid is an intimate and riveting tale that offers a remarkable sense of history unfolding and the profound impact of impossible choices.
London, September 1940
A bomb had fallen in Victoria Street. It had gouged a wide
crater in the road and taken down the fronts of several shops.
street was roped off; ARP men and volunteers had formed a chain
and were carefully moving rubble from one of the ruined
Harry realized there must be someone under there. The efforts of the rescuers, old men and boys caked with the dust that hung round them in a pall, seemed pitiful against the huge piles of brick and plaster. He put down his suitcase.
Coming into Victoria on the train, he had seen other craters and shattered buildings. He had felt oddly distanced from the destruction, as he had since the big raids began ten days before. Down in Surrey, Uncle James had almost given himself a stroke looking at the photographs in the Telegraph. Harry had scarcely responded as his uncle snarled red-faced over this new example of German frightfulness. His mind had retreated from the ...
Themes of power and fate resonate throughout the novel, and are revisited particularly at the end. Whether or not the conclusion is fitting is up for interpretation.
(Reviewed by Lisa A. Goldstein).
Full Review (650 words).
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