Reading guide for Winter In Madrid by C.J. Sansom

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Winter In Madrid

by C.J. Sansom

Winter In Madrid
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  • First Published:
    Jan 2008, 544 pages
    Jan 2009, 544 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Lisa A. Goldstein

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Reading Guide Questions Print Excerpt

Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!

Discussion Questions

  1. Institutions loom large in the book, from public school (which is the equivalent of private school in the US), to the Communist party, to the Catholic Church. How do the main characters reinforce and/or defeat them?

  2. Bernie begins the book as a devoted Communist, yet eventually becomes disillusioned with its ideology. Disillusionment with the Catholic Church also plays a large role in the book. Why does the author juxtapose the two? What are the dangers of ideology?

  3. The threat of approaching winter permeates the book. What does the cold weather symbolize? Why did the author choose to set the book during the winter?

  4. Each of the book’s main characters is tempted by corruption and bribery. Is corruption a by-product of war? Can corruption ever be positive?

  5. Bernie is a fervent believer in communism and also an atheist. Yet in the labor camp, he is threatened by the power-hungry Estalbo, a fellow prisoner and Communist, and shown kindness by Father Eduardo, a Catholic priest. Why did the author choose to upend Bernie’s perceived notions of good and bad? What does Bernie learn about kindness and cruelty?

  6. How does Harry’s parentless background and experiences at Dunkirk shape his character? Is his reluctance to spy on Sandy justified?

  7. Have you read any other novels about the Spanish Civil War? How does this book compare?

  8. Bernie and Sandy are very different characters, yet Barbara forms a relationship with both of them. What draws her to each? Is her relationship with Sandy believable? Why or why not?

  9. Harry, Sandy and Bernie are all classmates at Rookwood, but each of them has a vastly different experience at the school. Why did the author choose to connect Sandy, Harry and Bernie in this way? How do their experiences at Rookwood define them as characters?

  10. How do you feel about the book’s conclusion?

Unless otherwise stated, this discussion guide is reprinted with the permission of Penguin Books. Any page references refer to a USA edition of the book, usually the trade paperback version, and may vary in other editions.

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