Review: WINTER IN MADRID by C.J. Sansom

Thank you to Julie at FSB Associates for the opportunity to read and review this great book!

I love it when I unexpectedly come across a book in which the author tells a story around events that actually happened and people who really existed. It makes me want to learn more about the events and how they shaped the lives of the people affected. This is one of those books.

During Spain’s civil war Bernie Piper, a communist from Britain, joined the International Brigades and was sent to fight against the fascists. The last he was heard from was at the battle of Jarama in 1937. Bernie’s parents and his girlfriend, Barbara Clare, ask an old public school friend to help search for him. They come up empty.

Several years later the old friend, Harry Brett, is wounded at Dunkirk and suffers post traumatic stress disorder. Recovering at home in England, he is contacted by the British Secret Service. They are interested in Harry because he can speak several languages and therefore can be put to use - ostensibly as a translator. In reality however, Harry is instructed to spy on another old school friend, Sandy Forsyth, who is busily scheming to take financial advantage of the political situation during World War Two.

Harry is surprised to discover that Barbara is still in Spain and has paired up with Sandy. As the story evolves the reader discovers that all three characters, Harry, Sandy and Barbara are concealing secrets from each other that when revealed, will irretrievably alter the course of their lives.

This book is written in a tone that evokes the era in which it takes place like none other that I’ve read in a long time. Written in period detail and expertly researched, it was easy to picture the cold streets of Madrid, the poverty and desperation of the people, the hopes and fears. I could feel the terror of the children as they were unceremoniously rounded up and delivered to church orphanages for ‘processing’ after their parents, who were deemed enemies of the state, disappeared forever. In fact the author dedicates the book:
“to the memory of the thousands of children of Republican parents who disappeared into the orphanages of Franco’s Spain”.

The politics in Spain during its civil war and the role it played during the Second World War is complicated to say the least. There is a short historical note at the end of the book explaining the political atmosphere during the years the story takes place. This was helpful in giving insight into some of the real people depicted in the book.

Having read Guernica by Dave Boling not long ago, my interest in what happened in Spain during these difficult years was piqued. As a result, I was very pleased to have the opportunity to read C.J. Sansom’s Winter in Madrid and I highly recommend it.

If you would like to read other reviews of Winter in Madrid, click on the following links:

My Friend Amy

Euro Crime

A Reader's Respite


Literary Feline on March 9, 2009 at 10:51 AM said...

I am really looking forward to reading this one. I had hoped to start on it last month, but then I got sick and my reading went downhill with me. I haven't yet read anything by Sansom before and so this will be my first by him.

Great review!

bermudaonion on March 9, 2009 at 3:36 PM said...

This one does sound really good. Great review.

Staci on March 9, 2009 at 9:58 PM said...

Excellent review. Now I'm intrigued by the secrets that they're keeping from each other and I think that I just may have to read this!!!

Myckyee on March 11, 2009 at 8:45 PM said...

Literary Feline, I hope you enjoy this book - it really was my kind of read.

bermudaonion - thank you!

Staci - thank you. this book did have an 'intriguing' type of atmosphere.

Amy on March 29, 2009 at 5:24 AM said...

Great review! I also thought this book was fantastic.


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