Winter in Madrid, by C.J. Sansom
The Down and Dirty
Settle in with a nice cup of coffee and allow A Reader’s Respite to tell you about a book.
A fabulous book. Really and truly.
In 1936 Spain, as World War II was gearing up, a military uprising led by General Franco sprang up against a leftist government and the Spanish Civil War began. Unable to obtain help from any other country, the leftist government turned to the Stalin who was all too happy to export his particular brand of “assistance.”
And so it was that the Spanish people found themselves in the crossfire between two of the most undesireable factions fighting for control of their country: facists or communists.
The breadth of the destruction of Spain both during the Civil War and the years following the dictator Franco’s rule over Spain cannot be overstated.
And this is the riveting time period that C.J. Sansom brings to life in his novel, Winter in Madrid.
Harry Brett finds himself at a bit of a loss whenout of the army on a medical discharge after the British retreat from the advancing Germans at Dunkirk. Recruited by British Intelligence, whose goal is to keep Spain from entering WWII on the side of the Axis powers, Harry heads off to Madrid to spy on an old school chum, Sandy Forsyth, who may or may not be supporting Franco’s fascist regime.
But Sandy isn’t Harry’s only connection to Madrid. Bernie Piper, another old schoolmate who dropped out of school to join the International Brigades, died there fighting the fascists during the Civil War.
Except Bernie didn’t die. And Sandy isn’t who he appears to be.
The Lit Crit
Not much to say here, as this novel was nearly as perfect as a novel can be. From a historical perspective, Sansom’s research is a wonder and more importantly, his ability to translate his research into a seamless story is nothing short of amazing.
The Spanish Civil War was a politically convoluted mess. Yet Sansom never loses the reader. It is impossible not to feel incredibly illuminated about a period in history often glossed over.
The plot is perfectly paced, eventually reaching a conclusion that reflects the ambiguity of the time, and the characters are some of the most fully developed ever seen in a historical novel of this scope.
For any historical buff, A Reader’s Respite is not just recommending Winter in Madrid to you, we’re telling you that you MUST read this book.
If you’re looking for an even more comprehensive education about Spain’s Civil War and their role in WWII, couple this novel with Dave Boling’s award-winning novel, Guernica, a review of which you can read here tomorrow.
Title: Winter in Madrid
Author: C.J. Sansom
Date: January 27, 2009 (pbk.)
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