Wednesday, May 20, 2009


By C. J. Sansom
Penguin Books
ISBN 978-0-14-311513-7
Trade Paperback $15.00
Reprint paperback edition
January 27, 2009
Pages 544
Historical fiction

Once is a while you discover a book that is a truly a picture into the past. WINTER IN MADRID is a vision of Spain during World War II. The country was recuperating from their civil war which deposed their ruling monarch and was beginning to be ruled by General Franco. Under the influence of Hitler’s Nazis and the Italians with Mussolini, Spain was still unbalanced with their government. With Spain not being involved directly in the war, its loyalties were leaning to the axis powers which were threatening to the British Embassy in Madrid.

Harry Brett is a British citizen who fought in Spain in their civil war. While fighting, he was injured and had permanent hearing damage. The worst part of his injury is that he was suffering from being shell-shocked. Being disabled and not being able to serve in World War II for Britain, Harry is asked by the his government to return to Spain, work for the embassy as a translator, and most important, be a spy on a former schoolmate that might have connections within the inner circles of General Franco’s government.

Harry is surprised to find an acquaintance of another classmate, Barbara who is currently living with the man Harry is to spy on. She originally came to Spain to follow the love of her life that was fighting for communism in the country. She worked as a nurse in the Red Cross.

The characters were extremely realistic even down to their flaws. The setting in regards to place and time definitely demonstrated C.J. Sansom’s research and knowledge of the time and the people. The story was in constant movement and intensity to the last page. The story evolved back and forth throughout the novel as past events influenced the current problems. Integrated in this are two love stories that show the human relationships and the fragility of human life.

This novel is a truly wonderfully written experience into the past. Visiting the past during a time period when most of us are not aware of what is was to live in Spain then, allows us to better understand the people and the reasons behind some of the decisions that effect the lives of these people. WINTER IN MADRID makes you think about what is important in your life and how much each person will or will not compromise their beliefs and values. What will people really do to get what they want?

C.J. Sansom is actually Christopher John Sansom. He was trained to be a solicitor but now is a full-time writer. He lives in England.

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