Friday, 1 March 2013

Book review: Winter in Madrid

I've read all of C.J. Sansom's Shardlake novels but didn't really fancy his venture into a different historical period when Winter in Madrid came out a few years ago. But as with so much I've read since getting the kindle, a super-cheap special offer saw me add it to my collection and although I didn't enjoy it as much as his Tudor books I'm glad I gave it a go. It's set partly during the Spanish Civil War, but mostly a few years later, in 1940 with Franco's government wavering over whether to join World War II, and two British people who'd fought in the Civil War returning for different reasons, but both with ulterior motives: Harry's a translator for the British embassy, but in reality has been recruited as a spy, to find out what his former school friend Sandy knows about a gold mine that's rumoured to have been found, and which could affect Franco's decision on the war. And Barbara, Sandy's girlfriend, who is in fact only with him so she can seek the truth about her ex-lover - believed to have been killed in the Civil War, she's recently heard rumours that he's alive and being kept illegally in a prison camp.

The background on the devastated state Spain was left in after the Civil War is probably the most interesting element of the book, like most people I knew that it had a lot of British volunteers but didn't know much else about the background to the war or its longer-term effects, Spain going through its own separate devastation even as the rest of Europe was torn apart. The story itself has some well-constructed characters, the majority fictional but, perhaps inevitably, some of the most extreme characters based on real people; and is interesting enough to have kept me reading but not exactly full of surprises either.

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