Winter in Madrid

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Winter in Madrid: A Novel

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly

The playing fields of Rookwood did little to prepare reluctant spy Harry Brett for the moral no man's land of post-Civil War Spain that awaits him in this cinematic historical thriller from British author Sansom (Sovereign). But those halcyon days have made him one of the few people likely to win the confidence of fellow old boy Sandy Forsyth, now a shady Madrid businessman, Franco associate and object of intense curiosity to British intelligence. Despite his reservations, Brett-whose best friend from Rookwood, Bernie Piper, disappeared in Spain a few years earlier while battling Franco with the International Brigade-accepts the assignment as his duty, and almost as swiftly regrets it. For the Madrid he finds has become a mockery of the vibrant, hopeful place he and Bernie visited during the dawn of the Republic. As in his Matthew Shardlake mystery series set in Tudor London, Sansom deftly plots his politically charged tale for maximal suspense, all the way up to its stunning conclusion. A bestseller in the U.K., this moving opus leaves the reader mourning for the Spain that might have been-and the England that maybe never was. (Jan.)

Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information
Kirkus Reviews
The uneasy relationship of three British schoolmates haunts their adult lives during the first years of Francisco Franco's dark Spanish dictatorship in a novel from the author of the excellent Matthew Shardlake Tudor detective stories (Sovereign, 2007, etc.). Shell-shocked and deafened, Lt. Harry Brett was evacuated from Dunkirk moments after the man next to him was blown to pieces. Unable to return immediately to battle, he reluctantly accepts an undercover assignment to Spain, where he is to look up his public-school classmate Sandy Forsyth to see whether Sandy might be recruited as an intelligence source. Sandy was not really Harry's friend at Rookwood. He wasn't anyone's friend. The rebellious son of an Anglican bishop, Sandy was cynical and a bully, but Harry was as close to a friend as he had before getting kicked out for cruelty to a faculty member. Now he has turned up in Madrid, a sleek and prospering businessman, cutting deals with the Falangists and Monarchists who recently ousted the Republicans. It won't be Harry's first trip to Spain. He was there once before to see Bernie Piper, Harry's best friend from school and Sandy's arch enemy. To the great disappointment of his working-class parents, Bernie's scholarship to Rookwood gave him a deep distaste for the ruling class they hoped he would join, and he eventually turned to communism and joined the International Brigade defending Republican Spain against the Nationalists. When Harry, undercover as an embassy translator, reaches Madrid, he finds Sandy in possession of Barbara, a Red Cross nurse who loved Bernie before his disappearance and presumed death in the civil war. Harry takes up with the couple, worming his awkward wayinto Sandy's confidence. As Harry learns details of Sandy's sleazy high-level dealings, Barbara learns that Bernie is not dead. He's a secret government prisoner, and she immediately begins to plot his escape as Harry at last finds a little love. Wise and melancholy and, eventually, very tense. Agent: Antony Topping/Greene & Heaton
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780670018482
  • Publisher: Penguin Group (USA)
  • Publication date: 1/24/2008
  • Pages: 544
  • Product dimensions: 6.30 (w) x 9.30 (h) x 1.90 (d)

Customer Reviews

Average Rating 3.5
( 17 )
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Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 17 Customer Reviews
  • Posted February 9, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    A Code for Sovereigns!

    The fossils Sandy Forsyth loves are a wonderful metaphor for the historical period this novel spans, 1937-1947, in war-torn Spain. For fossils hold full or partial body parts in their last colossal, life-death battle. It's a time full of surprises, when the strong are shown to be weak and vice versa. Sandy's favorite fossil, a dinosaur's limb, vividly displays Spain's hopes and defeats, "...curled, as though the creature had been about to strike when it died."<BR/><BR/>First, meet Bernie Piper, a graduate of the prestigious Rookwood School in England, now lying at the foot of a knoll in the Jarama Valley, Spain in February of 1937. He's a die-hard socialist, rejecting everything he learned in school and sharing the fight against the Generalissimo Franco's fascist followers. It doesn't look like a victory Bernie will win!<BR/><BR/>Then get to really know Barbara Clare, an ex in so many ways - ex-Red Cross nurse, ex-lover of Bernie, and expatriate who is lost in her despair over possibly having lost Bernie, seeing the Spanish situation corrode into devastating poverty and death, and being lost in her relationship with Sandy Forsyth who seems bent on recreating her in his own image. But Barbara knows more than she's telling and may have a way to find out if Bernie is still alive as a prisoner of war in the brutal prisoner-of-war camps run by the rigid, ultra-Catholic Republican Guards. <BR/><BR/>Enters Harry Brett, a spy for the British Secret Service. Harry really doesn't want to be doing this job but is reluctantly enticed into spying on his old school friend, Sandy, in Madrid. Harry's recovering from brutal injuries he received while fighting in Dunkirk, barely over his posttraumatic panic attacks and barely in possession of full hearing yet. The pages that follow rivet the reader's focus in two directions. <BR/><BR/>The convoluted chronology of Spain's political situation introduces the reader to the powers supporting Franco, the Republicans and the Communists, all vying for supremacy and at the same time feeling Hitler's pincer-like approach ever-looming. Who to trust? Who to support? How to survive? One clearly sees, after a brief while, that there are no winners as each group in its fanatical fervor destroys the land they claim to love. Leaders and manipulators flourish; the poor and destitute live parasitical lives in order to get through this horrific conflict.<BR/><BR/>What Harry eventually discovers, in the second focus of this novel, is far worse than originally contemplated. Sandy's involved in something bigger and deadlier than even he realizes. As one swiftly turns these pages, he or she is stunned at the breathtaking end in which all bets are off and the plot unravels in a most unexpected manner with devastating results.<BR/><BR/>C. J. Sansom, with a well-researched, dynamic presentation, vividly presents a historical, romantic, adventurous story in a tightly plotted manner. This story deserves wide acclaim as a notable blockbuster, portraying a too often ignored but potent segment of Spain and England's history and politics.<BR/><BR/>Reviewed by Viviane Crystal on February 9, 2009

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 17, 2011

    Disappointed

    This was certainly not on the level of a Shardlake mystery! The plot was hard to follow and fragmented. At the end of the book there were several blank pages. So I never got the ending. How frustrating and disappointng. SAVE YOUR MONEY!!!

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  • Posted June 9, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    Truth always slow in coming

    This author brings to life facts about the 1930s and the onset of Nazism plus the undercurrent of socialism turning to Communism. It is the children taken from parents and placed in institutional settings, Catholic influenced, that brings out the emotional reactions of the readers. Spain tried to remain neutral but catered to Hitler anyway. Collaboration between government and the church is evident. Not a time period to be proud of for anyone.

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  • Posted April 27, 2009

    Okay story

    If you love Spain and have an interest in Spanish history, especially the civil war era, then you will like this book. If not, you will probably be bored silly. It wasn't the greatest book but I still read it all the way to the end. I did like the ambience it evokes from that era.

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  • Posted April 20, 2009

    Winter in Madrid is a historical, romance novel that will appeal to many different types of readers.

    This is a fictional love story with historical facts thrown in. If you teach Spanish, are a history buff or simply enjoy a romance, then you will like this book. As a Spanish teacher, Winter in Madrid made me more aware of what the Spanish Civil War was like for the people of Spain.

    Winter in Madrid gave me a greater understanding of the suffering and limitations war imposes on people. This is not just a love story - it makes you think.

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  • Posted March 23, 2009

    What Could Have been Excellent, Disappoints

    Interesting premise, setting, and plot. But the the character development wasn't up to the test. Harry and Sonia were well done, and Bernie's protrayal was at least consistent. Sandy was predictable; Barbara's demeanor and conduct were all over the board. One moment, she was strong and courageous; the next, she was beyond helpless. This happened so often that it was tiring and hurt the story for me. I also think that the author didn't need more than 500 pages to tell this story. Could have been tightened up and would have been a better novel. I don't want to give away key plot developments, so suffice it to say that some were well done, some were predictable, and others seemed mere plot devices. Too bad, I was expecting an excellent novel, and the author didn't deliver. In fact, based on some reviews and the novel's setting, I recommended the book to my book club. The book club members enjoyed it much more than I did.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 3, 2008

    Very well documented

    This novel is page turning and extremely well documented about the society and time where it takes place, and I should know since I'm from Madrid, and all my life I've heard the stories about the post-war time. The only thing that left me a little dissapointed was certain parts of the ending.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted December 9, 2008

    more from this reviewer

    a terrific historical thriller

    By 1940 the brutal Spanish Civil War has finally ended, but much of the country remains devastated with people worried about basic sustenance needs like food, clean water, and shelter. As neutral Spain struggles to recover, the Germans blitzkrieg continues its rapid conquest of Europe and their air force daily bombs the last foe Britain. The leader of the winning side General Francisco Franco and his Fascist party considers joining the Nazis like Mussolini and Italy did.----------- England sends reluctant Harry Brett to spy on his old peer Sandy Forsyth, a dishonest Madrid businessman, who has close toes to Franco. Brett has doubts he is the man for the job, but journeys to Madrid to win the confidence of Sandy and through him what Franco¿s plans re the war with Hitler are. However, he finds Madrid nothing like the energized vibrant city that it was just a few years ago under the short lived republic when he and his close friend Bernie Piper visited the city. Instead he finds distressed hopeless people starving and dying he wants to go home where the Nazi bombings have only increased the fortitude of his fellow Brits to defeat the German monster.-------------- WINTER IN MADRID is a terrific historical thriller that is part espionage and part political. The storyline provides an insightful look at the aftermath of Franco¿s victory in the Civil War especially the political turmoil of a divided Fascist Party debating whether to join its two allies or recuperate from the bloody internal fight. C.J. Sansom places a powerful spotlight on battered Spain as WW II has devastated much the rest of the continent while the Battle of Britain seems inevitable and would enable Franco to claim like Mussolini he was on the victorious side.------------- Harriet Klausner

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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