Updated: Apr 24, 2019
Winter in Madrid is a spy novel set just after the Spanish Civil war in 1940. Following his injury at Dunkirk, Harry Brett is hired by the British secret service to spy on his old school friend and shady businessman Sandy Forsyth. Along the way Harry reconnects with Barbara an nurse working for the red cross and ex-lover of his friend and communist Bernie Piper. Their lives all intertwine in an effortless and believable character development. The narrative flows smoothly between the characters, location and time.
Set in Franco’s Spain in the aftermath of the Spanish civil war, with the second world war still underway, this story pictures a horrifying and incredibly well described war-torn country. C.J. Sansom is a really talented writer, this novel was so well described you could picture everything that was written in front of you.
The plot unfolds undramatically and with great poise. I felt like the story had its own pace and I was happy to let it meander to where it was going. I think the end finished quite swiftly and fell a bit short for such a dramatic build up, but apart from that I enjoyed it immensely. Sansom took his time creating this story, it felt so realistic and genuine and is a credit to a historical fiction book. It was written in a tone that evokes the 1940’s, there was no lazy writing and it was really well researched.
You can get a real sense of Franco’s Spain and the devastation of the 1940’s, the politics and power struggles between various factions. Sansom really captures the extent of the devastation the Spanish people found themselves in. He has done an amazing job of translating hard facts into an incredible story. Having studied world war two many times, I was grateful to learn more about Spain in this time period as Franco Spain is often looked over compared to Nazi Germany. He provided enough facts without making it confusing.
This story is about war, poverty, love, sacrifice, betrayal and bravery. I would not recommend this book if you have no interest in historical fictions, nor if you want instant drama and thrills. This book is perfect for someone who is happy to take their time learning about a time period in which Sansom has been able to craft a great political thriller and love story.