Winter in Madrid
|Author||C. J. Sansom|
|Genre||Spy, Thriller, War novel|
|6 January 2006|
|Media type||Print (Hardback & Paperback)|
|LC Class||PR6119.A57 W56 2006|
Winter in Madrid is a spy novel written by C. J. Sansom. The setting is just after the Spanish Civil War in 1940. The main character is a wounded veteran, Harry Brett. He received his wounds during the Dunkirk withdrawal.
The book is purposely set in Madrid, where Francisco Franco resided. The historical setting, Madrid in the Franco era, is well described and almost a "character" according to various reviews. The book contains a historical section at the end to explain what part of the book is based on facts and what is fiction. Critical notes concern the (non-rich) language and a shortage of "thrills" throughout the whole book.
Plot and storyline
Following his recovery, World War II Battle of Dunkirk veteran Harry Brett is recruited by the British Secret Service to make contact with Sandy Forsyth, a shady Madrid based British businessman and a former schoolfriend. Harry's cover is as an interpreter in the British embassy in Madrid. He arrives in Spain in October 1940 and finds the Spanish people suffering terribly from political repression, food shortages, poverty and the destruction brought by the Spanish civil war. Through Brett's work at the embassy, we meet the ambassador Sir Samuel Hoare, an arrogant bully and Alan Hillgarth, the clever cunning chief of intelligence. In a twist of fate, Sandy Forsyth's girlfriend Barbara Clare is a former lover of another school friend of Brett's, Bernie Piper, a communist member of the International Brigades MIA since the Battle of Jarama in 1937. Harry Brett meets Forsyth, who claims to have found large gold deposits in central Spain. Meanwhile, Barbara meets Luis, an unemployed Nationalist Spain veteran, who tells her that Bernie is still alive and is being held in a brutal Military Prison near Cuenca. He tells her that he could organise Bernie's escape through his brother, who is a guard at the camp, in return for money. Harry starts a relationship with Sofia Roque Casas, a feisty Spanish working class woman. Towards the end of the story, Forsyth's claims of discovering gold are proved to be a false, but, in doing so, he offends powerful people within the Francisco Franco circle. Bernie Piper escapes the labour camp, and Barbara, Harry and Sofia travel to Cuenca to aid his escape. But it proves to be an elaborate trap set by General Maestre as a means of embarrassing Sandy Forsyth. Although they manage to escape, Sofia is killed by a member of the Guardia Civil and Bernie shot in the leg by Maestre. They manage to get back to Britain. Forsyth vanishes.
The epilogue plays in May 1947. Harry Brett is working as a French teacher in a Grammar School. Barbara Clare is a translator on her way to meet some South American businessmen. Both are nursing private heartache over losing their one true loves: Harry over Sofia and Barbara over Bernie who died during the D-Day landings in 1944.