Winter in Madrid Review
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In 1940, after the Spanish Civil War, Madrid has been all but destroyed. People are living in poverty, forced to take jobs that are way below what theyíve been trained for just to survive. With the country in the midst of rebuilding, war is still a threat. Hitler is becoming a problem, and Franco Generalissimo is pushing fascism on Spain. Others want communism or socialism. The people just want to be left alone, so they can pick up the pieces and move on.

Harry Brett is sent as a spy to Madrid by the British Secret Service to gain the trust of Sandy Forsyth, an old school friend. They want to know what heís been up to with his shady business deals. Even though they werenít really close friends, Harry still doesnít want to spy on Sandy, but heíll do it for his country.

Sandyís girlfriend, Barbara Clare, a former Red Cross nurse, wants to know what happened to her ex-lover, Bernie, after he disappeared on the battlefields of Jarama. In secret, Barbara searches for any news of Bernie, hoping heís still alive out there somewhere.

A sweeping saga of love and war, Winter in Madrid, paints a vibrant picture of what war does to a country and its peopleóthe despair, destitution, and anger of the innocent, who are caught in the middle of something they have no power to control. Itís also the heartbreaking story of one womanís quest to find a lost soldier, knowing that he might not be alive. Itís about friendship and betrayal and the tough choices one has to make. Itís about politics and why the different parties think that their ideas are best for the peopleóor, I guess I should say, whatís best for whoeverís running the party. But Winter in Madrid is also extremely depressing.

Though the story is splendidly written and filled with history, the only thing that kept me reading is Bernie. Since readers are introduced to him in the prologue, I wanted to find out what had happened to him. But, mostly, the story made my eyelids heavy, and I wasnít particularly eager to pick the story back up at the end of a long day. Maybe Iím just sick of war, but the depressing material left me longing for lighter reading.

C. J. Sansom is a brilliant author who writes with breath-taking depth, but Iím just not a great fan of anything that makes me feel deeply sad. And Winter in Madrid paints a bleak picture of a long-ago war that the centuries canít change, leaving me feeling, well, just plain blah.

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