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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Winter Games
Francie visits her grandmother Daphne in a home but she is more concerned with her own life than she is with her grandmother's life which is now drawing to a close. Francie is a journalist working on a magazine and during a work trip to Germany she sees a picture in a museum of Daphne with Hitler in the 1930s. Naturally she is curious and wants to know more...
Published 21 months ago by Damaskcat

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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Who hasn't got a photo of Granny with Hitler?
Daphne Linden is the daughter of an Oxford don, a man of Latvian Jewish extraction and a philanderer. In 1935, she is just 18 and has a place, but not a scholarship, at Oxford. Her father suggests that she spend a few months in Germany, improving her grasp of the language, before resitting her entrance exam. Daphne has a naïveté that we cannot imagine these days,...
Published 23 months ago by S. B. Kelly


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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Appalling hybrid of chick lit and history, 7 Feb 2013
By 
Laura T (Bradford-on-Avon, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Winter Games (Hardcover)
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I don't usually give out one-star ratings (or five stars for that matter...) but I found this novel so unremittingly dreadful that I had to skim most of it, and it wasn't even enjoyable as a trashy read. The central idea is fascinating. The two plot threads follow Daphne, a young Englishwoman abroad in 1930s Munich, and her grand-daughter Francie, living a hedonistic dream in 2006 before the financial crash. The idea seems to be to contrast these two generations enjoying themselves heedlessly before their inevitable downfall - I was reminded of the famous photograph of flappers dancing on a roof of a building - and Rachel Johnson should be given credit for the originality of this idea. The incident that kickstarts the novel, Francie's discovery of a photograph of Daphne and a friend with Hitler, is also a good place to start. Unfortunately, this novel is simply written so badly that much of this promising material is squandered.

In 2006, the impending doom might as well be spelt out in red letters, as when Francie thinks about 'couples who'd been house-hunting, i.e. about to drop several million pounds of borrowed money on a property they assumed would double in value in a couple of years. Either that, or one of them worked for a US investment bank, in which case one of them could simply mop up his (of her) end-of-year bonus with a large house.' Amazingly, however, despite the shallowness of Francie's plot thread and how irritating she is as a character, I still found her chapters more readable than Daphne's sections, which combine all the worst cliches of bad historical novels, and give no sense of time or place. The awfulness of the writing is evident from her first chapter, which inexplicably ends with a single line, given a paragraph of its own: 'Daphne was eighteen' as if this is some incredibly portentous fact. It just left me baffled - were we supposed to have assumed that Daphne was older than this from the previous scene? Younger? Neither really makes sense considering that the family were discussing her entry to Oxford. This may sound a trivial detail, but to me it epitomised how lazily written and badly-edited this book is.

If you want a serious novel about the political situation in the 1930s, you can't go wrong with Ishiguro's 'The Remains of the Day', whereas for a properly escapist read about snow-capped mountains, I'd recommend Belinda Jones's 'Winter Wonderland'. Just do all you can to avoid this awkward mishmash of the two.
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1.0 out of 5 stars Waste of time, 24 Nov 2014
This review is from: Winter Games (Kindle Edition)
I read this novel because of the positive reviews on the cover - I can only assume they are by friends, neighbours or close family.
This book is badly written ( think not very able fourth former who's done a project on the Nazis) with unconvincing, stereotypical characters, laughable dialogue, and a disturbing attitude to rape and Nazism. Don't waste your time on this - "Life after Life", as recommended by another reviewer, is a thousand times better.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars eating Hitler's favourite pudding, 3 April 2013
By 
David Spanswick (Brighton United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Winter Games (Hardcover)
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This is a real mess. The book feels bossy and poorly edited, a firmer hand might have made it into something a little better than chicklit papcr*p for there is a very good idea hiding inside this piece of vanity with its whiff of Mitfordiana and dash of Forster but the arrogance of the writer outshines all credibility. This is mostly due to the character of Francie, she appears in the contemporary story and, on discovering clues to her grandmother's Nazi sympathies goes in search of her own mysterious origins. So far so good but unfortunately we have to wade through the brittle shallow existence of Francie and her brittle shallow life and her brittle shallow friends before we can pursue the journet of Daphne and Betsy and the winter spring and summer of 1936.

The book is sadly under researched (I blame the ease of Wikipedia)which turns the protagonists into bigoted stereotypes of the cardboard Angela Brazil school of characterization and the revelations are hardly revelatory.

Sadly Ms Johnson has missed a brilliant opportunity to bring to life those fateful years leading up to WW2 and and the mad bid for world dominance by the craziest monster ever to have lived on the planet.

Although marketed as an adult novel it has all the trademarks of a YA audience not to mention the right on Guardian initiate who might actually mistake this for good literature.

It is only too apparent that Ms Johnson's first language is Journalese
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars A Short Winter, 21 Mar 2013
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This review is from: Winter Games (Kindle Edition)
The title of this book is misleading -there is little about the actual winter games which I was expecting to be much better developed in the story. The same unfortunately could be said about the characters. They came across as unpleasant and lacking in depth. Francie especially was difficult to empathise with. I found the constant referencing to commercial products as a means of describing her lifestyle irritating, as it seemed a lazy way of scene-setting. The cover of the book is beautiful, conjuring up a past world when things were on the cusp of never being the same again but sorry to say the writing was not up to the same standard. I did read the whole book and by the end was not surprised at the way the author had tied all her loose ends into a neat (and unrealistic)bow - it was more than Francie deserved!
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3.0 out of 5 stars Olympic legacies, 7 April 2014
By 
Lulu (London) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Winter Games (Hardcover)
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Not quite Mitfordish (though I think Rachel Johnson would qualify as a terrific Hon) despite owing a lot to Nancy and Diana, this is an entertaining slalom of a story, lurching rapidly between 1930s Germany and contemporary England. The German episodes, while clearly well-researched, lack any sense of period and don't work as well as the current ones, which are much more convincing. Not an entire waste of time, however, thanks to the Johnsonian way with words.
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4.0 out of 5 stars A young girl in Germany just before WW2, 16 Jan 2014
By 
John Ferngrove (Hants UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Winter Games (Hardcover)
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This story spans two lives, two woman who live in totally different worlds. A modern girl who wants to find out about what happened to her grandmother as a young girl in the 1930s. Daphne is sent to Germany as a teenager. It is 1936 and the Winter Games are happening in Munich. Daphne is from a privileged background, her father is an Oxford Don, and she goes to Germany with her friend Betsy. But what happens there is unexpected and changes the course of her life, although how that happens is for her grand-daughter Francie to discover 70 years later. Francie is a journalist with a complicated modern lifestyle and she follows in her grandmother's footsteps and goes to the same place in Germany to write a travel piece. She becomes fascinated about life in 1936, just before the outbreak of the Second World War. Did people realise exactly what was going on with Hitler's rise to power? This is a gripping tale and is wonderfully woven together as the characters unfold. A fascinating read.
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3.0 out of 5 stars I wanted to like it more..., 23 Aug 2013
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This review is from: Winter Games (Paperback)
Francie is a spoilt, self-obsessed woman working as a 'journalist' on a glossy magazine. She lives the glamourous, design-led lifestyle with her chi-chi flat and successful husband and has a sexual encounter with her boss. Her Grandmother Daphne is coming to the end of her life and has many secrets. When Francie visits Bavaria on a work assignment she sees a picture of her Grandmother and Hitler which prompts her to investigate further.

I so wanted to like this book more than I did as the premise is really good; the problem is that it is written as chick-lit with pretensions rather than as literature. Francie is a deeply unlikable person, she is vain, shallow and self-obsessed and the parts of the narrative about her lifestyle are irritating. Daphne is a likable and believable character but the idea that this a novel about society girls involved with the Nazi hierarchy is unfair. Essentially girl in the thirties gets pregnant and granddaughter investigates seventy years later is better. The plotline could have occurred any time, any place, the Nazi theme is really not integral to the story and even the very light thread about Daphne being part-Jewish isn't really explored.

It's a quick read and quite entertaining but really leaves one asking for less Francie and more Daphne
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4.0 out of 5 stars Jolly Ski Sticks as the clouds of war gather, 16 Aug 2013
This review is from: Winter Games (Paperback)
This is tremendous fun- an odd thing to say about a novel set in Germany in the run-up to the Second World War but true never-the-less. A hybrid chic-lit/historical fiction work it switches effortlessly between contemporary London and Bavaria in 1936.

Francie Fitzsimon is a journalist for a glossy magazine sent to do a piece on an holistic spa built on the site of the mountain retreat where Hitler planned the invasion of Russia. The chance discovery of a photograph of her grandmother with the Fuhrer himself sets her on a quest to discover the past that was never spoken of. Daphne Linden was nearly twenty when she was set to Germany to be "finished". A little Wagner, improving her German and learning to ski amongst the right sort of foreigners (Frenchmen cannot be trusted in taxis) was what her parents had in mind.

The detail of thirties Germany is period-perfect. The shadow of economic depression, the promise offered by New Germany, the uniforms, the marching, the hope, the Winter Games and the gradual realisation of the price demanded and the darker side of the new regime. Equally well-delineated is the picture of the Notting Hill set, "the time of peace and plenty, when houses doubled in value every ten years, households threw away as much food as they consumed and men didn't die for their country they did Yogacamps and BeutCamp Pilates". Both heroines display a naive vunerability perhaps initially more obvious in the sheltered Daphne but as the novel progresses equally evident in the superficially sophisticated Francie embarking on an affair with her caddish boss.

First and foremost this is a novel wittily written and romping along. The voices of the 1930s Deb set ring true adding to the flavour of the times. The pace is fast and the characters engaging but Rachel Johnson has taken the trouble to get her history right and in among an entertaining story and an intriguing what-really-happened puzzle there is much to think about after you have put the book down.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Interesting book, 14 Aug 2013
By 
A. L. Pion - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Winter Games (Paperback)
Fascinating book especially as I knew an elderly friend who spent time in Munich before the second world war. However, I didn't think the book was particularly well written or edited.
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4.0 out of 5 stars A Good Read, 12 July 2013
By 
John Richard "camban99" (Hull, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Winter Games (Hardcover)
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An enjoyable tale of two generations of the same English family and the effects of the times they lived through as the younger generation investigates the life and times of the older generation in order to discover her true progeny, particularly during the strange atmosphere of 1930s Germany.
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Winter Games
Winter Games by Rachel Johnson (Hardcover - 1 Nov 2012)
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