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Moving Portayal of Spain,
This review is from: Winter in Madrid (Paperback)
This is a good book.
It's a mix between a historical novel and a thriller, but don't expect something by Lee Child: it's not fast-paced nor populated with supermen; it's a bit more considered than that and yet I was still gripped. The characters are generally well-crafted (Sandy is a bit of a pantomime villain), the atmosphere created is convincing and, because of the situation in Madrid at the time, also moving. I read it in three days, staying up late on the last night because I didn't want to go to bed without finding out what was going to happen to these characters that I cared about.
It has been compared to the excellent The Shadow of the Wind by Ruiz Zafón, but that's maybe a little misleading. The similarities are that the story takes place in Spain in the period after the Civil War, leading to obvious correspondences in the social situation in which the stories unfold, and that there is an element of suspense to both, but that's it really. The Shadow of the Wind has elements of Greek tragedy, there are some flashes of humour and it's also a ghost story to some extent. Sansom plays it a bit straighter and so Winter in Madrid is a bit more rooted in reality.
There has been some criticism in some reviews about a lack of authenticity (one bizarre criticism was about the characters using powdered milk in their coffee). I don't agree. I live in Spain and have a decent knowledge of Spanish history and I thought there were very few false steps. There are a few mistakes that should have been taken care of at the editing stage: the Spanish that occasionally appears isn't always perfect and there is a passage where Father Eduardo is talking and he suddenly becomes Father Jaime before becoming Eduardo again. But these are pretty minor issues really.
The best thing that I can say about this book is that it makes you want to know more about the time and place in which the story unfolds. As the author mentions in his note at the end, Spain's relationship with other countries during this period has been well covered but the situation within Spain during the 40s is much less well-known. This book goes some way to remedying this and for that it is to be applauded.
I'll be checking out Sansom's other books after this. Highly recommended.