Winter in Madrid

winter-in-madrid.jpgC. J. Sansom’s Winter in Madrid is a much longer affair altogether, coming in at well over 500 pages. And yet it probably took me no longer to read than At Swim-Two-Birds at less than half the length. The plot moves apace, very much at the speed of the thriller that it is on one level, yet what impressed me was the level of historical detail and context that gives the novel its texture. Sansom sets the story in Spain during the early years of the Franco dictatorship, in the aftermath of the bloody civil war and when Spain is teetering on the edge of joining the European war on the side of Hitler and Mussolini. The historical background is vivid and evocative, yet Sansom is admirable in his restraint – he doesn’t tell us too much, doesn’t overegg the pudding. He doesn’t let anything, ultimately, get in the way of the story. I was reading an article in The Observer a couple of weeks ago by Philip Pullman. His argument was that all novels are a balance between ‘literature’ and ‘narrative’. He wasn’t arguing that the quality of the novel was dependent on the balance being towards any one of these polarities, but simply stating a fact, as he saw it. Indeed, he was really responding to criticisms that The Golden Compass, the new film version of his book The Northern Lights had dumbed down the novel. He argued that this was inevitable, since the Hoollywood form simply demands more narrative than literature – again a fact – and suggested that the film should be watched (and judged) for what it was and not for what it wasn’t. Reading Winter in Madrid, I felt that the story always had the upper hand, but the literature was never that far behind. Another one I would recommend.


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2 responses to “Winter in Madrid

  1. afray

    Congratulations on the blog, Mike. It looks great and reads very well.

    One thing you should try to do is to add a button to your rss feed. It allows people to subscribe to your new entries without having to check the blog constantly. WordPress automatically created you a feed at [], but you have to know where to find it to subscribe to it.

    Tags are also good for increasing readership, so you should at least start tagging entries with the book and author. WordPress has an article here [] on how to increase readership.

  2. profmike

    Thanks, Andrew. Glad you like it. This is all very new to me so thanks for the handy hints which I’ll try.

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