Thursday, March 8, 2012

Winter: A Berlin Family 1899-1945 by Len Deighton

This novel by Len Deighton was written following the first Bernard Samson trilogy, Berlin Game, Mexico Set, and London Match (reviews here and here). In a sense, it is a prequel to those books. It provides some background information on a few of the characters that are prominent in the trilogy. That was a major motivator in my decision to read it. And I did enjoy it from that point of view, as a look back at what came before. The Game, Set, and Match trilogy takes place in the 1980’s in London and Berlin (primarily); Winter is set in the first half of that century. But this novel stood well on its own.

 Winter is the story of two German brothers, both born around the beginning of the twentieth century. Both grow up in Germany, and both fight on the German side in World War I.  By the end of World War II, the brothers end up on different sides, one a member of the Nazi party, the other working for the Allies. This is believable in part because they are half American by birth. Their mother is from a wealthy American family, the father is a well-to-do German industrialist.

Deighton uses this story of family and friends to show the rise of the Nazi party in Germany and how it affected Germans and how they dealt with the changes in their society. There are some limitations. The story focuses on the wealthy family and does not spend much time on how Germans of lower classes were affected. Because the novel covers events over such a long span of time (1900 - 1945), characters were not always fully fleshed out, some periods and events were glossed over. Even at 571 pages, the author could not cover everything. The book ends at the Nuremberg trials.

What did I like about Winter?

The topic of World War II and Germany is a favorite of mine; thus, I found it very interesting and illuminating. Reading the book gave me a better perspective of the events in Germany's history and broadened my knowledge in that area. From what I have read, the author did a lot of research on this book. The limitations I note above are not criticisms. I enjoyed the book from beginning to end.

Reading this book makes me want to read other books on the subject. I am currently reading The Company of Strangers by Robert Wilson (a spy novel which begins in the early 1940’s and continues into the Cold War). My husband has a lot of non-fiction books about this time period. I would like to read In the Garden of Beasts: Love, Terror, and an American Family in Hitler's Berlin by Erik Larsen, and Richard J. Evan's Third Reich trilogy, especially The Coming of the Third Reich.

This counts as one of my books for the following challenges:
Mt. TBR Challenge
Read Your Own Books Challenge
A-Z Challenge
Chunkster Challenge
European Challenge


neer said...

I read this quite a while ago and don't remember much about it except for the brothers being on opposite sides. Had no idea it was a prequel of sorts.

Nan said...

I really, really need/want to read all the Len Deighton books. Another German subject I am very interested in is East Germany in the Stasi time. It is an Inspector Lewis episode that drew me to it - Music to Die For.

TracyK said...

The books by Len Deighton that are related to Germany are very good, Nan. I loved all of the Bernard Samson books, I could reread them all again. I want to read more about German history around that time too, although I have found some non-fiction books very depressing to read.

Ann Summerville said...

That sounds an interesting look into German families during the war. I'll add it to my list.

Katrina said...

I loved this one too. I must dig another Deighton book out of our garage soon.

TracyK said...

I was very impressed with this book and hope to read it again someday, Katrina. I still haven't read SS-GB which has been on my shelves for a while. said...

I’ve got a few Deighton books on my Kindle, and really must start reading them - it’s easy to be distracted by the latest novels rather than enjoying those authors whose work has stood the test of time. You’ve inspired me to investigate his work next. Thanks for the review.

TracyK said...

I hope you do try something by Deighton, Crimeworm. I really like his writing and I have more of his to read myself.

cirtnecce said...

This was such a great book....I had picked it up on a whim and found such an amazing peice of fiction. I am glad you liked it and wish this book had more recognition that is so deserves!

TracyK said...

I agree with you on Winter by Len Deighton. I read quite a few of Deighton's books beginning in 2012 but haven't read one in the last year or so. Will have to do so. I could reread this one, and hope I have time to do that someday.