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Winter is an intresting book that takes a fictional look at the lives surrounding one German family between the years of 1899-1945. It begins at the time of the Nurenberg Trials and then flashes back as two brothers find themselves on opposing sides of the War whilst still attempting to keep the bonds that tie them both together!
Peter and his younger brother, Pauli, have always been close but when their boat capsizes one afternoon whilst the pair are on a lake and the boys almost drown, the two form a bond that will last the rest of their lives. When the First World War erupts, Peter joins the German Navy as part of the Zeppelin force and Pauli goes off to fight on the Front-Line in the trenches. This affects the brothers in different ways and has great impact on their characters and their future. Peter once more faces death when his Zeppelin goes down after a bombing raid whilst Pauli constantly looks death firmly between the eyes on a regular basis as he sees the War at its dirtiest and most dangerous. And when the War is over and Armistace declared, the two find themselves drifting politically apart. As the years go on, Peter takes himself a Jewish wife whilst Pauli finds himself finding favour with the up and coming Nazi movement. And then War breaks out once more.....
Described as a book that "finally reveals why the German people turned towards the Nazis in such great numbers", this novel from acclaimed author, Len Deighton, is also supposed to be the fourth chapter of the Game, Set and Match trilogy. This is because it features the appearances of several characters whose descendants appear in these much later novels. For example, Brian Samson is the father of Bernard Samson ~ the MI6 Operative who is the main character in Berlin Game, Mexico Set and London Match. Of course, the connection however is quite tenuous and only real fans will probably pick up the relation between Winter and these other novels.
As to the claim that this book explains a lot of the rationale behind why the German people turned towards the Nazis, to this I would disagree. Although the book does partly look at this and though events of the two Wars form a backdrop to what happens in the novel, the story is, at many times, more about the two brothers than at taking a historical look at Germany's past. Many of the biggest events are glossed over and unless you have more than just a passing knowledge already of what happened during this period of almost fifty years, some readers may find events going on around them a little hard to follow. Although there is an intresting look at times from several different viewpoints, including Jewish civilians caught up in the widespread hatred and loathing that is thrown at their faith, I never really felt any sympathy or empathy with any of the characters and though this was an intresting book, I never felt as though I really connected with anyone caught up in it.
This is a shame as I have enjoyed many of Deighton's novels in the past but just found this book all a little wishy-washy. It is good and an interesting read but, unlike something like Wild Swans (which was a real-life account of one family's history under Mao's rule in China and the closest book I can compare this to) I was never really pulled into Deighton's semi-fictional world.
If you want an interesting novel about WWII, I would recommend something like Sebastian Faulks' Charlotte Grey as I found this a much better read. Winter was okay but, excuse the pun, it left me feeling more than just a little bit cold and the ending paticulary disappointed; reading as it did as if the author simply knew not how to bring this all to an end!
It is a real shame but though this is good, it could've been so much better......