"Winter Games" is a dazzling tale of secrets and betrayal, and the perfect novel for fans of "The Bolter" by Frances Osborne, and all those fascinated by the Mitford sisters. Munich, 1936. She doesn't know it, but eighteen-year old Daphne Linden has a seat in the front row of history.
Along with her best friend, Betsy Barton-Hill, and a whole bevy of other young English upper-class girls, Daphne is in Bavaria to improve her German, to go to the Opera, to be 'finished'. It may be the Third Reich, but another war is unthinkable, and the girls are having the time of their lives. Aren't they?
London, 2006. Seventy years later and Daphne's granddaughter, Francie Fitzsimon has all the boxes ticked: large flat, successful husband, cushy job writing up holistic spas...The hardest decision she has to make is where to go for brunch - until, that is, the discovery of a photograph of Daphne sends her on a quest to discover what really happened to her grandmother in Germany, all those years ago. A dazzling tale of secrets and betrayal, "Winter Games" is powerful novel of innocent lives caught up in the march of history. "A rip-roaring read".
Rachel Johnson is participating in The National Archives Writer of the Month programme.
Staff Reviews 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 cotemporary 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 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.
Sally Hughes Assistant Retail Manager