Finally it seems we are past the ‘winter of discontent”, I speak climatically not economically of course, but it’s surprising how a little sunshine can make everybody feel better. Anyway, with this warm weather there is nothing like a new book by the deckchair. Nothing too heavy, one needs to be able to concentrate on the even distribution of tan lines, but something mildly diverting.
Rachel Johnson’s Winter Games fits the bill nicely. This charming bit of social commentary combines historical fiction with chick-lit. Francie Fitzsimon is a journalist for a glossy magazine on a bit of a jolly to write a puff piece about a Bavarian spa when she happens upon a picture of her grandmother with Hitler at the 1936 Winter Games. The story follows Francie’s quest to find out about a past her grandmother never spoke of. The setting switches between contemporary Notting Hill, all overpriced cappuccinos and outfits by Boden, and Bavaria in 1936 where the shiny promise of the new Germany is already revealing its darker, ugly side. The period detail of 1930s Germany is well-researched but, most entertainingly for the reader, Rachel wears her erudition lightly and this is first and foremost a ripping tale.