Winter (A German Family 1899-1945) - 1987

The essential back-story to the Samson triple trilogy

Plot summary

The American-German Winter family has a comfortable life in Berlin, which changes dramatically in the thirties when the Nazi’s assume power. Friends and family must all adjust and, in some cases, take advantage of the change in culture and opportunities for social advancement. The main character Paul Winter is ambiguous: a bureaucrat in the Nazi machine, yet liberal and hard working and honest and in some ways a victim of circumstances. War creates the ultimate test for the brothers, on different sides, and Deighton demonstrates how it changes lives for ever.

Why it's enjoyable

This is a prequel to the Game Set & Match trilogy, though it only makes sense in its position between London Match and Spy Hook. It creates a back history for Lisl Hennig, Bret Renssellaer, Werner Volkman's mother and Bernard Samson's father in wartime-Berlin, lives which are only hinted at in the trilogy. A Berlin view of the Nazi’s rise presents a truer picture of the reality and the attitude of the German people than many historians - who portray the Germans as 100% enthusiastic Nazis - have done. We also learn the truth of the source of the close relationship between Werner Volkmann and Lisl Hennig. The parallel but radically different lives of the Winter sons, Paul and Peter, foreshadow the coming conflict. It is a wartime 'family divided' story, but also portrays well how easily the German population adjusted to life under a Nazi dictatorship.

Sample dialogue

'"The next time the Reds try to take over Berlin, you'll see," said Pauli. He put on his field-grey overcoat and steel helmet and tightened the strap under his chin before reaching for his belt and pistol.

"What's that crooked cross sign you've painted on your helmet?" his father asked.

"It's called a swastika. Many of the Freikorps unit weat it to distinguish us from the regular army."

"Be very careful, Paul. Remember what happened to your brother."

Pauli did remember. Peter had been beaten up just because of the 'imperial insignia' on his officer's uniform. Many army and navy officers had been similarly beaten - and several murdered - by jeering and catcalling thugs who were determined to blame the officer class for the war and its outcome.'

Related fact

On the inside dustcover flap, Winter is described as the 'fourth book of the trilogy', introducing as it does many of the minor characters who featured in Game, Set & Match.

Winter

Winter, UK first edition, 1987

Deighton the early adopter

"In Vienna I spotted in a stationery shop when I spotted a smally gray 'typewriter', that turned out to be Hewlett Packard's radical new product. It was the world's first laptop, a unique, strange and awkward beast. I started writting the book on it"