Tagged: Berlin Game

Mini review: “Winter: A Berlin Family 1899-1945” by Len Deighton (audiobook version)

winter_audiobook_cover

Winter is a prequel to Len Deighton’s three trilogies featuring weathered English spy Bernard Samson.  The inside cover of my old copy of the printed book explains why it is the “fourth book of the trilogy“, meaning that it should be read between the “Game, Set and Match” and “Hook, Line and Sinker” trilogies.

I read the trilogies for the first time over a decade ago and did not read Winter until later – I did not know about it at the time.

Over the last couple of years the books have been re-issued as audiobooks and I listened to them as they came out.”Game, Set and Match” came out in 2014 / early 2015, “Hook, Line and Sinker” followed later in 2015.  Winter was not released until February 2016 which means that it has not been possible to listen to the books in their correct reading order until now .  If you are interested in reading the Bernard Samson series then read Winter in its rightful place: fourth.

You won’t be disappointed.

The book is brilliant.  It is the best book in the Samson saga (although the masterful Spy Sinker comes close).  It is at this point in the proceedings  that you start to realise the depth of planning that the author has gone to when putting this saga together.

Winter is very rewarding if you have read the preceding Samson stories. Getting to know Bernard’s father Brian and Werner’s father Isaac sheds more light on these central characters.  Then there are the characters who only appear as old people in the trilogies – you get to see them in their youth.  Certain influential characters from the trilogies have walk-on roles, giving you an idea of how they start out.

The story begins at the turn of the 20th century with the birth of a second son to Harold Winter, a German businessman.  Winter is the story of the two brothers, with the focus on the younger son Paul.  You follow their experiences as they grow up, through the first World War, the inter-war years and the second World War.

The eldest son, Peter, has an artistic streak and goes to work in the company firm.  Paul goes into the military, has a dreadful experience in World War 1 and becomes a lawyer and a bureaucrat in the Nazi party.

One of the special aspects of this story is how it depicts the rise of the Nazis and how the German people turned to their political point of view.  It is very unsettling seeing how the treatment of Jews moved from persecution to extermination and how the Nazi leadership seized control, stamping out any sign of dissent.

A strength of the book is how you can like the character of Paul and be sympathetic towards him yet you are increasingly appalled by his actions and attitudes.

You also get to experience the war from a German perspective, which becomes particularly impactful as you head towards the end of the story and see how the Germans themselves suffered through the devastation caused by RAF bombing of cities and huge losses on the battlefield.  The Russian invasion of Germany was carried out without mercy. (This is also highlighted in Field Grey by Philip Kerr).

A word about the narration: the book is read by the same narrator as all the other Bernard Samson novels so you are listening to a voice you are already familiar with.  He does the job well, as professionally as ever.  However, there is one oddity here that I found initially off-putting: the text often mentions the different regional accents of Germany and how they sound to people from other parts of the country.  To get over this point the narrator does not try to have the characters talking with different German accents but instead uses “equivalent” British accents.  You get used to it but it is strange at first, and is particularly jarring right at the start of the story as you are immediately assaulted by a very distinct regional English accent.  It’s not what you expect when you start listening to a book set in early 20th century Germany.  I could understand how some listeners might not be able to get over this stylistic hurdle, although I can see why the decision was made to present the narration in this way.

Also see…

The “Game, Set and Match” trilogy:

• Spare Cycles: Mini review: “Berlin Game” by Len Deighton (audiobook version)

• Spare Cycles: Mini review: “Mexico Set” by Len Deighton (audiobook version)

• Spare Cycles: Mini review: “London Match” by Len Deighton (audiobook version)

The “Hook, Line and Sinker” trilogy:

• Spare Cycles: Mini review: “Spy Hook” by Len Deighton (audiobook version)

• Spare Cycles: Mini review: “Spy Line” by Len Deighton (audiobook version)

• Spare Cycles: Mini review: “Spy Sinker” by Len Deighton (audiobook version)

Other:

• Spare Cycles: Len Deighton books (my original reviews of the books)

• Harper Collins: Len Deighton audiobooks

 

Winter (A Berlin Family 1899 – 1945): “The Fourth Book of the Trilogy”

Winter

I’ve started reading Len Deighton’s “Winter: A Berlin Famiy 1899 – 1945” to get more background to the Bernard Samson trilogies “Game, Set and Match” and “Hook, Line and Sinker”.  It takes me time to sit down and read a book – hence my liking for audiobooks – so don’t expect a review any time soon, but I noticed this description on the inside front cover:

The Fourth Book of the Trilogy:

Readers of Len Deighton’s Game, Set and Match trilogy (set in the 1980s) will be pleased to discover in Winter some people they know already such as Lisl Henning, the hotel proprietor and her bridge partner Lothar Koch.  Here too are friends and relatives: Werner Volkmann’s father and Bernard Samson’s father both play important parts in the story, so does Bret Rensselaer’s step-father.  Readers will recognise many other old friends from the previous stories and see why Winter is indeed the fourth book of the trilogy.

Ideally this book should be read between the two trilogies…

Also see:

• Spare Cycles: Mini review: “Berlin Game” by Len Deighton (audiobook version)

• Spare Cycles: Mini review: “Mexico Set” by Len Deighton (audiobook version)

• Spare Cycles: Mini review: “London Match” by Len Deighton (audiobook version)

• Spare Cycles: Mini review: “Spy Hook” by Len Deighton (audiobook version)

• Spare Cycles: Len Deighton books

• Harper Collins: Len Deighton audiobooks

Mini review: “London Match” by Len Deighton (audiobook version)

london_match_audiobook_cover

When I first read London Match – the final part of the “Game, Set and Match” trilogy by Len Deighton – about 13 years ago I thought it was the least exciting of the three books.  However, now I have had a chance to read (listen) to the book again I have changed my mind.  It is as strong as the others, but different.  There is a lot of detailed storytelling going on.

We are dealing now with the full-on repercussions of what has come before.  Bernard suspects there is a second mole in the London office and suspicion falls in particular on one member of staff, although Bernard himself is not out of the woods yet either.  There are also doubts about the Russian defector Eric Stinnes.  Could he still be working for Moscow?

Where originally I thought that the book got muddled in the middle section, I can now see that there is a lot of office politics going on.  Many people are jostling for position and are determined not to be held responsible for failures when the music stops.

In the early stages there is a lot of history thrown in as conversation which is well integrated and very interesting.  Also, having read all three trilogies featuring the main character Bernard Samson and knowing the ultimate outcome of the entire story it is fascinating to pick up on some of the actions of the characters.

This makes you appreciate the scale of Len Deighton’s ingenuity at telling a story at such length.  I would highly recommend this series to anyone.

Also see…

• Spare Cycles: Mini review: “Berlin Game” by Len Deighton (audiobook version)

• Spare Cycles: Mini review: “Mexico Set” by Len Deighton (audiobook version)

• Spare Cycles: Review: London Match (original review of the book)

• Spare Cycles: Len Deighton books

• Harper Collins: Len Deighton audiobooks

Len Deighton audiobooks coming in 2015…

hook_line_sinker_covers

2014 was a good year for releases of Len Deighton audiobooks, with the arrival of several of the “Spy with no name”/”Harry Palmer” books and the “Game, Set and Match” trilogy.

The next books in the series form the “Hook, Line and Sinker” trilogy and I’m really pleased to see that they will be released as audiobooks in 2015:

Sy Hook: January

Spy Line:  April

Spy Sinker:  June

The “Faith, Hope and Charity” trilogy also starts with Faith coming out in August 2015.  I’m not sure if I will listen to this trilogy as I don’t think it is as strong as the first two, but I may well be sucked in.

It looks like 2015 is going to be a brilliant year for Len Deighton fans who love to listen to their fiction.  The great SS-GB – although not part of the Bernard Samson story – is also coming in January 2015.  I get the impression that I’ll be keeping my Audible subscription active for a while to come…

Also see…

• Spare Cycles: Mini review: “Berlin Game” by Len Deighton (audiobook version)

• Spare Cycles: Mini review: “Mexico Set” by Len Deighton (audiobook version)

• Spare Cycles: Review: London Match (original review of the book)

• Spare Cycles: Len Deighton books

• Harper Collins: Len Deighton audiobooks

Mini review: “Mexico Set” by Len Deighton (audiobook version)

mexico_set_audiobook_cover

The is the second book in Len Deighton’s “Game, Set and Match” trilogy.  Bernard is sent to Mexico City to convince his Russian adversary Eric Stinnes to defect.  Upon his return to London the personal impact of the events of the first book become very apparent.

It does not take long for the plot to warm up and for the wry sense of humour to permeate the story.  The tension mounts as does the death toll.

This is one of the first spy stories I read, back in 2003.  My original review is here.  Spoiler: I really liked it.  And I still do.

Stick around at the end for the author’s note – it’s worth it and it puts this book in perspective when you consider it is an early book in a series of three trilogies (and a standalone history, Winter, which provides background to the whole story).  If you are planning on reading more of the series, start thinking about what Bernard doesn’t know…

I love that these books are being released (slowly…) as audiobooks.  It gives me a chance to re-read them whilst experiencing them in a new way.   It makes sense that the same narrator is used for all three books of the trilogy and he now seems very comfortable with the character of Bernard Samson and Bernard’s rhythm when telling the story.  It is very well done.  Deighton’s story-telling comes across as effortless and the narration does well to reflect this.

Also see…

• Spare Cycles: Mini review: “Berlin Game” by Len Deighton (audiobook version)

Mini review: “Berlin Game” by Len Deighton (audiobook version)

berlin_game_audiobook

I rarely read a book twice – let alone review it twice – but this popped up on Audible out of the blue and I could not resist.  Berlin Game was the first book I read in the espionage genre and led me to read the majority of Len Deighton’s books.

That was over a decade ago now and it was with some trepidation that I started listening.  What if the book is not as good as I remembered?  What if I found that the book has dated or that it does not compare with books I have read since?

No such problems here, I’m pleased to say.  I loved being back in Bernard Samson’s company.

In relation to the narration: the narrator is the same person who also did the recent “Spy with no name”/”Harry Palmer” novels.  He does a very good job, handles accents and place names well.  It was a little jarring at first as it did not sound like the Bernard Samson voice I had in my head when reading the books the first time round, but that soon went away.

The good news is that the remainder of the trilogy is also coming out in audio format.  Mexico Set is due out in October 2014 and London Match is out in December.  From what I remember, Mexico Set is even better than Berlin Game, so I can’t wait…