Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

How Much Did Grannie Really Admire Adolf Hitler?

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

How Much Did Grannie Really Admire Adolf Hitler?

Article excerpt


WINTER GAMES by Rachel Johnson (Fig Tree, [pounds sterling]14.99) KATIE LAW WAS the Mayor of London's granny a Nazi sympathiser? That's the question everyone will be asking with the publication of Winter Games, the latest yarn from Boris Johnson's sister, Rachel. Never one to dodge a controversy, The Lady magazine's editor-in-chief has jumped in at the deep end once again with a novel about the attitudes of the English upper classes towards anti-Semitism and the rise of Hitler and the Third Reich during the Thirties and in particular the group of debs -- young rich English girls -- who were sent out for a season to pre-war Bavaria.

Dedicated to her maternal grandmother, Lady Fawcett (nee Beatrice Lowe), and her mother-inlaw, the Lady Margaret Stirling-A-ird (nee Boyle), whose time in Bavaria in the Thirties, Johnson says, is its inspiration, the book has been carefully researched, with Johnson having interviewed many people including Diana and Unity Mitfords' biographers.

The story begins in 1935. Beautiful young Daphne Linden has been sent by her father, a don at Merton College, Oxford (and incidentally a philanderer and a Jew of Russian-Lithuanian descent) to learn German and be "finished" at a Bavarian boarding school. From there, Daphne goes on to enjoy a season of Teutonic entertainments in Munich, where she's joined by her friend Betsy and the pair embark on a social whirligig of operas, skiing, balls and beer halls, chaperoned by the cream of the Hitler youth movement.

While Betsy likes the blond but brutal Siegmund, Daphne prefers his duskier cousin, Otto, so an invitation from Siegmund to stay in their family chalet in Garmisch and attend the Winter Olympic Games is irresistible. But as signs saying Juden Zutritt Verboten [ Jews forbidden admission] start going up in the stadium, a more personal assault takes place in Betsy's bedroom one night when Siegmund decides to pay her a surprise visit that changes everything. Daphne is sent home in disgrace, her friendships with both boys and Betsy shattered for ever.

Cut to 70 years later, 2006 in pre-recession London, and thirtysomething journalist Francie Fitzsimon is on a travel freebie at a Bavarian spa, endlessly checking her phone for texts from her boss, ghastly Nathan, whom she fancies, and ignoring those from Gus, her put-upon hubby, whom she doesn't. …

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