Born at the turn of the twentieth century, Peter and Paul start life in the Imperial Berlin of their patriarchal Prussian father and his American wife, Veronica, who is loyal to the point of self-negation. After a privileged childhood, the boys’ lives are claimed by their paternal legacy, which is also that of Germany. Both Peter and Paul fight in World War I and return with more than physical wounds to the wreckage of their old world and the challenge of determining the direction of the troubled new democracy.
Brotherly love is the only stable element in their relationship enduring through Peter’s marriage to an American Jew, Lottie, and Paul’s search for personal comfort, which ends in his sliding behind a Gestapo desk. Their ways remain separate, however, until the final showdown at the Nuremberg Trials, when Peter has to weigh his loyalty to his brother and his homeland against the idea of an Allied demonstration of justice.
What makes WINTER such a special work is its masterful portrayal of the German Zeitgeist of almost half a century; Deighton is at home in “his” Berlin. Spice is added when the author occasionally introduces his special metier, espionage. Further, Veronica’s brother, Glenn Rensselaer, provides WINTER with an Anglo-Saxon perspective against which the reader can measure the point of view of the “decent” German represented by Peter Winter, who struggles against the Nazis yet remains loyal to his troubled fatherland--and to his brother, whose perfidy is portrayed along with the horrors of the Holocaust, to which people such as Paul contributed.