Winter Games, by Rachel Johnson, Fig Tree, RRP£14.99, 336 pages
Londoner Francie Fitzsimon is privileged, affluent and bored. Neither her marriage nor her career as a journalist gives her any excitement, and she starts an affair with her sleazy boss.
While in Bavaria on a dull business trip, Francie is astonished to come across a photograph of Daphne, her grandmother, consorting with Hitler. Keen to discover more about her family’s history – not to mention a juicy story for her magazine – she decides to investigate.
Winter Games’ leisurely narrative alternates between Francie’s middle-class dilemmas and Daphne’s experiences as a bewildered debutante in 1930s Germany. By the juxtaposition, Johnson perhaps intended to show up the vacuity of modern life as compared with the sacrifices of an earlier generation. But the novel is sorely lacking in bite, and judging by her admiring descriptions of luxury brands – from Burberry to Nespresso – Johnson is herself rather taken with the lifestyle she affects to satirise.