I wish more writers would show their personal connection to their subjects. This warmth and quirk does nothing to detract from the rigour and insight of Winder’s writing; on the contrary, it makes it more memorable.   Gustavus Adolphus can never be a mere ‘King of Sweden’ to me, but a hero deserving of his own beer mat.

‘Gustavus Adolphus, intervened in the war to help fellow Protestants. The effect was astounding and I can never look at my Gustavus Adolphus beer mat without emotion.’

Source: Simon Winder, Germania (London, Picador, 2011), p. 176

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