Sam Leith

The Appalling Snow

His Coldest Winter

By

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‘Into many a green valley’, Auden wrote, ‘Drifts the appalling snow…’ In 1962 the hardest winter for two centuries hit the English countryside, and the appalling snow drifts into the lives of Derek Beaven’s two protagonists. One is Alan Rae, whom we meet as he rides his new motorcycle home from London through the countryside, exhilarated and afraid. The other is Geoffrey Fairhurst, a young researcher who works with Alan’s father, Lionel (a wartime rocket scientist), at a laboratory where they are trying, essentially, to invent the microchip. Both know, but don’t quite allow themselves to know, that the business the laboratory is in is, one way or another, military.

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