Genres: Fiction, Mystery & Detective
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1952. Twelve years have passed since Churchill lost to the appeasers, and Britain surrendered to Nazi Germany after Dunkirk. As the long German war against Russia rages on in the east, the British people find themselves under dark authoritarian rule: the press, radio and television are controlled; the streets patrolled by violent auxiliary police and British Jews face ever greater constraints. There are terrible rumours too about what is happening in the basement of the German Embassy at Senate House. Defiance, though, is growing. In Britain, Winston Churchill's Resistance organisation is increasingly a thorn in the government's side. And in a Birmingham mental hospital an incarcerated scientist, Frank Muncaster, may hold a secret that could change the balance of the world struggle forever. Civil Servant David Fitzgerald, secretly acting as a spy for the Resistance, is given by them the mission to rescue his old friend Frank and get him out of the country. Before long he, together with a disparate group of Resistance activists, will find themselves fugitives in the midst of London’s Great Smog; as David’s wife Sarah finds herself drawn into a world more terrifying than she ever could have imagined. And hard on their heels is Gestapo Sturmbannfuhrer Gunther Hoth, brilliant, implacable hunter of men . . . At once a vivid, haunting reimagining of 1950s Britain, a gripping, humane spy thriller and a poignant love story – with DOMINION C. J. Sansom once again asserts himself as the master of the historical novel.
It was truly fascinating reading C.J. Sansom’s international bestseller, Dominion, as the crisis in Ukraine and Crimea escalates. Fascinating because it’s like watching an alternative version of history unfolding before our eyes. Haven’t we before seen men hungry for power try to invade countries? Well imagine a world where Winston Churchill did not become Prime Minister of Britain in 1940. Imagine a world where the men in charge of Britain agreed to appease Germany — in other words Hitler and Nazi Germany! — and now Britain is ruled by an authoritarian government, which is heavily influenced by the Fascists. This is the premise behind Dominion and it’s utterly fascinating to see how a little change in events could have so heavily impacted of our world.
Dominion begins in 1952 with Hitler still alive and Jews still being forced to identify themselves publicly with an identifying patch. Now the interesting part of this alternative history is that Sansom looks at the question of what could have happened during World War II and how might our lives have changed. In all honesty that is the absolute genius of this novel. Sansom heavily researched the history of the 1930s-1950s, changed one component and in essence changed everything. By creating a world where Britain does not enter World War II, it becomes occupied by Hitler’s regime. By creating this world, America stays out of the war too and remains completely isolated. Crafting a novel like a chess game and moving these pieces around — thinking five moves ahead of you — Sansom has executed both a well-thought out story but also a plot that compels you to keep reading.
At its heart, Dominion is a story with a human element and that is ultimately the driving force propelling this story forward. By taking broad and rather complex ideals and distilling them down to their primal essence, by showing us how real and frightening it would be to live in this world, we are deeply affected by Sansom’s characters. It’s inspiring to see why people decide to join Churchill’s Resistance and horrifying to see the prejudice and cruelty of others.
Dominion is a complex book that shows in a microsecond how the trajectory of our world can change; how we are at the mercy of fickle men with their egos and actions; and how the actions of few can alter the lives of so many.