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Dominion Kindle Edition

3.9 out of 5 stars 1,252 customer reviews

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Length: 604 pages Word Wise: Enabled Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled
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Review

‘C. J. Sansom takes a break from his Shardlake series to offer Dominion, an absorbing, thoughtful, spy-politico thriller set in the fog-ridden London of 1952. Not, however, the year as it is usually remembered. Sansom has attempted a difficult format ― the “what if?” novel. What if, in 1940, Lord Halifax became prime minister instead of Churchill? Britain would have made peace with Hitler, Sansom answers, and by 1952 become a totalitarian state, with Germany, acting as puppet-master rather than invader, setting the scene. Churchill, in hiding, is leader of a resistance movement, to which the hero of Dominion, David Fitzgerald, a civil servant hiding his Jewishness, belongs. Part adventure, part espionage, all encompassed by terrific atmosphere and a well-argued “it might have been”’ Marcel Berlins, The Times

‘An intriguing thriller set in an alternative Britain under the Nazis cunningly reanimates the post-war years as they might have been . . . What if the second world war had ended not in 1945, but in 1940? In this haunting, vividly imagined novel by C. J. Sansom, the hinge on which history turns is the resignation of Neville Chamberlain in May 1940. . . As in the Shardlake novels, set in Tudor England, for which he is best known, Sansom is an admirably expansive and unhurried storyteller. His characters are all given personal histories and richly detailed pasts that serve to provide them with a depth more usually associated with literary fiction than the thriller. Their conversations do more than just drive forward the plot: they help to give substance and reality to the world they inhabit. The alternative Britain that Sansom constructs, a brilliant amalgam of the 1950s as they actually were and as they might have been, is entirely convincing. Throwaway details cleverly add verisimilitude to his portrait. The tale he sets within his parallel universe is at once exciting, sophisticated and moving. There will be few better historical novels published this year’ Sunday Times

‘This is a big novel with traces of a thriller, in which the good are good and the bad are very bad indeed . . . For readers who enjoy a grown-up adventure story Dominion is evocative, alarming and richly satisfying’ Daily Express

‘Masterly . . . sketched with hallucinatory clarity . . . Sansom, whose Tudor mysteries showed his feeling for the plight of good people in a brutal, treacherous society, builds his nightmare Britain from the sooty bricks of truth . . . From the thuggish "Auxies" who beat up protestors to the apolitical rebellion of the "Jive Boys", every note in Sansom's smoggy hell rings true . . .No bulldog defiance in 1940; no weary triumph in 1945; no dogged renewal with the post-war Welfare State: Dominion shows us what a truly broken Britain would look, and feel, like’ Boyd Tonkin, Independent

‘A thriller which is also, and perhaps primarily, a work of alternative or counter-factual history, set in 1952 . . . in the manner of Robert Harris’s Fatherland. There are fine things a-plenty here, and the plot unfolds compellingly and gallops along briskly. C. J. Sansom has brought off a nice double, writing a good thriller which invites you to ponder the different course history might have taken’ Allan Massie, Scotsman

‘C. J. Sansom is fascinated by the abuse of power, so it's not surprising that, hot on the heels of his splendid Shardlake series, comes a novel set in a post-war Britain dominated by Nazi ideology . . . There have been a number of other novels imagining this kind of alternate history – Robert Harris's Fatherland, Owen Sheers' Resistance, Len Deighton's SS-GB and, for children, Sally Gardner's Maggot Moon. All are outstanding in different ways but Sansom's Dominion is the most thoroughly imagined in all its ramifications. Like Harris, Sansom has woven a thriller with the tale of a man's growth into moral courage, but he has done it with the compassion and richness that many literary writers should emulate. Every detail of this nightmare Britain rings true . . . As in Sansom's Winter in Madrid, the clash between compassion and political conviction is dramatised. David's looks and talent make him as freakish in his way as frail, disabled Frank, and the friendship between someone who can survive institutions and someone who cannot is one of the most affecting aspects of the novel . . . Naturally, the weather is awful, and obliges with a choking, oily fog as our heroes battle against hideous odds to get to safety. But both as a historical novel and a thriller, Dominion is absorbing, mordant and written with a passionate persuasiveness . . . Bravo!’ Independent on Sunday

‘One of the thrills of Dominion is to see a writer whose previous talent has been for the captivating dramatisation of real history (in his five books about the Tudor sleuth, Matthew Shardlake, and the Spanish civil war novel Winter in Madrid) creating an invented mid-20th century Britain that has the intricate detail and delineation of JRR Tolkien's Middle Earth . . .A tremendous novel that shakes historical preconceptions while also sending shivers down the spine’ Mark Lawson, Guardian

‘The chase is exciting and the action thrilling, but the really absorbing part of this excellent book is the detailed creation of a society that could so easily have existed’ Literary Review

‘Fans of Robert Harris will love this’ Mail on Sunday

Book Description

The Great Smog. London. A dense, choking fog engulfs the city and beneath it, history is re-written . . .

Product details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 1595 KB
  • Print Length: 604 pages
  • Publisher: Mantle; Open market ed edition (25 Oct. 2012)
  • Sold by: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0230744168
  • ISBN-13: 978-0230744165
  • ASIN: B008PQ8UX0
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Enabled
  • Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars 1,252 customer reviews
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #3,267 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By C. E. Utley TOP 1000 REVIEWER on 30 Oct. 2012
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I am a great admirer of Sansom's Shardlake novels. He has a thorough understanding of Tudor England and his stories set in that era are wonderful to read. This novel is a considerable change for him.

The story, what he calls an "alternate history", is set in 1952 (the year of his birth and - as it happens - mine). Britain had negotiated a peace treaty with Hitler in 1940. The war in the west ended then, though it lumbered on in the east. By 1952 Russia and Germany are still at war. But Britain is run by a pro-treaty government which has outlawed the opposition. Germany is Britain's closest ally. The government has become more and more authoritarian. At the time the story is set, all British Jews are being rounded up with the aim of sending them to eastern Europe to be gassed. Churchill, the leader of the resistance, is a wanted man, running from large country house to large country house to escape the Special Branch. The British police willingly give their assistance to the SS. British subjects are routinely taken to the basement of the German embassy to be tortured.

Against that background we meet the story's main characters. Frank Muncaster is a slightly unhinged geologist whose brother, a scientist working in America on secret weapons, blurts out something to Frank about the work he is doing in America. Frank is horrified. He pushes his brother through a window and, as a result, is dragged off to a lunatic asylum. David Fitzgerald is Frank's only real friend from university days. He is a civil servant. He has worked for the resistance for a couple of years, copying secret documents. When his relationship with Frank is discovered the resistance enlists his help in getting Frank out of the asylum before the Germans get hold of him. The adventure is on its way.
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As others have comprehensively (and repeatedly) detailed the plot, setting and comparison to Deighton’s ‘SS-GB' and Harris’s ‘Fatherland’, the two works by which all others are judged, I’ll just give my opinions:

PROS:
-- Very plausible alternative history scenario of how creeping Fascism might have overtaken Britain if Halifax had become PM and cut a deal in 1940.
-- Easily readable, decent ear for dialogue.
-- Occasionally gives credible and chilling glimpses of what life in Britain would have been like under German domination.

CONS
-- Has more plot holes than a sieve (if you can’t see them they’re not holes, but here’s one: why did David’s father tell him about his mother’s ancestry if both parents knew it would be dangerous knowledge ?). This sort of clumsiness occasionally detracts from the verisimilitude of the plot. The problem extends to levels of characterisation too: why would David, a man who supposedly saw action in Norway, be so timid in his repeated concern of and reference to the pistol in Natalia’s pocket ? No-one with military experience would give it a second thought, especially when they’re supposed to be in a life-or-death situation.

-- Secondary characters are very sketchily drawn and occasionally unbelievable (Geoff exists only on the page, and Natalia comes across as more of as a mechanism for moving the plot along than a well-rounded figure).

-- Needs around 60 pages editing from it to weed out superfluous plot and occasionally flabby dialogue. A skilled editor would have made this a much better book, and I think an author as good as Sansom deserves a skilled editor.

-- I’m a die-hard lefty, but even I think 'Dominion' slanders Enoch Powell in claiming he would have supported a Fascist government.
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This is a "what might have been" novel - what might have happened had Churchill not gained power at a critical moment and the government continued a policy of appeasement. It is set in 1952, 12 years after a treaty is made with Germany. In the intervening years Britain has become an authoritarian state which increasingly collaborates with the German Nazi government. There has also been a growing British Resistance under Churchill. The main characters are highlighted against this backdrop as they become part of a web to prevent critical information from falling into the hands of the Germans.

This is not a Shardlake novel, don't start reading it thinking it is going to be an exquisitely crafted Tudor murder mystery. This is an equally well crafted but thought provoking book which requires the reader to imagine an alternative history for Britain and it is Sansom's alternative history, not the reader's. From the many divided reviews about this book one can see that Sansom's ideas about how history might have panned out are not to everybody's taste. Sansom has placed real historical figures into his revised landscape and readers are going to have widely differing opinions as to whether these characters should occupy these places and propound the ideologies that are given to them in this alternate history.

But if you can abandon yourself to Sansom's alternate history you can find a provocative read that is steeped in the gloom and desperation of his revised landscape just like the Great Smog of 1952 which looms evocatively in the plot. The characters are flawed and real, fanatics and pacifists, they grow and shrink as they are buffeted by the events. It makes for a real and desperate world which you leave at the end of the book with a sigh of relief that it is only what might have been and not what did happen.
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