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Dominion
 
 

Dominion [Kindle Edition]

C. J. Sansom
3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (991 customer reviews)

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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

Dominion is terrific. And no, this isn't one of those publisher-sponsored blurbs. I just fell in love with it. Nice and long, too. (Stephen King)

Product Description

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.

Product details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 919 KB
  • Print Length: 608 pages
  • Publisher: Mantle (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:
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (991 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #1,542 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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More About the Author

C. J. Sansom was educated at Birmingham University, where he took a BA and then a PhD in history. After working in a variety of jobs, he retrained as a solicitor and practised in Sussex, until becoming a full-time writer. He lives in Sussex.


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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
81 of 87 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Provocative 3 Feb 2013
By Bron
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
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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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Dull, predictable, stereotypical and slow 14 Jan 2013
Format:Hardcover
This is the first C. J. Sansom book I've read so I can't compare this to his other books. Although well researched the book falls down on so many levels. The main character David Fitzgerald is dull beyond belief. I couldn't of cared less what happened to him. In fact I found myself hoping he would be tortured by the Nazis. The story never gives you any surprises, twists or any rewards. It just cruises forward in a boring, predictable manner. Every time the story builds up momentum it gives you another flashback story, which, although relevant to the rest of the plot, slows down the pace. Although well researched the story and characters are flimsy and stereotypical. I find it surprising that someone could research a subject so thoroughly and then lazily borrow characters from 'Allo 'Allo (UK reference).

On a positive note, the book does give a believable alternative history which is why I have awarded it 2 stars. It doesn't get any points for storytelling, character building or 'mise en scene'.
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298 of 332 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Slightly Disappointing 30 Oct 2012
By C. E. Utley TOP 1000 REVIEWER
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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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Too long 6 May 2014
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
An alternate outcome of WW2 seemed a fascinating premise for a story. The initial two-thirds of the book were passable. What kept me going was the expectation that the plot would have to ramp up a couple of gears at some point. However, it soon became evident that all I was going to get was more of the same. I skim read the final 100 pages as the repetition and boring prose got too much. Might try Fatherland instead.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Not his best 8 Jun 2013
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
I have enjoyed all of C J Sansom's previous books, from Winter in Madrid to the Shardlake series. He has a compelling, flowing writing style that is maintained in Dominion. The characters, as always, are well-drawn and believable.

The concept of this alternative history is intriguing. Although it has been covered by other authors, the slant here is somewhat different. As an account of "what might have been events" it comes across as very plausible. I would, however, have liked to know more about this imagined time but the alternative history is used more as background for a thriller/chase story. This is good enough, although it does suffer from the usual faults of this genre in that, at times, the plot relies on coincidence.

In terms of style, there is, I feel, an over-reliance on characters "remembering" what happened to get them into a situation. I realise this is used to keep the plot flowing, to avoid holding up the narrative, but it could have been used less.

In his previous novels, C J Sansom has made great efforts to achieve accuracy. In an alternative world it is, perhaps, somewhat churlish to complain about "inaccuracies" but there are occurrences of Americanisms that would have been anachronistic in the real 1950s and so, I believe, would have been in the alternate 1950s - "emergency room", "these guys", "loved ones" and "Santa Claus will be here today", rather than Father Christmas. These are minor things but they are discordant and have the effect of jolting the reader out of the narrative.

Dominion is a good read, but not C J Sansom's best.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
1.0 out of 5 stars Tripe from beginning to end
This book was written with a knife and fork and the editor had a weekend off. It is the worst book I've ever struggled to the end of. Read more
Published 3 hours ago by BrentwoodBlue
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
absolutely riveting - it could have happened - frightening
Published 15 hours ago by Maurice Settom
4.0 out of 5 stars Not the best, but still a good read
CJ Sansom addresses the "What if?" question - what if Britain had accepted Hitler's peace terms in 1940? Read more
Published 2 days ago by Credit Man
4.0 out of 5 stars Four Stars
I prefer the Shardlake series
Published 3 days ago by STEWART P.
4.0 out of 5 stars Alternate history makes for an enjoyable thriller
There are a lot of reviewers who have taken issue with some of author Sansom's historical revisionism in Dominion, as well as the bit of political diatribe in his historical notes... Read more
Published 5 days ago by Gabriel Boutros
3.0 out of 5 stars A good read.
Credible and pacy account of what might have been under German rule .An alternative history complete with well known characters such as Atlee ,Chamberlain,and Churchill. Read more
Published 6 days ago by F .Muir
5.0 out of 5 stars What might have been.....
It is a riveting spy thriller reflecting an all too-believable alternative reality had the wrong decisions been taken by the British government in 1940, chilling and terrifying.
Published 7 days ago by royc
2.0 out of 5 stars Two Stars
Not as good as previously written
Published 7 days ago by Mrs J A Cooper
2.0 out of 5 stars Good ideas, bad execution
The premise for this novel sounds very interesting, but sadly it never really lived up to this promise. Read more
Published 8 days ago by Adam Ridley
4.0 out of 5 stars Lynne Taylor
I enjoyed this book very much. I found the deviation away from history very interesting. Having read some of the other reviews which did not like the book I was pleasantly... Read more
Published 8 days ago by Lynne Taylor
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