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86 of 94 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Provocative
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...
Published on 3 Feb. 2013 by Bron

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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Plot undermines story
In Berlin, shortly after Hitler’s death in 1952, Goebbels decreed that the Hitler salute would remain the official greeting forever. This verbatim statement from C. J. Sansom’s novel, “Dominion” (2012), is a startling reminder of what might have been. In Britain, an unoccupied but subservient ally of Nazi Germany, Sansom describes a society in...
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86 of 94 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Provocative, 3 Feb. 2013
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This review is from: Dominion (Kindle Edition)
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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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Plot undermines story, 8 Jan. 2015
This review is from: Dominion (Paperback)
In Berlin, shortly after Hitler’s death in 1952, Goebbels decreed that the Hitler salute would remain the official greeting forever. This verbatim statement from C. J. Sansom’s novel, “Dominion” (2012), is a startling reminder of what might have been. In Britain, an unoccupied but subservient ally of Nazi Germany, Sansom describes a society in which pre-World War II Britain "was gone, had instead turned into a place where an authoritarian government in league with fascist thugs thrived on nationalist dreams of empire, on scapegoats and 'enemies’”. “Dominion” has something of the feel of “1984”: propaganda, greyness, the use of Senate House (Orwell's Ministry of Truth) as the German Embassy (it had been a building coveted by Hitler), and spies and informers embedded in the society. Sansom is also persuasive, though hardly original, in explaining the rise of Nazism in Germany in the late 1920s and early 1930s, and sharp on the incipient or pre-fascist tendencies in British society: Mosley, Powell, a lurch rightwards by the Beaverbrook-owned press, bullying and militarism in public schools, and anti-semitism, less rampant than in Germany but present.

Although all of this sounds more like a history-lesson than a novel, it is the carefully described what-if aspect of “Dominion” that accounts for its achievement, and, in particular, the way in which the chilling terror of the 1930s in Germany and Germany-controlled territories gets a re-run in Britain in its alliance with Germany, following the peace treaty signed with Germany by the governments of Britain and France.

Conversely, it is the literary aspects that turn out to be the novel’s weaknesses: its implausible plot; too many coincidences; characters who are reduced to being primarily functions of the plot; and some of the dialogue at the most tense moments. Most tellingly, as the novel reaches its climax, formula-fiction takes over and it lets down the otherwise compelling story; so much so that history or rather counter-history has to take over in the epilogue, and return readers to the path that was inaugurated by the defeat of Germany in 1945. As an example of a counter-factual novel that works, I’d suggest Philip Roth’s “The Plot Against America” (2004); and, a closer generic comparison might be Robert Harris’s “Fatherland” (1992).
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309 of 345 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Slightly Disappointing, 30 Oct. 2012
By 
C. E. Utley "Charles Utley" (London, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Dominion (Kindle Edition)
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. I will not ruin the story by saying what then happens.

The story itself is gripping enough (although it is not easy to accept the theory that Frank's brother was really able to say anything of such gigantic use to the Germans in the few minutes which preceded the assault). But we can happily overlook that weakness as we tensely turn the many hundreds of pages to find out what happens next. I regret the lack of humour in the book, but that now seems to be the mark of the modern thriller and I certainly don't want to give the impression that this is not a gripping read.

What I did, I confess, find rather disagreeable was Sansom's decision to portray certain real politicians as being positively evil. I can see that he doesn't like newspaper magnates and I suppose I can just about forgive him for casting Beaverbrook as his pro-treaty Prime Minister (though it hardly rings true to anyone who knows about Beaverbrook's work as a minister throughout the war - particularly his conviction that the allies had to do all they could to assist Russia). But choosing to make Enoch Powell a pro-treaty cabinet minister can't really be forgiven. Sansom reveals, in a biographical note at the end of the book, that he is on the left in politics. but that does not excuse ignorance. I wonder what Tony Benn, a great friend of Powell's, would make of Sansom's decision to portray Powell as an ally of Nazis.

Powell was Professor of Greek at Sydney University when war was declared. He immediately resigned and returned to England to enlist in the army as a private. He finished the war as a brigadier (one of the youngest ever and one of only two people to rise from private to brigadier during the war). In the 1945 election, despite being a natural Tory, he voted Labour. He did so because he still could not forgive the Conservatives for Munich. Famously, when asked what he most regretted in his life, he said that he wished he had been killed in the war. How on earth Sansom could imagine such a man as a Nazi sympathiser is quite beyond me. True, and this seems to be Sansom's point, Powell was an enormous admirer of the Indian Empire. It was the threat to that empire which brought him into politics after the war, though by the time he had become an MP in 1950 that battle had been lost and he became convinced that there was no longer any place for British imperialism. No, making Powell a Nazi villain, presumably just because he is dead and can't sue, was a major fault in this novel. And there are other dead politicians treated in the same way (both Labour and Conservative - not to mention the entire Scottish Nationalist Party). I won't make this lengthy review even longer by going through them all as well. All I will say is this part of the novel is both weak and disagreeable.

I don't want to put people off reading this rather good and well-written yarn, but a health warning is needed for anyone who has any knowledge of the 1939 to 1953 period of British history.

Charles
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A right curate's egg., 19 May 2014
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This review is from: Dominion (Paperback)
900 reviews and counting. That probably means 1m plus sales...So I have just a few additional remarks.

Firstly the historical premise of what would have happened if we had sought to get out of the war after Dunkirk. I do not believe that the Germans would have been so mild towards the UK. As with Norway they would have probably insisted on fascist rule. They certainly would not have messed around with resistance groups. It is no good writing a 'Boys Own ' adventure when , in real life, they would have infiltrated the resistance groups and strung the leaders up in no time. The SS remained in full control in Germany right up to the end of the war. Something which gives Germans actual satisfaction compared with the end of the first world war. In this book Churchill still actually lives in his own home undetected by his UK or German foes. Such a cunning plan that even Baldrick (I do know some Tudor history) would not have thought of it.

Secondly, I am the only one of 900 reviewers who had not previously read anything Tudor or otherwise by C.J.Samson. I became convinced that I was reading a work by a woman who normally wrote for Mills and Boon. Sorry if this sounds sexist but I could not believe how badly the men in the story are characterized. They all reflect deeply on every action and then insist on explaining themselves to everyone who will listen. Repeatedly. Have you ever met a man like that? Thought not.

The plot of the book is that a man learns a secret of the atom bomb so diabolical that both sides want to capture him or, failing that, kill him to prevent their enemy from capturing him. It was probably that the plug on the electrics needed a 13 amp fuse. The man escapes with the help of about a thousand loyal resistance workers. End of story and not the best you can think of , though Homeland wasn't very gripping either.

Many have protested about the treatment of the highly patriotic Mr Powell in this revision , but maybe Mr Sansom is a younger man and is basing his viewpoint on Powells later comments on the likely effect of immigration...

I give it three stars 'cos anyone writing 600 plus words (for me and the 900) is alright by me, but it could have been edited to half that length or less. Bits of really sloppy style have been allowed through the editing process. ...."Nobody should go out for the rest of the day please." Ben rolled up the map and he and Jane went out."
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Another incredible book!, 20 Jan. 2014
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This review is from: Dominion (Paperback)
Just so you know, this contains spoilers.

Instantly, I was drawn into this book for two reasons. The first is that C.J. Sansom wrote it, and the second is because it's an alternate universe of, in my opinion, one of the most interesting periods of history. World War II has fascinated me for years. Nazi rule, jewish persecution and the response of the world was something never seen before that and hasn't really been seen since. Plus, the 50s had the best style ever. My favourite play is also set in the 50s.

This book was marketed as if the whole story was David Fitzgerald and his comrades as fugitives in the Great Smog, but it was so much more than that. The thing I love most about Sansom is the clear dedication and attention to detail in his books. He obviously does his research, enough is clear even before you get to his notes at the end. Fitzgerald is a civil servant in the dominions office, and I wasn't entirely sure what that job would entail but it vaguely told me what it meant. The story starts, however, in Winston Churchill's perspective, and after five o'clock he makes a decision that changes history and sets up the start of the alternate universe - he declines the opportunity to be prime minister.

Fitzgerald is the next person to begin the 1952 story on Remembrance Day. The goings-on in the dominions office was only a small part of the story. Fitzgerald is part of the Resistance movement, which is headed by Churchill, but seems to be, though opinionated and strong-headed, rather innocent in terms of resistance members. He's not a murderer, he's not a terrorist, he's just an office worker who wants the Nazis out of the running of the country.

I love David as a character, and I'm sad that the relationship with his wife before the death of their son, Charlie, wasn't explored more deeply. Sarah Fitzgerald obviously cared deeply for her husband and it's a shame the love wasn't reciprocated. For me, the affair between David and Natalia, who runs a safe house for the Resistance, wasn't necessary, and I wasn't a fan, so I'm not entirely sure of the reasons behind it.

Geoff Drax is someone I wish I could have learnt more about. He was the only other major character, apart from Ben, whose POV wasn't used in the book. Being David's best friend I assumed his point of view would be used and was surprised that it wasn't but it didn't ruin the book at all that it wasn't.

Frank is perhaps my favourite character, and the most three-dimensional of them all. He's a smart, shy, and has the biggest secret any person could ever be burdened with - the details of the atomic bomb. After Frank's brother told him, Frank pushed him out of a first story window and ended up in an asylum. Details of the practices in the asylum were interesting and something I don't know a lot about. I know about the shock treatment, and about the pills to make them sleep, but that's about as far as my knowledge goes. I loved hearing from Frank's POV for a multitude of reasons, but the most important is that his thought process is just very intriguing. His suicidal thoughts aren't to do with depression, which I found interesting. Because it was, in his eyes, for the good of his country, the reasoning behind his suicide attempt and his later decisions, is very different than for people with depression, which I myself have experienced in the past.

To have Gunther's story in the book put a nice twist on things. Gunther is the Nazi 'Jew Hunter'. He is employed by Senate House to find Frank and question him about the secret he's keeping.

Up to the point of Frank's assisted escape, the book is a bit slow and it isn't until halfway through that it starts to become fast-paced. Because of the multitude of characters it takes a while to set anything up. Something I admire about Sansom is his ability to set the story up without the reader knowing. It isn't until you look back that you see that the first half of the book is more about the individual characters' stories than any of the action promised in the blurb.

It doesn't seem as though they are in the smog for long after Frank's escape. I don't want to give too much away from this point on because this is where we start to get the twists and turns I'm used to from Sansom's books and the reason I adore his works so much. I admire his talent for writing fight sequences and action scenes because I, myself, find it difficult and I think it's hard for someone to make it realistic and believable. Frank shows such an amazing character development during the second half of the book, as does David. The twist with Geoff is incredible and I went from shocked to gutted to shocked to gutted in the space of a few chapters of his story, all told from other characters' points of view. The uncanny ability Sansom has to tell such a vivid story of Geoff Drax and his emotions and troubles through the eyes of his friends and enemies amazes me.

All in all, I would rate this book an 8/10. It's not Sansom's best book, in my opinion, but it's one of. I loved how he captured the time and how much he slaved over what every single decision the politicians made would change the course of the world's history. I would definitely recommend this book to anyone.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Good alternate history book, 29 Sept. 2013
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This review is from: Dominion (Paperback)
A long while ago I read Fatherland by Robert Harris and found the whole 'what if?' scenario absolutely fascinating. Recently I found this novel by chance as I wandered around W.H. Smith prior to boarding a flight. I waited till I got home before ordering the book for a fraction of the price from Amazon. I'm glad I did, I really enjoyed it.

Set in 1952 the story takes place in a Britain that made peace with Germany in 1940. Fascists have taken important seats in parliament, Germany is fighting an unwinnable war with Russia and Churchill has been driven underground as leader of the Resistance. There are a number of characters, their story-lines intertwining as the book progresses. We have David, a Civil Servant who is smuggling secret documents to the Resistance; his wife Sarah who worries her husband's recent detachment is evidence of an affair; Frank, David's unstable University friend who has been driven to madness by an important secret shared with him by his drunken emigre brother; and Gunther Hoth, an SS man tasked with hunting down Frank and the Resistance and learning their secret.

I have always been fascinated with alternate history situations, often wondering how author's managed to deal with such vast subject matter in which the entire history of the world needs to be rewritten. In this respect Sansom has excelled, seamlessly blending fact with fiction to create a very believable world setting should Hitler have got his way. I'm sure the real history buffs among us will find the odd anomaly or two but in what history based book can we not find some minor fault?

I enjoyed Dominion greatly but one or two things did take the shine off the book for me. Every time the main characters found themselves in a bind coincidence draws them quickly back together. In one scene our heroes are rescued from a difficult situation, David wonders out loud if Frank, who has been separated from the group, has managed to escape only to be told he has been picked up already. This served only to dampen any feelings of tension in the storytelling; each time a problem arrived you instinctively knew the group would be back together come the end of the next chapter. I found the events of the penultimate chapter a little anticlimactic considering the subject matter of the book - I won't say any more for fear of spoilers.

I have never read any of CJ Sansom's other books but I am considering checking them out after reading Dominion. His writing style reminds me of Crichton or Harris; although he often deals with problems from a political angle he broaches the subjects so that even the most ignorant (myself included!) can understand and continue to enjoy the story (very much like Crichton with his digestible scientific explanations). In other reviews I have noticed people criticising Sansom's writing style but I must admit to enjoying casually written stories such as this every now and again; not everything we read needs to be 'high' literature. No doubt these reviewers will slate the King's and Crichton's of this world despite their success and achievements.

If you enjoyed Fatherland or any other alternate history novel, Dominion is well worth a read. At 700 pages plus it will keep you busy for a long while and leave you sad it is over once you are finished.
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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
By 
Monsieur Pamplemousse (Kent, United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Dominion (Kindle Edition)
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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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A good Yarn, 3 Jan. 2013
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This review is from: Dominion (Kindle Edition)
Overall a good story. Politically . I thought it to be quite plausible. As it is a known fact Churchill was in a somewhat minority with regard to `Defending these Islands`; with a large portion of government up for appeasement. However, as for traveling around London. Well there is no nor ever has been an underground route from Kenton to Victoria. It would have involved some interesting changes which could have been incorporated into the story.

As previously stated a good story. But have to say the style was very similar to Ken Follett. Pity as CJ Sansom has previously had his own unique style of writing.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Slightly disappointing although an interesting take on what might have been, 20 Nov. 2014
This review is from: Dominion (Paperback)
I actually agree with some of the other reviews in that, for CJ Sansom, I found this overly long, a little tedious at times and the ending very disappointing - particularly given how long it had taken to get there.

The "alternative" history scenario was very thought provoking and informative - the change of government from Chamberlain to Churchill's Coalition is normally very quickly glossed over in our history along with who may also have been contenders for example. I think the message or lesson that the author was trying impress on the reader through out about the dangers of nationalism was also well done for the most part, if a little unsubtle at times (and I found the rant in the after word about the SNP was down right bizarre).

However the story seemed to take an age to develop - although I appreciate there was a need for a lot of scene setting throughout which didn't help - and none of the characters were particularly engaging or sufficiently interesting to make up for the slow plot line. In the end, I wanted it to all be over so I could read the historic note and move on and I didn't really care that the story of what happened to some of the main characters was never really explored.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Engrossing and compelling, 16 Feb. 2014
This review is from: Dominion (Paperback)
This book is what I would call a "slow burn". Nothing much seems to happen in the first 1/3 other than a careful and very atmospheric description of an historic Britain we should know well. Either we are old enough to remember it or we know it from film, TV and books. But this is a Britain slightly off-key. Normality is skewed and the landscape eerie. And then things start to gather pace until you are running at speed in a world both familiar and alien. Sansom does a top-rate job of giving us a truly realistic alternative reality, of the "what if" scenario. I listened to this book from Amazon Audible and a word has to be given to the narrator. He really does the business and brings the characters to life. But he also injects a aura of normality to that surreal "what if" landscape. I usually listen to books on the way to work, but this time I found myself putting this on at the weekend to finish it, so caught up as I was in wanting to know what happened next. I will come back to listen to this one again.
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Dominion
Dominion by C. J. Sansom (Paperback - 12 Sept. 2013)
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