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83 of 91 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 22 months ago by Bron

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305 of 340 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Slightly Disappointing
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...
Published on 30 Oct 2012 by C. E. Utley


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2.0 out of 5 stars If this is a British thriller, no wonder they don't make many of them into films, 5 Sep 2014
This review is from: Dominion (Paperback)
I read this recently while on holiday so had the time to get through what is, by any reckoning, a very long book, and by the time I finished it was a true test of endurance. A very interesting premise rapidly (the only thing in the book that is rapid) turns into a tedious, unengaging narrative that, ultimately, goes nowhere. True thrills and excitement are few and far between, the author instead turning this into the most tedious parade of stiff upper lip nonsense I've read in a long while. If you're into a gripping wartime/post-war thriller, this is not for you; if you want a story about a bunch of pretty dull characters wandering about, punctuated by the occassional cup of tea, then this will be right up your street. All the characters are from the British Book of Cliches (long suffering button-down wife, repressed husband, university chum, eccentric scientist, hot-blooded Scot, aggressive Cockney, mysterious foreigner, the list goes on). In an attempt to introduce some sparkle, the author makes one of the characters secretly Jewish but then feels the need to remind the reader of this every single chapter, in case we'd forgotten, which rapiidly gets tiresome. The true tragedy is that the author has included a post-script which is actually very interesting - this only serves to highlight how dull the actual book is. Definitely one to avoid. The only reason I haven't given this one star is because I at least managed to finish it (the last book I gave one star I not only stopped reading but threw in the bin in disgust).
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4.0 out of 5 stars Alternate history makes for an enjoyable thriller, 24 Aug 2014
This review is from: Dominion (Kindle Edition)
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 included after the book. Fortunately, for me at least, I'm no expert on British politics in the early twentieth century, nor do I care much about Mr. Sansom's present-day politics. All I was interested in, when I bought this book, was reading a good thriller based on an alternate version of what happened during World War II, and this is what I got: The story takes place in 1952, twelve years after Britain made an early peace with Germany, which then conquered all of Europe until it got bogged down in Russia.
The story harks back to many 1960s Cold War thrillers: a scientist has to be spirited away from the enemy before they can use his knowledge to help them conquer the world. In this case, the scientist is British and, after a mental breakdown, he is in an asylum. The Germans want to get him out but have to struggle with, among other things, the British bureaucracy, in order to get to him without making a major incident about it. The Americans don't want the Germans to get their hands on the scientist, so they use the British Resistance to try and spirit him to a submarine waiting off the English coast. Most of the characters are well-drawn and interesting, and there is lots of historical detail, both real and alternate, to create a fully-realized universe for the characters to inhabit. The story starts slowly and threatens to get bogged down in certain parts, but mostly it builds toward a riveting ending, making for an over-all really good read.
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2.0 out of 5 stars Good ideas, bad execution, 20 Aug 2014
This review is from: Dominion (Paperback)
The premise for this novel sounds very interesting, but sadly it never really lived up to this promise. The basic plot is that after the retreat from Dunkirk Great Britain decides to surrender to Nazi Germany. While the British Empire is allowed to exist it becomes increasingly more fascist in its views and becomes almost a satellite state for Germany, with Gestapo officers operating with near impunity on the streets of London. The main character is a mild mannered civil servant who works for the resistance, slipping classified information to the network of anti-fascists trying to loosen the Reichs grip on Britain. When one of his University friends learns a great secret that could change the course of the war he must risk everything to protect him.

While the book is very well researched and packed with neat little historical titbits it falls down when it comes to the story itself. The protagonist is tremendously boring, and Frank Muncaster (the MacGuffin that sets the story in motion) is equally so, which is hard to fathom considering he is partially insane. Muncaster's frequent flashbacks to his youth being incredibly uninteresting and barely contribute anything to the actual plot. While there are some slightly more interesting supporting characters, particularly the other resistance members who join the protagonist, they're all still quite one dimensional and are pretty much to a man (or woman) driven by some tragedy in their past (my brother was killed, my parents disowned me for being gay, my son died in an accident etc.)

I think the single worst aspect of the novel though was the fact that the entire alternate history conceit was entirely unnecessary. The story could have been easily moved to occupied France with only a few tweaks to the story, aside from the author working the Great Smog of 1952 into the novel the alternate history aspect really had no impact.
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2.0 out of 5 stars Great concept, anodyne in the execution., 8 Aug 2014
By 
Andrew D Wright "Andrew W." (UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Dominion (Paperback)
Dominion - C J Sansom (Published by Mantle 2012)

This is going to be a difficult review to get right because C J Sansom is both big and local (he lives somewhere in leafy Sussex) and in many respects I am, frankly, just not worthy. I loved the idea of this book and I had wanted to read it for a long time. And I still love the idea of the book, but like a long-planned but ill-researched holiday, the reality didn't quite match up to my expectations. Think excitedly Robert Harris, Fatherland, or George Orwell, 1984 and then think, oh dear, not like them at all actually.

The idea is great, juicy, clever and requires the kind of diligent attention-to-detail that Sansom is renowned for in his Sheldrake series. Set in 1952 in an alternate history version of London after the disaster of Dunkirk, the UKs made an uncomfortable peace with the Nazi regime. Churchill never became Prime Minister and things have gone all hell in a handcarty. Britain is part of a Pax Germania, under the German Dominion so able to govern itself, but with a bucket of oily Nazi influence behind the scenes. In this version of our history Beaverbrook is the PM, Churchill is the resistance leader on the run and Bernard Oswald Moseley (he of blackshirt and Nazi sympathies) is the Home Secretary. So far, so good, and as you can see, very historically juicy.

Our hero is a nondescript British civil servant who's mother was a Jew. David is as dull and repressed as many a British hero in fiction down the ages. Strong resonances here with much of our fictional heritage, we're after all told to write things that are either refreshingly different or homely and familiar! This was as familiar and homely as Penelope Wilton in her best cardigan. There's tragedy in David life, he and his wife Sarah lost their little boy in a tragic accident in their home and this has led to their marriage becoming little more than house-sharing. Into this deep frozen relationship the fires of rebellion are kindled in David as his natural antipathy to the way the country is falling under the influence of the Nazi apologists links with knowledge of what the Nazis have done to the Jews. David lives in fear of being outed as a Jew and rounded up with other British Jews into concentration camps (this process of liquidation is just under way as the story opens). So David becomes a spy for the resistance, his job as a civil servant giving him access to top secret papers in the Dominion Office that will be of help to the rebels. And, without giving away any spoilers (I'll never do that in my reviews) the plot follows the twists and turns of David's work as a spy and the mission he's given trying smuggle an old school friend who has sensitive information out to the Americans.

The diligence and attention-to-detail of this historical narrative is, well, diligent and details are indeed very well attended to. Everything has been thought through and CJ has had so much fun spinning the fine web of alternate history, imagining what might have happened to who, when, what and how. It all seems eminently plausible and the smog-ridden London of 1952 is brilliantly evoked. The background is impeccably detailed, the film set as it were, waiting for the drama personae and the plot to come exploding out into the beautifully constructed surroundings. And this is where I had trouble, the characters were extremely familiar, comforting for many readers, but way to samey for me. And whilst this alternative history is certainly politically and philosophically interesting, it felt way too samey as well. Read a surfeit of thriller fiction set in the 1950s and it would be the same. The words slipped in easily enough and so did the story, so good job CJ but it so much more Daily Mail than Guardian in terms of the complexity of the story sitting above such a beautifully constructed conceit.

I wanted visceral and real, what I got was familiar and actually, a little hackneyed, even down to the Whoops-Mr-Rothschild-where's-your-apples-and-pears cockney accent of the working class Londoners encountered in the story. So, I read it to the end, but it became a chore as David was so anodyne as to not really be of interest and even the supposed love interest with a spicy Eastern European hardened femme fatale was well, pretty uninteresting actually. Suitable for the kind of stiff-shirted folk who like their fiction to observe class boundaries and play it safe which is such a shame considering the scope CJ's diligent research provided in terms of the potential of this story idea. The characters were two dimensional pastiches walking around in a rich, three dimensional world. The massive complexifest of the historical backdrop was, I felt, totally wasted by a very pedestrian and unoriginal spy-flick plot-line. Yawn!

(** Two stars)

Sorry CJ, I am, of course, not worthy and my opinion doesn't really matter a hill of beans to a writer who has done so very well. Story-telling for the best-selling white-bread, sell them high and cheap market from such promising seeds. But good luck to you Sir, you clearly know your onions as do your publishers as you sell so many books.
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3.0 out of 5 stars Having enjoyed Winter in Madrid a few years ago, 30 July 2014
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E. Hollox - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Dominion (Kindle Edition)
Having enjoyed Winter in Madrid a few years ago, I came to this novel with high expectations, and, to be honest, I was rather disappointed. It's a perfectly decent thriller, which trots along at a good pace with plenty of dramatic tension. My main problem is that Sansom seems preoccupied with the alternative history aspect rather than character development or description. For example, some of the dialogue does not ring true, as certain characters fill in detail about the alternative history, or have political discussions when they should be terrified. It is almost as if they are talking to the reader rather that to each other, saying "Look how plausible this is".
And it is plausible, of course, Sansom has done his research, although others have noted that Enoch Powell, racist though he was, was anti-appeasement, and I'm still not convinced about Churchill using Chartwell as what seems to be a Resistance fortified camp right under fascist noses, just because his son is being used as a stooge in the Fascist government. Also, at the end, would the SS really organise an ambush of 6 people using just 6 people? As a naive layman, you would want 2:1 odds, surely?
The characters seem distant, and although the plot moves along I felt it hard to identify with any character, and by the end I did not care much. The best bit was the description and justification of Sansom's alternative history at the end, and I felt he wanted to expand and discuss this rather that to layer a thriller on top.
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3.0 out of 5 stars Alternate history lecture slow on pace, 22 July 2014
This review is from: Dominion (Paperback)
It's always fascinating to speculate (from the comfortable distance of the 21st century) what Britain would have been like if Hitler had won the war. Sansom gives us a detailed picture of one possible outcome. Aspects like the (historical) rivalry between the German army and the SS state, and between communist and conservative resistance groups are nicely touched upon. The problem is that the story often seems to play second fiddle to the alternate history presented here. Whole chunks of text read like Wikipedia articles. The characters sometimes seem to exist only to illustrate particular viewpoints; the main character just happens to be a Jew, his wife a pacifist, her brother-in-law a Blackshirt sympathiser. As other reviewers have noted, key elements of the plot feel implausible; to quote just one example, the SS, convinced of the world-shattering importance of our heroes, send just six men to apprehend them. And so on.

Possibly the most damning criticism of DOMINION is that it has all been done before, thirty years earlier, by Len Deighton in his superior SS-GB. The central plot McGuffin is the same, the main characters all find parallels in the earlier work (the crippled scientist, the exotic love interest, the sinister Establishment figure who initiates our hero into the world of the Resistance), even the names of the SS men dispatched to England are suspiciously similar (Huth/Hoth). It's as if Sansom was subconsciously channelling Deighton when writing this book. But whereas SS-GB weighs in at a trim 334 pages, DOMINION counts a flabby 690. The first half of the book just drags. The second, as the Great Smog descends on London, is much better but never comes close to matching the thrilling pace of Deighton's novel. For an informative AND exciting look at a Nazi Britain hotfoot it over to the SS-GB page.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Yes, It Could Have Happened, 11 Aug 2014
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This review is from: Dominion (Kindle Edition)
With over 900 previous reviews one wonders what else there is to say. This is not a fun read, despite the happy-ish ending, but rather a harrowing tale in the tradition of Tess and Jude (and I mean that as a compliment!). Many have already commented on the authors admitted critique of the shortcomings of nationalism. Rather less contoversial is his other theme that all nations carry in the seeds of facism. This is well illustrated throughout the book by placing the story within the infrastructure of the real early 1950's and then bolting on the differences caused by Halifax becoming Prime Minister in 1940. As my childhood was in the historical period one can all too easily see that Sansom's alternative history could so easily have come about. He misses the chance to tell us what the London County Council might have been up to, but some of their school teachers would have fitted in very well into the scenario he describes. Similarly, some (though by no means all) of the officers from other parts of the LCC who were trasnsferred to the London Boroughs in 1965 were much the same and hung like a millstone round London local government until they retirted in the early 1980's.

On a more trivial note, the journey from New Cross to Chartwell seems to take as long as a cyclist (or even an energetic hiker) would need for the journey. Perhaps they went by a roundabout route and I failed to appreciate this.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Not the best, but still a good read, 26 Aug 2014
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This review is from: Dominion (Kindle Edition)
CJ Sansom addresses the "What if?" question - what if Britain had accepted Hitler's peace terms in 1940? His answer is probably correct: that Britain would have become a "fascist light" country, subservient to its Nazi masters in Berlin. As he explains in his afterwords, this would not have been pleasant: no free elections, and a populace in fear of its rulers; while the silent majority accept such foul practices as persecution of Jews. On a broader level, Sansom comments on the dangers of nationalism, making reference to the dangers of the Scottish Nationalist movement.

What this book lacks is Sansom's ability to communicate the atmosphere of the period, and the complexities of the characters. We could make a comparison with the Shardlake novels, but those most excellent books concern a more remote period.

It is if we read "Winter in Madrid" that we can see the slight shortcomings of Dominion. Winter in Madrid is a rich evocation of Spain after the Civil War (just one nice touch is the coal fired motor car due to lack of imported oil), while the characters are portrayed with depth and nuance. The tragedy of Spain's corpse being fought over by fascists and communists is the background, with skilfully drawn detail including Britain's attempts to persuade Spain to remain neutral in the forthcoming European war.

Against this, Dominion is a very slight disappointment.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A slow start but well worth sticking with it, 13 Dec 2014
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This review is from: Dominion (Kindle Edition)
A well thought out novel that takes it time to build characters and of Britain in alliance with The Nazi's and Hitler close to death. As the story progresses the plot begins to become more intriguing and encompasses a mental hospital, various safe houses and a chase to find Frank, one of the main characters who holds a secret given to him by his brother which has to be told to the Americans. From hereon the story speeds up and becomes a 'page turner'. I enjoyed this book as I have all of Sansom's book
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11 of 13 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Dismal Dominion, 7 Jan 2013
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This review is from: Dominion (Kindle Edition)
This is a vastly over-rated book. A good idea but a failure on the page - no narrative thrust, cardboard characters and - worst of all - hack writing, packed with cliches and lacking any kind of sparkle. In short, dismally bad.
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