Dominion Hardcover – 25 Oct 2012
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‘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
The Great Smog. London. A dense, choking fog engulfs the city and beneath it, history is re-written . . .See all Product Description
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Top Customer Reviews
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.Read more ›
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.
However what lets the book down are the crass characterisation and the weak central concept of an important secret which is neither important enough to set off the manhunt or really very secret. As an example of the repetitive characterisation Frank is continuously introduced by reference to his rictus grin. It's the Enid Blyton approach to writing about people.
Also could have done with some more judicious editing probably 30 or 40 pages too long. The Kindle edition doesn't know whether to spell Beaverbrook as Beaver brook or even Beaver-brook.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
I had been looking forward to reading this book for quite awhile. I had read a synopsis and it seemed just the kind of book that would appeal to me .I enjoy 'what if' stories. Read morePublished 23 hours ago by bibliophile
An easy read, without being an insult to the intelligence. From the very 1st page it will have you questioning the decisions that have been made, & appreciating the people that... Read morePublished 19 days ago by Nellie Walker
The premise of the story was really good, and it was clearly very well researched. I thought it was a little long and the end was a little too neat and tidy, but the... Read morePublished 29 days ago by woodywonder
C.J.Samsom never lets you down! The historical accuracy of his work takes you through everything you thought you knew about the subject and more. Read morePublished 1 month ago by Amazon Customer
As a life-long pacifist, this work of fiction really got me thinking. Even though I got no definitive answers (and I still believe Pacifism is the right way to be) the questions... Read morePublished 1 month ago by Peter Baldus
Not the usual type of book I'd choose, but it was recommended by a friend, so I thought I'd give it a go, and I'm pleased I did. Read morePublished 1 month ago by Jan