In 1940 Anthony Eden resigned and Britain chose a new Prime Minister. Winston Churchill was determined to take the war to Hitler despite things looking unfavourable; in the end he was proved right. But what would have happened if Churchill had not become Prime Minister (and it was by no means a certainty) and Britain had made peace with Germany ? This is the premise of Dominion by CJ Sansom which is a thriller set in an alternative history of the UK.
Set in 1952 the book concentrates on the story of some people connected with the resistance against fascism and the German control of British society. David Fitzgerald has worked with the resistance for a few years but has kept his activities secret from his wife. Suddenly a few things begin to happen at once. David makes a mistake and attracts attention to himself putting him and all those connected with him in danger, an old school friend who is now in a mental hospital has a secret that the resistance need but he trusts no one, David’s wife suspects that his strange behaviour is because he is having an affair, a new German officer comes to London to gain the secret and the British government starts to round up the Jews with a view to deportation to German control.
This is an excellent thriller where the plot is very important but the author has thought hard about what Britain at the time might have looked like and the book is full of interesting details and ideas which make it fascinating to read. One particular aspect is the fog which really happened in 1952 and which plays an important role in the story. The book explores what would have happened as Hitler drew near to the end of his life but also how individuals might have responded to the German presence and curtailment of liberties. We also see some aspects of the story from the German point of view which is interesting.
I enjoyed this book a lot and found it very readable. I did think, however, that it was a bit too long. There was an awful lot about the background of one character which I don’t think added to the story although it did explain his character and attitude. There was a lot of detail about the plot and the escape. I think that it might have been made shorter and more focussed or maybe the author could have used some of the material to make a series of novels about this alternative UK.
This is a book worth reading. It is clever and informed and also a fast-paced thriller. If you have read Philip Kerr’s Bernie Gunther books set in pre-war Berlin or Robert Harris’ Fatherland you should enjoy it.