An alternative history – chilling

It is 1953 and coronation year. At last King Edward and Queen Wallis will be crowned in an England where the Allies have lost WW2 and Germany rules the United Kingdom. In CK Carey’s book Widowland the author takes history as we know it and turns it on its head. She also looks at Hitler and the Nazi’s plans for the UK and tells us what it would have been like in practice, especially for women.

This is an alternative history book in the same tradition as Fatherland by Robert Harris, SS-GB by Len Deighton, Rule Britannia by Daphne DuMaurier and Dominion by CJ Sansom (which I review here). The author also writes as Jane Thynne and her books set in Berlin during the war are excellent stories which I review here.

The women in British society are all assessed and assigned to one of a few groups, each of which has privileges relating to the class. Each grouping is named after a woman important to Hitler with the top group being called Gelis after Hitler’s niece with whom he may or may not have had an affair. Rose Ransom is a Geli and her job is to read and rewrite classic British literature to reflect better the ideals of Nazism – this is rather reminiscent of Winston Smith’s job in Nineteen Eighty-Four by George Orwell. Rose is asked to track down some women from a lower class who may be causing disruption which is inconvenient as Hitler is expected to visit the UK soon.

The author has carefully created a society which makes sense and which is absolutely chilling (think The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood). Rose is our introduction to how this society works and we see the expectations on her to fulfil her expected role as a woman and the results to others where they are no longer use to society. The author interweaves real life historical characters with her fictional creations and invents possible futures for them. Rose slowly begins to understand what is happening to some of the women around her and to become radicalised which changes her whole life and puts her in danger.

This is an adventure story with an excellent conclusion which makes you immediately want to start reading the sequel (still in hardback at the time of writing). It’s clever and funny in places as you consider the way in which Rose rewrites literature. I am looking forward to seeing how the story develops and finding out what happens to Rose in the future.

2 thoughts on “An alternative history – chilling

  1. I loved this when I read it last year and I’ve just picked up the sequel to read. The sidelining of older women seems all too plausible to me.


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