Every now & then I get bogged down in my reading, too many theological tomes and sooner or later the river of reading runs dry. It’s at those points that I pick up a fiction book to get things flowing again.
Having read several of CJ Sansom’s medieval mysteries I knew he was a good writer and I knew he could convey history well, so I had some confidence in choosing Dominion.
Set in 1950s London it’s a pacey thriller with all the right elements to keep the pages turning. What makes this different is that it’s not the world as we know it, history has been convincingly rewritten.
Winston Churchill didn’t become Prime Minister and instead leads an underground resistance movement. Britain didn’t emerge victorious from WW2 but instead surrendered after Dunkirk to avoid a German invasion. Hitler is still alive (just) and still fighting Russia, Japan is still fighting China and America is keeping out of it.
Britain has increasingly become a fascist state with Mosley as Home Secretary, Beaverbrook as Prime Minister and Enoch Powell in charge of holding onto the Empire.
In the middle of all this the Gestapo is hunting the socially inadequate and mentally unstable Frank Muncaster, the unwilling holder of America’s nuclear bomb secrets. Find Muncaster and the Nazis can finally get the bomb and put Russia to the sword.
In Frank’s defence is an unlikely band of resistance members including Frank’s old university friend David Fitzgerald, a classic 1950s stiff-upper-lip-Brit and their escape depends on navigating the great London smog of 1952.
It’s fascinating stuff made all the more so by the way Sansom gives his rewriting an air of convincing plausibility and the reminder that the course of history can turn on single events and even single conversations.
It’s an excellent book and certainly confirms Sansom as one of the very best historical novelists.