1952. Twelve years have passed since Churchill lost to the appeasers and Britain surrendered to Nazi Germany. The global economy strains against the weight of the long German war against Russia still raging in the east. The British people find themselves under increasingly authoritarian rule - the press, radio, and television tightly controlled, the British Jews facing ever greater constraints.
But Churchill's Resistance soldiers on. As defiance grows, whispers circulate of a secret that could forever alter the balance of the global struggle. The keeper of that secret? Scientist Frank Muncaster, who languishes in a Birmingham mental hospital.
Civil Servant David Fitzgerald, a spy for the Resistance and University friend of Frank's, is given the mission to rescue Frank and get him out of the country. Hard on his heels is Gestapo agent Gunther Hoth, a brilliant, implacable hunter of men, who soon has Frank and David's innocent wife, Sarah, directly in his sights.
C.J. Sansom's literary thriller Winter in Madrid earned Sansom comparisons to Graham Greene, Sebastian Faulks, and Ernest Hemingway. Now, in his first alternative history epic, Sansom doesn't just recreate the past - he reinvents it. In a spellbinding tale of suspense, oppression and poignant love, Dominion dares to explore how, in moments of crisis, history can turn on the decisions of a few brave men and women - the secrets they choose to keep and the bonds they share.
©2012 C.J. Sansom (P)2014 Hachette Audio
Somewhat in the Turtledove tradition. Historical figures intermingle with just plain folk in a Britain that gave into Hitler. Story about how incremental compromises on good and right can lead to a civilized society doing horrific things. The explanation for why it is so important to smuggle one of the characters out of the country is not very convincing. Would have liked to see more of Churchill leading the resistance.
I am a huge fan of C.J. Sansom's historical mysteries, with the Matthew Shardlake series ranking among my all-time favorites. So, it was an easy decision to see what CJS would make of an alternate history where the British signed a peace treaty with the Nazi's in 1940 instead of going to war as they did.
I found, as I listened, that though all the characters were well realized and though each had some sort of secret, I missed the "mystery" that I'm used to in a Sansom novel. The narrative is split between several main characters, including the Gestapo agent chasing our band of resistance fighters so Dominion was tense all the way through. I wished that the author had split the narrative one more time and shown us more of Winston Churchill leading the resistance. He does finally, but I was waiting most of the book to hear that.
I think to get all the nuances of the story, it helps to have a working knowledge of Britain before, during and after the Second World War. But I'm guessing most fans of historical fiction have that. I liked the book, but didn't love it as I do earlier Sansom books.
I probably would not listen to this story again if I had a choice as I am not a fan of the narrator. I usually listen to to audio books while I am at work and this one nearly put me to sleep.
The idea behind the story is fascinating- all of the what-ifs and how the world would be different. The author does a good job with this idea. I can't help but think I would like it a little better if I was reading this instead of listening.
Likes intelligent mysteries, spy thrillers, world history, most anything Roman. Hates bad writing.
The story gets off to a strong start, with a very believable scenario in which Lord Halifax succeeds Chamberlain as PM and sues Nazi Germany for peace. The "what if" premise here is that a continuation of appeasement would have led to Hitler emerging as the clear victor in an attenuated war that never really grew into a World War. The depiction of fascism extending itself gradually into the institutions of British politics and society is truly frightening. The English characters swept up in this tragedy are finely drawn and mostly sympathetic (except for a suitably loathsome Blackshirt brother-in-law). However, the taut narrative begins to fray a bit about a third of the way into the book. As some others have noted, the idea that some secrets about America's development of an atomic bomb conveyed orally during a violent family argument does not really bear up to close scrutiny. Too, the prolonged chase of the person who, very much against his will, is burdened by the secret drags on far too long and is accorded too much importance to the governments concerned. Thereafter the story ends somewhat abruptly, with what seems like a somewhat forced rosy scenario for Britain's future following Hitler's death. What could have been a great book thus ends up being only good.
yes, especially those who have interest in England's WWII history.
All the twists and turns
I can't choose a favorite, they (in the resistance) were all great, and performance was superb.
All I could say at the end was "wow"
I'm still hoping for CJ Sansom's newest Matthew Shardlake book, Lamentation, to come out on Audible very soon!!!
The Path Between the Seas to The Great Bridge ~ Kagan's Peloponnesian War to Gaddis' Cold One ~ Mornings on Horseback to a River of Doubt ~ Tom to Huck ~ Lennie to Charley ~ Cadfael to Cross ~ Rhyme to Reacher ~ Blomkvist and Salander to Wallander and Wallander ~ Moving Cheese or Eating Frogs ~ On the Road and Into Thin Air ~ The End of History to A Short History of Everything to ... well ... everything else.
I am a great fan of the Matthew Shardlake series and approached this alternative history with the hope that it would rise to the same level of excellence. It did not.
The premise is relatively commonplace: how would history develop if Britain had not fought on against Nazi Germany following the twin debacles in Norway and at Dunkirk. We learn the answer as we follow an intrepid group of soon-to-be resistance figures who must strive to keep an important nuclear secret out of Nazi hands.
This is a very fragile plot line. For it to work, we must believe that a few sentences passed between brothers would have been sufficient to advance the Nazi search for atomic weaponry by years or decades. In itself, that is foolish to the point of absurdity.
What's more, these brothers, presumably capable scientists, seem unable to differentiate between atomic and nuclear weapons, using the terms almost interchangeably. (Atomic weapons are a subset of nuclear weapons, which also include hydrogen bombs. Yes, a pedantic point, but one a scientist would likely make.)
More distracting than any of this, though, is the rampant bias we find throughout the narrative. With a single exception, every reference to the Catholic Church is negative. Every reference to American Republicans paints them as isolationist Nazi collaborators (or useful idiots). Almost every reference to organized religion in general is disparaging or negative, most characters have fallen away from their faith and religious faith almost never (with a single Anglican exception) plays any role in the resistance (completely at odds with the actual history of WWII resistance).
It is a shame that Sansom, the careful historian, who painted such a convincing tale of Tudor England should offer Dominion to his fans. Better that we receive another installment of the Shardlake series than any more work of this disappointing quality.
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