I wasn't sure about this book, not being a real fantasy fan, but it did have a mystery in it, and it was on sale. So I bought it, and am I glad I did..Show More »! Jo Walton has crafted a mystery set in England in an alternate history, where a group called the "Farthing Set" deposed Churchill and negotiated a "peace with honor" with Hitler in 1941, in which Hitler stayed on the other side of the Channel and England remained "independent" by agreeing to measures which amount to a milder form of suppression of Jews and homosexuals than that in place in continental Europe.
The action takes place in 1948, when a vote of no confidence is scheduled in Parliament. At a house party at Farthing, the estate of some members of the Farthing Set, the man who is likely to be elected the next Prime Minister is murdered. Lucy, the daughter of Farthing's owners, and her husband David Kahn, a Jew, have come to the party at the insistence of Lucy's mother. It's not clear why they are invited until it becomes obvious that they were wanted there in order to pin the murder on David, the JEW.
The mystery story is quite good, but the real point of the book is the picture of an England which is sliding slowly and inexorably into Facsism through the machinations of the power elite (the Farthing Set) and the willingness of the public to believe the lies of the ruling politicians. Through the course of this book and the second book in this series, the suppression of Jews and homosexuals becomes more extreme, and many have been forced to flee or hide. And people in positions like police detectives are coerced into blaming the crimes of the powerful on the people with no power. Meanwhile, of course, Hitler is still Fuhrer of all of Europe, undesirables are still sent to work camps, and the war is still raging between Germany and Russia.
The story is greatly enhanced by the two narrators, John Keating and Bianca Amato. The book is written in chapters which alternate between the narration of Lucy Kahn and the third party narration of the investigation conducted by Inspector Carmichael of Scotland Yard, making the alternating narrators particularly appropriate. Both do a sterling job.
This is really a gripping tale, very complex and disquieting but definitely worth the money and the time to listen to it. Excellent!
Jo Walton's Small Change Trilogy is an absorbing drama which started with a mystery in Book 1, and carries on with a thriller in Ha'Penny, Book 2. In..Show More » this alternate history, it is 1948/9 in London, Britain has been "at peace" since 1941 when the Farthing Set negotiated a peace with Hitler which involved Hitler staying across the Channel and Britain imposing some suppression on "undesirables," meaning Jews, gays and dissidents. By 1948, Hitler is the leader of continental Europe, the war between Germany and Russia continues, and Lindhberg is President of the USA. As a result of the events which take place in Farthing, Book 1, the power elite now control through the Prime Minister, and are gradually taking the country more and more toward Facism.
The only really continuing character in the trilogy is Inspector Carmichael of Scotland Yard, who has been coerced into doing the bidding of the authorities, even when it is against the law and his principles, in order to avoid their publicising the fact that he is gay, thereby ruining his career and possibly putting him in jail. The action in Ha'Penny involves a conspiracy to kill Hitler and the Prime Minister at a performance of Hamlet in London during a state visit of Hitler. The other main character is Viola Lark, who is starring in Hamlet, and is one of a group of six sisters, all named after Shakespeare characters. Among the sisters is a Communist (Cressida, known as Siddie), a Nazi married to Himmler (Celia, known as Pip), and Viola the actress -- very reminiscent of the Mitford sisters. Viola, who is not political, ends up being forced to participate in the plot to kill Hitler with a bomb in the theatre.
The story builds up a great deal of tension and is very engrossing. Jo Walton manages to make her alternate world very believable and horrifying, and the picture she draws of an England where "undesirables" are shipped off to the continent to the concentration camps is chilling.
As with Book 1, this book is narrated by two people, which works very nicely because the book is written with alternate chapters told from the viewpoint of Viola and Carmichael. John Keating is again excellent as Carmichael, and Heather O'Neill is outstanding as Viola.
The plot was so engaging I couldn't stop listening. This is very hard to put down and though I usually work while listening to audiobooks, this one ha..Show More »d me glued in place, fully attentive to the story. It took a lot of discipline to keep from forwarding to the end just to relieve the tension of not knowing what would happen to the characters, but I'm so glad I let the story unfold. The end is satisfying.