Dominion by C J Sansom

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Dominion by C J Sansom

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Category: General Fiction
Rating: 3.5/5
Reviewer: Sue Magee
Reviewed by Sue Magee
Summary: A well-imagined world and characters you can empathise with, but for me the book lacked pace.
Buy? Maybe Borrow? Yes
Pages: 600 Date: October 2012
Publisher: Mantle
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 978-0230744165

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It's 1952 and twelve years since Churchill became Minister of War and Halifax took over from Chamberlain as Prime Minister. Churchill had thought that he might be able to run the war from that position but, Halifax, the appeaser, held sway and Britain surrendered to Germany in the aftermath of Dunkirk. Russia fought on, but it was a war of attrition rather than one which looked to come to a clear conclusion. The British people are under a violent, authoritarian rule and British Jews face a grim future. Winston Churchill - aged and possibly infirm - is the head of the Resistance organisation, but he's forced to live his life in hiding and on the run.

At a personal level David Fitzgerald, Civil Servant in the Dominions Office, is spying for the Resistance. He has a secret: his mother was Jewish, but his immediate concern is that an old University friend, Frank Muncaster is in a Birmingham mental hospital. It seems that he's party to information about the work his brother is doing in the USA and he knows that it could change the balance of world power. David is to get him out of the country, but the Germans are interested in Frank too. There's an added complication for David. His wife, Sarah has not got over the death of their young son in a domestic accident and she's drawn into a world more terrifying than she could ever have imagined. Pursuing them all is Gunther Hoth, an implacable hunter of men and particularly of Jews.

Many years ago I listened to a radio programme which took the premise 'what if?' The outcome of a momentous world event was changed and the outcomes discussed. The ripples which spread outwards fascinated me. In Dominion the moment is on 9 May 1940 and Sanson does a superb job of imagining the ripples which would have spread had Churchill not become Prime Minister. It's detailed, sinister and totally compelling. You might argue that Hitler would have acted differently had Britain surrendered but I find the world Sanson creates believable.

The characters gripped me too. To all intents and purposes David Fitzgerald's mother was Anglo-Irish, but he knows the truth - and the consequences which can flow from it. Gunther Hoth is not the stereotypical Nazi. The characters are all flawed, believable human beings. There wasn't one who failed to come off the page fully clothed. But I have a problem with this book and that's the pace - it simply allowed me to slip away from the story far too easily. I loved Winter in Madrid and I've had to be surgically separated from the Shardlake stories. I was expecting not a similar story but certainly that same grip - and it just wasn't there for me.

I'd like to thank the publishers for sending a copy to the Bookbag.

The obvious comparison is Fatherland by Robert Harris but I think Dominion is better than that!

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