Liberation Square by Gareth Rubin

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Liberation Square by Gareth Rubin

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Category: Thrillers
Rating: 5/5
Reviewer: Luke Marlowe
Reviewed by Luke Marlowe
Summary: A remarkably well crafted thriller that pulls the reader headfirst into a dark alternate past, Liberation Square combines masterful storytelling with an eye for fascinating detail - leading to a hugely memorable read.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 400 Date: April 2019
Publisher: Michael Joseph
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 978-0718187095

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In an alternate 1952, Soviet Troops control British Streets. After D-Day goes horribly wrong, Britain is first occupied by Nazi Germany – only to be rescued by Russian soldiers from the East, and Americans from the west. Dividing the nation between them, London soon finds itself split in two, a wall running through it like a scar. When Jane Cawson's husband is arrested for the murder of his former wife, Jane is determined to clear his name. In doing so, Jane follows a trail of corruption that leads her right to the highest levels of the state – and soon finds herself desperate to stay one step ahead of the murderous secret police…

Gareth Rubin is a journalist, author and film maker, who has previously published two books – a tongue in cheek guide to Crap Days Out in the UK, and The Great Cat Massacre - A History of Britain in 100 Mistakes. Liberation Square is his first fiction novel – but it's one in which Rubin is able to utilise his eye for intriguing detail to build a dark, fascinating and surprisingly realistic world.

Alternate histories are nothing new – The Man in the High Castle, Fatherland and Dominion three extremely popular examples of alternate historical fiction that explore the consequences of an Axis win in World War II – and the inevitable disquiet and unrest that springs from such rule. Rubin explores a very different avenue -taking the Axis win as a starting point, but instead showing the UK as a country rescued by the Russians and Americans, but soon divided in two - and with parallels to the divided Berlin in the real world, Rubin is able to combine the tension and drama of an occupied country with the political drama and intrigue of the Cold War. The plot is so tightly wound that the tension is almost unbearable at times - the reader following Jane on a journey that's packed full of realism and emotion – a strong beating heart to counter the dark, shadowy happenings of the plot and provide a relatable lead to anchor the story as it weaves through the dangerous, divided, London streets.

Stories like these can often turn into real flights of fantasy, but Rubin anchors his in real history, and it's a clear that a huge amount of research has gone into making this a story that's as grounded and as realistic as possible - not just an intriguing read, but a fascinating warning of how things could have been – relevant and bluntly rather scary in the current political climate where nationalism appears to be on the rise. Fictionalised quotes and speeches from historical figures add to the chilling realism here -it's extremely well done and Rubin strikes a fantastic balance in this read quickens the heart just as much as it chills the blood.

Gripping, intelligent, and incredibly well crafted – Liberation Square is as timely as it is thrilling. A memorable read that I highly recommend. For further reading, I recommend Defectors by Joseph Kanon – another thriller that combines historical detail with a tightly crafted plot in order to pull the reader into a world full of smoke, shadows and danger.

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