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Dominion by C. J. Sansom
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Dominion (original 2012; edition 2012)

by C. J. Sansom

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5994616,356 (3.66)70
Member:borntorover
Title:Dominion
Authors:C. J. Sansom
Info:Mantle (2012), Edition: Open market ed, Paperback
Collections:Your library
Rating:***
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Dominion by C. J. Sansom (2012)

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Showing 1-5 of 46 (next | show all)
I'm not sure if early 2017 is the best or worst time to read a work of counter-factual historical fiction like this: set in a 1950s England where the forces of appeasement won out, Winston Churchill is the fugitive head of the British Resistance, and an ageing Hitler is about to celebrate two decades in power.

Overall, this is a bit of a mixed bag. Sansom does a good job of sketching out a grey and gloomy London, suffocating under a coal-fuelled smog and fascism in equal measure; what atmosphere his pen can't supply, the reader's imagination can easily substitute in nowadays. What does the destruction of civilisation and democracy need but spineless self-interest and ignorance and apathy?

However, Dominion's characterisation is thin, the tension never quite ratchets up as much as the reader might want thanks to a weak central plot McGuffin and a failure to fillet out flabby back stories, and Sansom's insistence on the dangers of particularly Scottish nationalism is a bit ironic in light of the Brexit referendum (you were looking at the wrong side of the border for evidence of the really toxic stuff, buddy). Still, this is a step above the usual airport thriller, and provides an added dose of moral discomfort for the reader for good measure. If the worst happened, what kind of coward would you be? ( )
1 vote siriaeve | Feb 5, 2017 |
A failure to build tension and long screeds of exposition from characters made this a slow and unenjoyable read. The author appears to have had great fun casting historical figures as saintly or villainous in his counter-factual scenario. There is little nuance here. One to avoid. ( )
  Sr_Moreno | Dec 28, 2016 |
I am very interested in history but don't know enough about the period (and British history, specifically) to really judge how historically accurate the novel is. It felt real enough for me, but that's not saying much. For me the book was more of a stimulus to learn more about some of the political movements and leaders it mentions. I first came across Sansom's Winter in Madrid a few years ago by chance, really liked it and went on to read all his Shardlake novels. I don't know anything about Sansom's politics, really, but he is obviously some kind of socialist pays a lot of attention to class, which from my point of view recommends him.
I like Dominion. I'm not sure Sansom's writing is at its best here, but the novel works for me. I have to add I'm not actually reading it but listening to it as an audiobook, and the reader does an amazing job with the class and regional accents (again, as far as I can tell, having lived in the UK for three years and having been fluent in English since my childhood, but not being British). You get a lot of little history lessons, and one of the main functions of the characters seems to be to represent different political currents. I find Sansom's take on the inner life of fascists interesting, and there is a lot of lefty, class-conscious antifascist talk by various characters, which I quite enjoy. I read one long one star review of the book here on Goodreads, by this (judging by her blog) fairly conservative (racist, nationalist...) reader. She really hates the novel and ridicules it as best she can. I must say I think it's great that people like her dislike the book. ( )
  d.mang | Aug 14, 2016 |
Very readable as a page turning thriller but you need to bear with it for the first 100 pages as there's a lot of inevitable clunky exposition. Swanson has made a very carefully researched and persuasive academic guess about how things would have panned out politically and socially if Britain had sued for peace in 1940. It's not necessary but it probably helps to enjoy and follow the novel if you have some historical knowledge of 1939-1941. ( )
  stephengoldenberg | Apr 6, 2016 |
3.44
  johnrid11 | Feb 14, 2016 |
Showing 1-5 of 46 (next | show all)
But, as in all the best war-related alternative fiction, the finger of suspicion also jabs uncomfortably at the reader. Sansom directly confronts the frequent, smug view in the UK that nazism and the Jewish Holocaust were inherently German perversions. The English, in this version, often prove just as susceptible to strong but psychotic leadership and the prospect of racist genocide. The song from Cabaret that poses the question "What Would You Do?" might be the theme tune to a tremendous novel that shakes historical preconceptions while also sending shivers down the spine.
 
Sansom has woven a thriller with the tale of a man's growth into moral courage, but he has done it with the compassion and richness that many literary writers should emulate. Every detail of this nightmare Britain rings true, from the way that morris dancing is televised as a cultural expression of nationalism to the absence of the name "Lyons" in Corner Houses. Cowardice and collaboration are everywhere.
 
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Epigraph
The whole fury and might of the enemy must very soon be turned on us.  Hitler knows that he will have to break us in this island or lose the war.  If we can stand up to him all Europe may be free, and the life of the world will move forward into broad, sunlit uplands; but if we fail, then the whole world, including the United States, and all that we have known and cared for, will sink into the abyss of a new dark age made more sinister,and perhaps more prolonged, by the lights of a perverted science. -- Winston Churchill, 18 June 1940.
Dedication
To the memory of my parents, TREVOR SANSOM (1921-2000) and ANN SANSOM (1924-1990) who in 1939-45 endured the hardships and did their bit to defeat the Nazis.  And of ROSALITA, R.I.P. 19.2.2012
First words
Churchill was last to arrive.
Quotations
Whenever a party tells you national identity matters more than anything else in politics, that nationalism can sort out all the other problems, then watch out, because you're on a road that can end with fascism. Even if it doesn't, the idea that nationality's some sort of magic that can make other problems disappear, it's like believin' in fairies. And of course nationalists always have to have an enemy, the English or the French or the Jews, there always has tae be some other bugger that's caused all the problems.
There's a physicist in America who thinks the world we live in is only one of millions of parallel worlds, existing alongside each other, each different in tiny little ways. Maybe worlds where everyone is happy.
People dividing each other up according to nationality and religion, it's the worst thing, it causes nothing but misery and bloodshed.
Frank hated drink, it loosened people's inhibitions and inhibitions were the only things that kept them from savagery.
Didn't Gandhi say peaceful protest only works if those you're protesting against are capable of being shamed?
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Haiku summary
Spy thriller set in
nineteen fifties alternate
fascist-ruled Britain.
(passion4reading)

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1952. Twelve years have passed since Churchill lost to the appeasers and Britain surrendered to Nazi Germany after Dunkirk. As the long German war against Russia rages on in the east, the British people find themselves under dark authoritarian rule: the press, radio and television are controlled; the streets patrolled by violent auxiliary police and British Jews face ever greater constraints. There are terrible rumours too about what is happening in the basement of the German Embassy at Senate House. Defiance, though, is growing. In Britain, Winston Churchill's Resistance organization is increasingly a thorn in the government's side. And in a Birmingham mental hospital an incarcerated scientist, Frank Muncaster, may hold a secret that could change the balance of the world struggle for ever. Civil Servant David Fitzgerald, secretly acting as a spy for the Resistance, is given the mission by them to rescue his old friend Frank and get him out of the country.… (more)

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