C.J. SANSOM REWRITES HISTORY IN A THRILLING NOVEL THAT DARES TO IMAGINE BRITAIN UNDER THE THUMB OF NAZI GERMANY.
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 rulethe 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.
|Publisher:||Little, Brown and Company|
|Product dimensions:||5.40(w) x 8.20(h) x 1.30(d)|
About the Author
C.J. Sansom is the bestselling author of the critically-acclaimed Matthew Sharlake series, as well as the runaway international bestseller Winter in Madrid. He lives in Sussex, England.
Read an Excerpt
By C.J. Sansom
Little, Brown and CompanyCopyright © 2014 C.J. Sansom
All rights reserved.
Almost all the passengers on the Tube to Victoria were, like David and his family, on their way to the Remembrance Sunday parade. It was a cold morning and the men and women all wore black winter coats. Scarves and handbags were also black, or muted brown, the only color the bright red poppies everyone wore in their buttonholes. David ushered Sarah and her mother into a carriage; they found two empty wooden benches and sat facing each other.
As the Tube rattled out of Kenton Station David looked around him. Everyone seemed sad and somber, befitting the day. There were relatively few older men—most of the Great War veterans, like Sarah's father, would be in central London already, preparing for the march past the Cenotaph. David was himself a veteran of the second war, the brief 1939–40 conflict that people called the Dunkirk campaign or the Jews' war, according to political taste. But David, who had served in Norway, and the other survivors of that defeated, humiliated army—whose retreat from Europe had been followed so quickly by Britain's surrender—did not have a place at the Remembrance Day ceremonies. Nor did the British soldiers who had died in the endless conflicts in India, and now Africa, that had begun since the 1940 Peace Treaty. Remembrance Day now had a political overtone: remember the slaughter when Britain and Germany fought in 1914–18; remember that must never happen again. Britain must remain Germany's ally.
"It's very cloudy," Sarah's mother said. "I hope it isn't going to rain."
"It'll be all right, Betty," David said reassuringly. "The forecast said it would just stay cloudy."
Betty nodded. A plump little woman in her sixties, her whole life was focused on caring for Sarah's father, who had had half his face blown off on the Somme in 1916.
"It gets very uncomfortable for Jim, marching in the rain," she said. "The water drips behind his prosthesis and of course he can't take it off."
Sarah took her mother's hand. Her square face with its strong round chin—her father's chin—looked dignified. Her long blond hair, curled at the ends, was framed by a modest black hat. Betty smiled at her. The Tube halted at a station and more people got on. Sarah turned to David. "There's more passengers than usual."
"People wanting to get a first look at the Queen, I imagine."
"I hope we manage to find Steve and Irene all right," Betty said, worrying again.
"I told them to meet us by the ticket booths at Victoria," Sarah told her. "They'll be there, dear, don't worry."
David looked out of the window. He was not looking forward to spending the afternoon with his wife's sister and her husband. Irene was good-natured enough, although she was full of silly ideas and never stopped talking, but David loathed Steve, with his mixture of oily charm and arrogance, his Blackshirt politics. David would have to try to keep his lip buttoned as usual.
The train ground to a jolting halt, just before the mouth of a tunnel. There was a hiss somewhere as brakes engaged. "Not today," someone said. "These delays are getting worse. It's a disgrace." Outside, David saw, the track looked down on rows of back-to-back houses of soot-stained London brick. Gray smoke rose from chimneys, washing was hanging out to dry in the backyards. The streets were empty. A grocer's window just below them had a prominent sign in the window, Food Stamps Taken Here. There was a sudden jolt and the train moved into the tunnel, only to judder to a halt again a few moments later. David saw his own face reflected back from the dark window, his head framed by his bulky dark coat with its wide lapels. A bowler hat hid his short black hair, a few unruly curls just visible. His unlined, regular features made him look younger than thirty-five; deceptively unmarked. He suddenly recalled a childhood memory, his mother's constant refrain to women visitors, "Isn't he a good-looking boy, couldn't you just eat him?" Delivered in her sharp Dublin brogue, it had made him squirm with embarrassment. Another memory came unbidden, of when he was seventeen and had won the inter-schools Diving Cup. He remembered standing on the high board, a sea of faces far below, the board trembling slightly beneath his feet. Two steps forward and then the dive, down into the great expanse of still water, the moment of fear and then the exhilaration of striking out into silence.
Steve and Irene were waiting at Victoria. Irene, Sarah's older sister, was also tall and blond but with a little dimpled chin like her mother's. Her black coat had a thick brown fur collar. Steve was good-looking in a raffish way, with a thin black mustache that made him look like a poor man's Errol Flynn. He wore a black fedora on his thickly brilliantined head—David could smell the chemical tang as he shook his brother-in-law's hand.
"How's the Civil Service, old man?" Steve asked.
"Surviving." David smiled.
"Still keeping watch over the Empire?"
"Something like that. How are the boys?"
"Grand. Getting bigger and noisier every week. We might bring them next year, they're getting old enough." David saw a shadow pass across Sarah's face and knew she was remembering their own dead son.
"We ought to hurry, get the Tube to Westminster," Irene said. "Look at all these people."
They joined the throng heading for the escalator. As the crowd pressed together their pace slowed to a silent shuffle, reminding David for a moment of his time as a soldier, shuffling with the rest of the weary troops onto the ships evacuating British forces from Norway, back in 1940.
They turned into Whitehall. David's office was just behind the Cenotaph; men walking past would still remove their hats as they passed it, respectfully and unselfconsciously, though fewer and fewer with each passing year—thirty-four now since the Great War ended. The sky was gray-white, the air cold. People's breath steamed before them as they jostled—quietly and politely—for places behind the low metal barriers opposite the tall white rectangle of the Cenotaph, a line of policemen in heavy coats in front. Some were ordinary constables in their helmets, but many were Special Branch Auxiliaries in their flat peaked caps and slimmer blue uniforms. When they were first created in the 1940s to deal with growing civil unrest David's father had said the Auxiliaries reminded him of the Black and Tans, the violent trench veterans recruited by Lloyd George to augment the police during the Irish Independence War. All were armed.
The ceremony had changed in the last few years; serving personnel no longer stood on parade around the Cenotaph, blocking the public view, and wooden boards had been laid on blocks behind the barriers to give people a better vantage point. It was part of what Prime Minister Beaverbrook called "demystifying the thing."
The family managed to get a good place opposite Downing Street and the big Victorian building which housed the Dominions Office where David worked. Beyond the barriers, forming three sides of a hollow square around the Cenotaph, the military and religious leaders had already taken their places. The soldiers were in full dress uniform, Archbishop Headlam, head of the section of the Anglican Church that had not split away in opposition to his compromises with the regime, in gorgeous green-and-gold vestments. Beside them stood the politicians and ambassadors, each holding a wreath. David looked them over; there was Prime Minister Beaverbrook with his wizened little monkey face, the wide fleshy mouth downturned in an expression of sorrow. For forty years, since he first came to England from Canada with business scandals hanging over him, Beaverbrook had combined building a newspaper empire with maneuvering in politics, pushing his causes of free enterprise, the Empire, and appeasement on the public and politicians. He was trusted by few, elected by none, and after the death of his immediate predecessor, Lloyd George, in 1945, the coalition had made him Prime Minister.
Lord Halifax, the Prime Minister who had surrendered after France fell, stood beside Beaverbrook, overtopping him by a foot. Halifax was bald now, his cadaverous face an ashen shadow beneath his hat, deep-set eyes staring over the crowd with a curious blankness. Beside him stood Beaverbrook's coalition colleagues: Home Secretary Oswald Mosley, tall and ramrod-straight, India Secretary Enoch Powell, only forty but seeming far older, black-mustached and darkly saturnine, Viscount Swinton, the Dominions Office Secretary and David's own minister, tall and aristocratic, Foreign Secretary Rab Butler with his pouched froggy face, and the Coalition Labour leader Ben Greene, one of the few Labour figures who had admired the Nazis in the 1930s. When Labour split in 1940 Herbert Morrison had led the Pro-Treaty minority that went into coalition with Halifax; he was one of those politicians for whom ambition was all-consuming. But he had resigned in 1943; the degree of British support for Germany had become too much for him, as it had for some other politicians like the Conservative Sam Hoare; all had retreated into private life with peerages.
Also standing in their dark coats were representatives of the Dominions; David recognized some of the High Commissioners from work, like the thickset, frowning Vorster of South Africa. Then behind them came ambassadors representing the other nations who had fought in the Great War: Germany's Rommel, Mussolini's son-in-law Ciano, the ambassadors of France and Japan, Joe Kennedy from America. Russia, though, had no representative; Britain, as Germany's ally, was still formally at war with the Soviet Union though she had no troops to spare for that giant meat-grinder, the German–Soviet war, which had gone on, over a 1,200-mile front, for eleven years now.
A little way off a group of men stood around an outside-broadcast camera, an enormous squat thing trailing thick wires, BBC emblazoned on the side. Beside it the heavy form of Richard Dimbleby could be seen speaking into a microphone, though he was too far off for David to hear anything.
Sarah shivered, rubbing her gloved hands together. "Golly, it's cold. Poor Dad will feel it standing around waiting for the march past to start." She looked at the Cenotaph, the bare white memorial. "God, it's all so sad."
"At least we know we'll never go to war with Germany again," Irene said.
"Look, there she is." Betty spoke in tones of hushed reverence.
The Queen had come out of the Home Office. Accompanied by the Queen Mother and her grandmother, old Queen Mary, equerries carrying their wreaths, she took her place in front of the Archbishop. Her pretty young face was ill suited to her black clothes. This was one of her few public appearances since her father's death early in the year. David thought she looked tired and afraid. Her expression reminded him of the late King's in 1940, when George VI rode down Whitehall in an open carriage beside Adolf Hitler, on the Führer's state visit after the Berlin Peace Treaty. David, still convalescing from frostbite caught in Norway, had watched the ceremony on the new television his father had bought, one of the first in the street, when the BBC resumed broadcasting. Hitler had looked in seventh heaven, beaming, flushed and rosy-cheeked, his dream of an alliance with the Aryan British at last fulfilled. He smiled and waved at the silent crowd, but the King had sat expressionless, only raising a hand occasionally, his body angled away from Hitler's. Afterwards David's father had said "enough," that was it, he was off to live with his brother in New Zealand, and David would come too if he knew what was good for him, never mind his Civil Service job. Thank God, he added feelingly, David's mother hadn't lived to see this.
Sarah was looking at the Queen. "Poor woman," she said.
David glanced over. He said very quietly, "She shouldn't have let them make her their puppet."
"What alternative did she have?"
David didn't answer.
People in the crowd glanced at their watches, then they all fell silent, removing hats and caps as, across Westminster, Big Ben boomed out eleven times. Then, shockingly loud in the still air, came the sound of a big gun firing, marking the moment the guns had stopped in 1918. Everyone bowed their heads for the two minutes' silence, remembering the terrible costs of Britain's victory in the Great War, or perhaps, like David, those of her defeat in 1940. Two minutes later the field-gun on Horse Guards Parade fired again, ending the silence. A bugler sounded the notes of "the last post," indescribably haunting and sad. The crowd listened, bareheaded in the winter cold, the only sound an occasional stifled cough. Every time he attended the ceremony David wondered that nobody in the crowd ever burst out crying, or, remembering the recent past, fell shrieking to the ground.
The last note died away. Then, to the sound of the "Funeral March" played by the band of the Brigade of Guards, the young Queen bore a wreath of poppies that looked too big for her to carry, laid it down on the Cenotaph, and stood with bowed head. She walked slowly back to her place and the Queen Mother followed. "So young to be a widow," Sarah said.
"Yes." David had noticed a faint smoky tang in the air and, looking up Whitehall for a moment, saw a slight haze. There would be fog tonight.
The rest of the Royal Family laid their wreaths, followed by the military leaders, the Prime Minister and politicians, and representatives of the Empire governments. The base of the stark, simple monument was now carpeted in the dark green wreaths with their red poppies. Then Germany's ambassador, Erwin Rommel, one of the victors of the 1940 campaign in France, stepped forward, trim and military, Iron Cross pinned to his breast, his handsome face stern and sad. The wreath he bore was enormous, larger even than the Queen's. In the center, on a white background, was a swastika. He laid the wreath and stood, head bowed, for a long moment before turning away. Behind him Joseph Kennedy, the veteran American ambassador, waited. It was his turn next.
Then, from behind David, came a sudden shouting. "End Nazi control! Democracy now! Up the Resistance!" Something sailed over the heads of the crowd and crashed at Rommel's feet. Sarah gasped. Irene and some of the other women in the crowd screamed. The steps of the Cenotaph and the bottom of Rommel's coat were instantly streaked with red and for a moment David thought it was blood, that someone had thrown a bomb, but then he saw a paint-pot rattle down the steps onto the pavement. Rommel did not flinch, just stood where he was. Ambassador Kennedy, though, had jumped back in panic. Policemen were reaching for truncheons and pistols. A group of soldiers, rifles at the ready, stepped forward. David saw the Royal Family being hurried away.
"Nazis out!" someone called from the crowd. "We want Churchill!" Policemen were vaulting the barriers now. A couple of men in the crowd had also produced guns and looked fiercely around: Special Branch undercover men. David pulled Sarah to him. The crowd parted to let the police through, and he glimpsed a struggle off to his right. He saw a baton raised, heard someone call out, "Get the bastards!" encouragingly to the police.
Sarah said, "Oh God, what are they doing?"
"I don't know." Irene was holding Betty, the old woman weeping, while Steve was staring at the melee with a face like thunder. The whole crowd was talking now, a susurrating murmur from which the occasional shout could be heard. "Bloody Communists, beat their heads in!" "They're right, get the Germans out!"
A British general, a thin man with a sunburned face and gray mustache, climbed the steps of the Cenotaph, carrying a megaphone, picking his way through the wreaths, and called for order from the crowd.
"Did they get them?" Sarah asked David. "I couldn't see."
"Yes. I think there were just a few."
"It's bloody treason!" Steve said. "I hope they hang the buggers!"
The ceremony continued with the rest of the wreath-laying and then a short service led by Archbishop Headlam. He spoke a prayer, the microphone giving his voice an odd, tinny echo.
"O Lord, look down on us as we remember the brave men who have died fighting for Britain. We remember the legions who fell between 1914 and 1918, that great and tragic conflict which still marks us all, here and across all Europe. Lord, remember the pain of those gathered here today who have lost loved ones. Comfort them, comfort them."
Excerpted from Dominion by C.J. Sansom. Copyright © 2014 C.J. Sansom. Excerpted by permission of Little, Brown and Company.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
What C.J. Sansom does with Dominion - presenting an alternative history in which Winston Churchill does not become Prime Minister of Britain in 1940 and the men who do come to power agree to an appeasement with Germany that finds the now authoritarian government of Britain heavily influenced by their new Fascist friends - is simply fascinating! I love the idea of exploring how every little alteration and change of events can so heavily impact every aspect of our world. And the changes here make for some devastating and far reaching consequences. I have to admit that I got bogged down at times with the various political and social factions discussed and had a hard time keeping them straight (Socialism, Communism, Fascism, Nationalism, Imperialism....just so many "ism's"!). There is so much intricate history here as well - the various countries involved with this ongoing war for German domination, their various leaders and the shifting allegiances between countries, the scientific advancement during this time - that I found myself having to stop reading the book to go look up the many bits and pieces of factual history in order to be able to determine the changes taking places in this alternative world. This slowed down my reading somewhat and caused some confusion but the historical notes at the end of the novel did help alleviate some of that confusion. For me the driving force and what kept bringing be back into the story was the human element. Taking these broad and perplexing ideals and showing how they affected and influenced the people having to live under them made this shifted history seem real and frightening. It was sad yet inspiring to see the many reasons these characters joined Churchill's Resistance and was awe-inspiring to witness the bravery and selflessness they presented. On the flip side it was horrifying to see the greed, prejudice and cruelty of some of the other characters. All of these people came to life for me and thoroughly captured my attention. In particular the two characters that fascinated me the most were Frank Muncaster and Gunther Hoth. Both are such complex, well developed characters that kept surprising me with their growth throughout the story. Frank, the scientist holding a dangerous and deadly secret, is such a sad, scared, introverted character that spent his life being bullied and unloved by everyone but who proved to have more bravery than most could imagine when it mattered. Most surprising of all, I found myself remarkably feeling compassion for Gunther Hoth, a Nazi man through and through, who had lost so much throughout his life but carried on with a purpose and determination to do what he felt was his job and his duty to Germany. He is a monster for what he did and what he supported but one that had a heart, although a twisted and misjudging one in my opinion. I am always delighted to find a novel that makes me feel for characters that are so multidimensional. All in all Dominion is a thought provoking and complex look at how our world and its history can change on a dime based on the wills, egos, and actions of others and how the actions of the few can so alter the lives of the many. This is my first novel by C.J. Sansom but it will definitely not be my last.
It’s been a while since I’ve read a real good alternate history book. This one really got me turning the pages and got me wanting to stay up late to finish it (despite it being about the size of a tome). So the book is mostly told in three different character narratives. David, Frank, or Sarah. The three characters have issues of their own, (David and Sarah sharing a personal tragedy) each of them having their own way of developing their character throughout the story. Suffice to say, all three of them are stronger than how they started off in the book. Frank, I would have to say, ends up being the strongest one of them all. Of the three I’d have to say it’s a close tie between Sarah and Frank as my favorite. Frank especially, after all that he goes through and with a superb background story. I liked Sarah a lot because although she was going through so many marital issues with David, she got it all together in the end and was able to face the danger and she managed to save face and stand head to head to Natalia (whom I found rather odious and extremely unlikable). Good for Sarah, on top of that instead of breaking down like a poor sod with her marriage issues she met them straight on and told David exactly how she felt. Sarah darling, I’m holding a torch for you. David would be my least favorite character - but a step above Syme and Natalia (oh goodness, yes I put Syme and Natalia in the same boat here). He was okay until this thing with Natalia come up and he suddenly became a likeable very helpful and loyal character to a lovesick poor twit who behaved like a dumb cow. Get over it buddy. You have much more IMPORTANT things to do but noooooooo you got the one track mind going on here (the scene with saying goodbye on the boat just about had me wanting to push David off of it. Seriously!?! your wife is looking at you and while she’s surviving on her own without any help from you, you’re too busy looking for Natalia arrghhh!!! You don’t deserve Sarah!!!!!!) The plot overall was excellent and well written. It gives a good alternate history of a ‘what if’ scenario and does it well. It nice both sides (German and Resistance) are portrayed here. I sort of felt sorry for Gunther, but on the other hand I didn’t because he was your typical Nazi with those silly political views which induces eye rolling throughout certain parts of the book but you can also feel a sort of weariness in him as if he’s really tired of it all. The author’s note in the back provides good insight and information that deserves a walk through. Overall I was very pleased and happy with the book and am glad I had the opportunity to read and review it. Greatly recommended and I’m definitely going to check out C J Sansom’s other works.