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dominion-978023074416501I was never a huge fan of counter-factual histories, what if alternative universe stories.  But C J Sanson (he of the Shardlake Tudor crime series) has pulled off a stunner.  There have been others who have attempted this genre, mostly with limited success.  Of course we liked – Robert Harris’s Fatherland, Owen Sheers’ Resistance, Len Deighton’s SS-GB and, even one for children, Sally Gardner’s Maggot Moon.  Now Sanson has joined these greats.

Dominion may be the best and most closely imagined of them all.

If you are looking for something to read on the beach or the plane this holiday this is for you.

The setting is London in a clammy cold fog and smog bound 1952 which never was but is still disturbingly familiar.  This tale is premised on the concept that Churchill never became Prime Minister and Britain made a pact with Nazi Germany and kept the Empire.  But at a cost.

This Britain is a second rate Empire, controlled from Europe, riddled with collaborators and corruption and a tired frightened people.  But in the background a resistance grows.  Hope is swelling that Adeli Stevenson’s election will mean a change in America’s isolationism since Roosevelt lost the 1940 election.

A thinking person’s spy thriller and a good romance as well

Sansom has always been obsessed with abuse of power and he gives this full rein here.

But, for a book set in 1952, subtly modern political digs abound as we see with the knife job done on the Scottish National Party, for readers contemplating where next year’s referendum on Independence might lead them. Austerity, shortages run down services all chime with today’s reader.  Add to the mix some very unflattering portrayals of politicians who one still remembers, as they assume their new roles, as when Enoch Powell becomes Minister for India for instance and there is a wry smile or two to be had.

It’s thought provoking, thrilling and funny all at the same time.  Absolutely a must read.

Copyright David Macadam 2013