If the world had turned Nazi....

the book:

Dominion by CJ Sansom

published 2012    chapter 2   set in the early 1950s

Geoff introduced him to Jackson a week later. It was high summer, the sun hot in a cloudless sky. David met Geoff at Hampstead Heath Station and they walked to the top of Parliament Hill. Courting couples strolled along hand in hand, the women in bright, white-skirted summer dresses, the men in open-necked shirts and light jackets. There were families too; children were flying kites, bright colours against the blue sky. David had been expecting Geoff’s friend to be someone their age, but the man sitting on a bench was in his fifties, with iron-grey hair. He got up at their approach; he was tall and bulky but moved quickly.

observations: CJ Sansom’s Shardlake series is one of the delights of historical fiction. From the first look at Dissolution - cold bones and an aura of fog in a failing Tudor monastery – readers have been waiting impatiently for the next episode as the sad, misshapen lawyer busies himself around Henry VIII's England, in on everything and investigating everything. One year we got Winter in Madrid instead - had it been languishing in a drawer, and got published on the back of the huge success of Dissolution? Never mind, it was still good stuff, set in the Spanish Civil War and very much redolent of Auden’s ‘low dishonest decade.’

So - Dominion. It has pleased many readers but, sadly, not around here. It’s a counter-factual: assuming a world in which Great Britain made an appeasement peace with the Germans in 1940. David, Jewish but has to pretend he isn’t, is being recruited to join a secret Resistance movement. The book will follow, at great length, a very involved (and not very convincing) plot concerning mad scientists, nuclear secrets, romantically attractive East Europeans, and sudden horrible scenes of violence. There is a long afterword from Sansom in which he gives his thoughts on the book, on WW2, and, strangely and at length, on the possibility of Scottish devolution. He is committed, political, a wonderful historian, and admirably left-wing. We feel guilty for saying we'd much rather have had another Shardlake book.

picture is of researchers from the London School of Economics, away for a weekend in 1948. Old photos of people off-duty are always more intriguing and informative than serious ones, especially to the student of clothes. Nowadays the women would be in trousers, and none of the men would be in ties… In the extract, you have to wonder if the women's dresses should have been wide-skirted rather than white-skirted?

Links up with: A number of books from the early 1950s featured on the blog earlier this year, and the entry on this
1954 book looks at the list. The photo is very much the milieu of this book and its summer school.


  1. Moira - I'm sorry this one didn't satisfy as much as other historical mysteries do. I actually like that sub-genre very much, so I know what you mean by feeling guilty for not liking it more. Shardlake is highly talented...

  2. There are a few ;what-if' books about WW" out there at the moment and they really don't appeal. I would have liked another Shardlake too!


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