Tag Archives: alternative history novels

Dominion by C.J. Sansom Offers Alternative Scenario Thriller–a 1952 Nazi-Occupied Britain

DominionDominion, by C. J. Sansom is a compelling alternative history book that presents in detail to readers what would have happened has Britain surrendered to Germany in the 1940s, stayed out of WWII, and Lord Halifax would have been England’s Prime Minister instead of Churchill!  The novel begins the tale set in 1952, with a very old Hitler still very much alive and Jews still being branded by the wearing of a patch to announce themselves.

I know many readers don’t like alternate histories, they like to know exactly what occurred even when they are reading fiction. It must be a comfort level thing….to never ask “what if.”  I can understand that in a way, as with so much history it’s already difficult to weed out the accurate content. However, having earned a degree in History myself from a University that takes pride in political science and history and teaching so that it gives a foundation and clarity for our future, I still don’t mind picking up an alternate history. I DO agree it should always be known as an alternative history, though, as so many people believe just about anything these days. But beyond that, I say why not push the boundaries of historical writing. I know I think all the time about history and circumstances and my brain goes in all different directions thinking about what might had happened if a certain situation hadn’t taken place.

C.J. Sansom takes what I think is a common question to many when he asks what if something didn’t happen or did happen to change the course of what Germany was able to do or not do during the war. I think that Sansom looks at the various TRUE history surrounding the 1930s, 40, and 50s and sets a stage for if one component was changed. It’s ingenious to create a world stemming from this situation of Britain not entering WWII and being occupied by Hitler’s regime, which changes even the course for Americans, who also didn’t end up entering WWII. Sansom is able to research accurately and in detail the time period, using critical thinking to move the chess pieces around the invisible board in his mind, and on paper, to see where new pieces would end up if another move had been taken by an opponent (or in this case, by a country or leader). He offers a well-thought out story and a plot that made you insistent in your reading.

If you’ve read something from the 80s or 90s like a John Le Carre or a Robert Harris novel, you know that many great writers employ the tactic of slow-moving prose and write straight intriguing prose. Like Le Carre, Sansom employs average characters and more psychological over physical action. Many people looking for an intense thriller might  need to recognize that they’ll need to be prepared to slow down their reading and let it absorb them much like the London fog. It’s not suspenseful if you define that with the word action, it’s suspense in your head that grows and lingers and allows you to think creatively and deeply in regards to where are world was, what it went through, what it has become, and then where it COULD have been. That is the kind of thinking that many political and international strategists much calculate even today in order to keep our world as peaceful as possible.

I know that Sansom is most well-known for his Shardlake detective series set in the Tudor era; however, Dominion is a stand-alone as far as I can tell. In Dominion, Sansom as the author takes on the role of detective and lets his amazingly developed narrator set the scene and take us through the novel, weaving through a myriad of characters. There are many characters, some with more personality than others, and several surprises and various plot points that seemed mostly believable. Some of his sentences were styled differently than this writer and editor would have formulated, but they work with his pacing as they allow a more speedy and staccato read even when the plot is more mellow. It’s a really long book, but if you sets your sights on it being long and read it in several sittings, it doesn’t seem as long as the story is intriguing and interesting, especially as pertained to the resistance movement.

My result and recommendation is if you like alternative history, or like WWII stories and find yourself in deep thought about “what-if moments, then this book is for you. If you enjoy the style of writing that many writers from a past generation made famous, for instance John Le Carre, then this book offers a great weekend read for you!

And on a personal note, I really liked the book, but I am a huge Le Carre fan too!! Thanks to Sansom for taking on this style of writing–one with a slower pace–that includes more internal struggle rather than the physical action of most common day thrillers. He might be a true author of historical espionage suspense thrillers which is exciting, as in this changing world, where even BOND has now been “changed” for a new type of “enemy” and a tech world, I still like the old world suspense. Nothing wrong with Sansom writing an alternative history to take on this challenge and create a world of intrigue that is fresh, calculating, and thought-provoking.

DominionDominion, Synopsis~

Publication Date: January 28, 2014
Mulholland Books
Hardcover; 640p
ISBN-10: 0316254916


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 rule–the 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.

C.J. Sansom’s literary thriller Winter in Madrid earned Sansom comparisons to Graham Greene, Sebastian Faulks, and Ernest Hemingway. Now, in his first alternative history epic, Sansom doesn’t just recreate the past–he reinvents it. In a spellbinding tale of suspense, oppression and poignant love, DOMINION dares to explore how, in moments of crisis, history can turn on the decisions of a few brave men and women–the secrets they choose to keep and the bonds they share.

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About the Author

CJ SansomC.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.

You can find more information on C.J. Sansom and his novels at www.cjsansom.com or on Facebook.

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