March Books 3) Dominion, by C.J. Sansom

The second paragraph from Chapter 3:

They [Sarah and her sister Irene] went to the Gaumont in Leicester Square to see the new Marilyn Monroe comedy from America. Before the big feature the B film was the usual frothy German musical, and between the films they had to sit through one of the government-commissioned Pathe newsreels. The lights always came up then, to discourage Resistance supporters from booing if any Nazi leaders came on. First came a report of a European eugenics conference in Berlin: Marie Stopes talking with German doctors in a pillared hall. The next item was a vision of a snow-covered landscape, an old woman swathed in ragged clothes weeping and shouting in Russian outside the smoking ruins of a hut, a German soldier in helmet and greatcoat trying to comfort her. Bob Danvers-Walker’s voice turned stern: ‘In Russia, the war against communism continues. Soviet terrorists continue to commit fearful atrocities not just against Germans but against their own people. Outside Kazan a cowardly group of so-called partisans, skulking safely in the forests, fire a Katyusha rocket into a village whose inhabitants had dared to sell German soldiers some food.’ The camera panned outwards, from the ruined hut to the smashed and broken village. ‘Some Russians have chosen to forget what Germany rescued them from: the secret police and forced labour of Stalin’s regime; the millions dumped in Arctic concentration camps.’ There followed familiar grainy footage of one of the camps discovered by the Germans in 1942, skeletal figures lying in deep snow, barbed wire and watchtowers. Sarah looked away from the horrible scenes. The newsreader’s voice deepened: ‘Never doubt Europe’s eventual victory over this evil Asian doctrine. Germany beat Stalin and it will beat his successors.’ As a reminder, there followed the famous shots of Stalin after his capture when Moscow was taken in October 1941: a little man with a thick moustache, pockmarked, grey hair dishevelled, scowling at the ground while his arms were held by laughing German soldiers. Later he had been hanged publicly in Red Square. Next there was footage of the new, giant German Tiger 4 tanks with their eighteen-foot guns smashing through a birch forest on a hunt for partisans, knocking over young trees like match-sticks while helicopters clattered overhead. Then came the launch of a V3 rocket, the camera following the huge pointed cylinder with its tail of fire as it rose into the sky on its way to the far side of the Urals. Optimistic martial music played. Then the newsreel switched to an item on Beaverbrook opening a shiny new television factory in the Midlands, before the lights finally dimmed again and the main feature opened with a clash of music and a bright wash of Technicolor.

As this paragraph makes clear, this is rather an impressive version of the “Hitler Wins” sub-sub-genre of stories: quite a well-imagined defeated England in 1952, with Lord Beaverbrook leading a collaborationist government with Enoch Powell and Oswald Mosley, Adlai Stevenson about to take over from the two-term Taft jr across the water, and Hitler on his deathbed. The actual plot concerns some resistance fighters and other activists (led the elderly Churchill in hiding and uncomfortably allied with the Communists) who get caught up in the struggle to prevent a nuclear weapons secret, which has been accidentally obtained by a mad scientist in Birmingham, from falling into Nazi hands. The details are meticulously realised, but the actual McGuffin didn’t really convince me, and the ending was a bit too pat as well. Still, interesting to see an author with Sansom’s profile dabbling in alternate history.

One thought on “March Books 3) Dominion, by C.J. Sansom

  1. It’s a very tasty welcome (I assume they’re similar to the Hungarian version)

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