On a recent day trip to the Omnimax theater at the St. Louis Science Center to see a film about D-Day, my father-in-law commented on how things might be now if Germany won the war. His comment struck a chord, reminding me of a book that I had recently learned of – C.J. Sansom’s alternate history, “Dominion.” This alternative history imagines a world in which World War II has not occurred.
Great Britain, still reeling from the war torn years of WWI, finds itself under the leadership of Lord Halifax rather than Winston Churchill. This single act drastically changes the world that would have been had WWII been allowed to play out. Author C.J. Sansom sets “Dominion” in the early 1950s, over a decade after a 1940 truce between the two nations. Great Britain now finds itself more and more under the control of its Fascist alli. During that decade, European Jews and now British Jews are gathered and shipped off to camps, under the guise of separating the races. In fact, they are being exterminated, as Nazis attempt to create a “pure” empire.
Sansom focuses his story on the growing resistance movement that fights relentlessly to overthrow the German regime that has infiltrated Great Britain. He follows David, a civil servant, who also happens to be working as a spy for the resistance; Sarah, David’s wife, and a pacifist; Frank, a college friend of David’s who holds a secret the Nazis will kill to get their hands on; and Gunther, the SS officer sent to capture Frank. “Dominion” is told from their various perspectives.
I loved the depth brought to the story as its perspective moved back and forth between these rich and compelling characters. Sansom’s research is also highly evident, particularly in his notes section at the book’s end. So although this is an alternative history, it is chock full of people who did exist. Sansom even incorporates other aspects of history into the story that add to its realism. For example, he includes a true fog event that occurred during the very time period during which the novel is set, which ultimately impacts the events that occur within the novel. Sansom’s extensive research truly creates a world that could have existed if the events of 1940 had gone differently.
“Dominion” is a great read for anyone who loves a thriller, but readers of historical fiction may find it satisfying as well thanks to all the research and real history found throughout the story. And for those of us who enjoy learning about history, but also enjoy pondering “what if,” it is certainly a book that does not disappoint. (And for those who are intrigued by the idea of reading alternative histories, the library owns several beyond this title. Check out some that you may enjoy reading by browsing our catalog.)