Author: C. J. Sansom
Author: C. J. Sansom
Publication Information: Hardcover, Mulholland Books (Hachette), February 2014
Genre: Historical Fiction ISBN: 0316254916
Plot: Imagine if England had surrendered to Hitler. In Sansom’s dark and convincing alternate history, it is 1952 and Germany is ruling England while Winston Churchill is hiding out from the authorities, encouraging a British Resistance. Newly recruited to the cause is David Fitzgerald, who has been surreptitiously passing along information obtained from his government job. He kept his involvement from his wife whose family are ardent pacifists but that has created distance in his marriage, already strained by the death of their child. When David’s Oxford friend Frank is committed to an asylum, both the Americans and Germans learn that Frank holds the key to a secret that could result in devastation to the whole world. Only David can be trusted to rescue Frank, and as his cover is blown, he and his cohorts desperately try to escape with German agents in hot pursuit.
You can see the book trailer here, which is quite atmospheric.
Audience: Fans of Robert Harris’ Enigma, Alan Furst, and my old favorite, Anthony Price. Sansom is best known for his historical mysteries about Matthew Shardlake (the first of which I gave my mother for Christmas two years ago) but no previous knowledge of his work is needed to enjoy this book, one of just two standalones he has written. You can buy the book here:
What I liked: This is a brilliantly depicted vision of what could have been, and even the minor characters are fully drawn and believable, particularly the secretary whose interest in David causes her downfall. It’s a big, thick book (my favorite kind) and hard to put down. It was the perfect read for a cold winter night (the last alternative history I liked this much was Black Hearts in Battersea). It's a dark and deliberate journey to another world.
What I disliked: I sympathized with the main character, David, but couldn’t really like him. However, I forgot my feelings for him as I was drawn into the deadly chase, which included memorable scenes set in a pervasive, ominous London fog. It takes a few minutes to acclimate oneself to lesser known historical characters, but then I sat back and enjoyed the blend of real and imaginary.
Source: I received this book from the Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours and urge you to stop by the tour to learn more about the author and various readers' interpretations of this book. For one lucky person, I have a hardcover copy to give away (US/Canada only) – please leave a comment if you are interested, and I will pick a winner.