History Rewritten

Sansom, C.J. Dominion. Mulholland: Little, Brown. Jan. 2014. 640p. ISBN 9780316254915. $27; ebk. ISBN 9780316254922. F

Neville Chamberlain’s preferred successor as Britain’s prime minister in May 1940 was his dour foreign secretary, Lord Halifax, not the brilliant but sometimes rash Winston Churchill. Sansom’s new stand-alone (after Winter in Madrid) ponders what might have happened if Chamberlain had had his way: a surrendered Britain at peace following the fall of France and governed by the likes of Max Beaverbrook, Oswald Moseley, and other quislings under Hitler’s thumb; a Nazi Germany still caught in a seemingly endless death struggle deep within the vastness of Russia; and a United States (under Adlai Stevenson!) still aloof from foreign entanglement. Sansom’s alternative world feels genuine and includes delicious scenes such as a sappy, smiling Hitler riding down the Mall beside George VI in the golden State Coach while the stone-faced king bites his stiff upper lip. The protagonists include Frank Muncaster, the brother of an American-based nuclear scientist, attempting to deny Germany the secrets of the atomic bomb, civil servant (and spy for the English Resistance) David Fitzgerald, whose Jewish heritage must eventually affect his survival in a country slowly going mad, and Gestapo agent Gunther Hoth. VERDICT This speculative and intriguing thriller sucks readers into an alternative world that reveals its rewritten history only slowly, creating in us a page-turning craving for the details. Recommended for fans of World War II and totalitarian-era political fiction, history buffs, and those who enjoy alternative history generally. [See Prepub Alert, 7/29/13.]—Vicki Gregory, Sch. of Information, Univ. of South Florida, Tampa

Taylor, D.J. The Windsor Faction. Pegasus. Sept. 2013. 368p. ISBN 9781605984780. $25.95. F

This alternate history fails to live up to its intriguing premise: What if Wallis Simpson had died in 1936, leaving Edward no reason to abdicate? In it, Edward becomes king and is bullied by his advisers, while secretly taking steps toward peace with Hitler. Meanwhile, readers are introduced to Cynthia Kirkpatrick, who moves back to London from Ceylon and finds herself drawn into the orbit of charismatic American diplomat Tyler Kent. Cynthia isn’t sure if Tyler is pursuing her because of her work at a literary magazine, her circle of friends, or something far more sinister. And how might Tyler’s agenda align with the king’s? VERDICT Taylor (nominated for the Man Booker Prize for Derby Day) expends a great deal of effort creating elaborate scenes and multiple narrators, leaving the plot to limp on without much guidance. Even ardent alt-history fans may lose interest before the denouement.—Laurel Bliss, San Diego State Univ. Lib.