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The Historical Note, incidentally, which starts off objectively enough, ends up as a carpet-chewing rant against nationalism in general and – would you believe it? All he could have said was 'I helped develop an extremely powerful weapon, that will annihilate the World’ but that is hardly a ‘Secret’, brilliant scientists on both sides must have been aware of the devastating effects of such 'extremely powerful weapons'? If so, I imagine it was rejected many times over for the perceived faults that I'll go into here and other reviewers have commented on. In real history there was Finland, an ally of Germany in the war against Russia, but one that preserved its democratic polity and refused to play any part in the Holocaust. David's wife Sarah, haunted by a powerfully evoked bereavement, is happy to keep her head down and ignore political realities until, in a brilliantly written set-piece on a smoggy Tottenham Court Road, an aspect of Auschwitz comes to London.

Beaverbrook, in real history, was a close friend of Churchill and an effective minister in his wartime cabinet. I love David as a character, and I'm sad that the relationship with his wife before the death of their son, Charlie, wasn't explored more deeply.

Indeed the best bit of the book is the 10 page or so explanation at the end, which contains everything of value in the 500 pages of the novel. The big historical sweeps seem credible guesses: the newspaper tycoon Lord Beaverbrook – an isolationist, pro-German equivalent to Roth's President Lindbergh – is prime minister, with the British fascist leader Oswald Mosley as home secretary, while Churchill is the leader of an underground resistance movement that occasionally daubs V signs in public places. A dozen years later in 1952, it is Beaverbrook who is PM of a British Client state of Nazi Germany whose own leader, an ailing Hitler, is still battling with the Russians on the Eastern Front. I loved the story, was carried along by it and finally finished reading it in the middle of the night. After Frank's brother told him, Frank pushed him out of a first story window and ended up in an asylum.

Civil Servant David Fitzgerald, secretly acting as a spy for the Resistance, is given by them the mission to rescue his old friend Frank and get him out of the country. Oswald Mosley, whose fascist party made substantial gains in the rigged parliamentary election of 1950, is Home Secretary, in charge of the normal police and black-shirt recruited auxiliaries.The presence of the Resistance in Britain headed by Churchill is everywhere, for although the Germans do not occupy Britain, the nation is still very much under their sphere of influence, this is evident by the tightening Jewish laws, the roundups of Jews and the ubiquitous presence of armed police. Its home-grown “milice” – a vastly expanded and violent Special Branch working hand-in-hand with the Gestapo dispensing brutality from the basement of the German Embassy at Senate House – patrols the dismal and dirty streets. He has also written Winter in Madrid, a thriller set in Spain in 1940 in the aftermath of the Spanish Civil War. Finally, something has to be said about the didactic passages about the dangers of nationalism that the author places at intervals through the book.

  • Fruugo ID: 258392218-563234582
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