Every Tuesday Diane at Bibliophile By the Sea hosts First Chapter First Paragraph Tuesday Intros, to share the first paragraph or (a few) of a book you are reading or thinking about reading soon.
The Cabinet Room, 10 Downing Street, London, 4.30pm, 9 May 1940
Churchill was last to arrive. He knocked once, sharply, and entered. Through the tall windows the warm spring day was fading, shadows lengthening on Horse Guards Parade. Margesson, the Conservative Chief Whip, sat with Prime Minister Chamberlain and Foreign Secretary Lord Halifax at the far end of the long, coffin-shaped table which dominated the Cabinet Room. As Churchill approached them Margesson, formally dressed as ever in immaculate black morning coat stood up.
Churchill nodded at the Chief Whip, looking him sternly in the eye. Margesson, who was Chamberlain’s creature, had made life difficult for him when he had stood out against party policy over India and Germany in the years before the war.He turned to Chamberlain and Halifax, the Prime Minister’s right-hand man in the government’s appeasement of Germany. ‘Neville. Edward.’ Both men looked back; no sign today of Chamberlain’s habitual half-sneer, nor of the snappy arrogance which had alienated the House of Commons during yesterday’s debate over the military defeat of Norway. Ninety Conservatives had voted with the Opposition or abstained; Chamberlain had left the chamber followed by shouts of ‘Go!’ The Prime Minister’s eyes were red from lack of sleep or perhaps even tears – though it was hard to image Neville Chamberlain weeping. Last night the word around a feverish House of Commons was that his leadership would not survive.
This is the opening of Dominion by C J Sansom, a novel about what might have happened, an alternative history, if Germany had been triumphant in the Second World War. All events that take place in this book after 5 p.m. on 9 May 1940 are imaginary.
I’ve read and enjoyed Sansom’s earlier books, the five Matthew Shardlake historical mysteries and Winter in Madrid, historical fiction set in Spain in 1940, but I wasn’t sure I wanted to read Dominion, his latest book, described on the book jacket as ‘a vivid, haunting re-imagining of 1950s Britain’ and ‘a gripping, humane spy thriller and a poignant love story.’
I like the opening paragraphs I’m still not sure because ‘re-imaginings’ don’t exactly appeal to me. I prefer historical fiction to be historical and fiction to be fiction, not an alternative version of history. But when I saw a copy on the library shelves I was tempted to at least look at it and brought it home to see if it’s any good. After all it’s written by C J Sansom, so it can’t be bad, can it?