Books, History Class, Short Fiction, Storytelling, Uncategorized, World War 2, Writer's Life

What if the Allies Lost? FATHERLAND by Robert Harris

“A close up of the Holocaust memorial in Berlin.” Photo by Ilse Orsel on Unsplash

History is full of “what ifs.” What if Hitler had not chosen to open an Eastern Front and attack Russia? What if the forces on the Philippines had been prepared after Pearl Harbor was attacked? What if the U.S. forces hadn’t been prepared at the Battle of Midway?

In this series of posts, I’ve been looking at books that blend speculative fiction and World War II. The first ones, Connie Willis’s Blackout and Alexa Kang’s Eternal Flame, both deal with time travel.

In his New York Times bestseller, author Robert Harris takes a different tack.

What if the Allies had lost the war?

What’s the Premise?

It’s 1964 in Berlin. The German Reich stretches over most of Europe. The countries that are not under direct control are satellite states—like Great Britain under King Edward and Queen Wallis.

War continues in the East against U.S.-backed Soviet guerillas, though the Berlin newspapers only cover victories, and terrible stories of the dead discovered from pogroms enacted in Soviet territories. Any German soldiers who are killed are returned to home soil on trains in the dead of night. Other trains took the local Jews away years ago. When asked, no one know where they were sent except “East.”

The Party controls almost everything and uses programs like Strength through Joy to forcibly remind its citizens that they are happy and committed.

“The Fox,” Xavier March, is a homicide investigator in the Kriminalpoliezei (the law enforcement branch that deals with violent crimes, under the auspices of the SS.) A retired U-boat captain, he has struggled to find his place after the war. As a divorcee and non-Party member who at times makes ‘comments’ about the way things are run, he has earned the ire of the more fervent Nazis. Still, his desire to know, to sniff out answers at any cost, make him an excellent investigator.

When March is called in to an investigation he was never meant to be part of—an unidentified body washed up on the lakeshore which is more than it seems—his curiosity leads him down a dangerous path. A path full of deadly enemies, with a secret at the end that could change the world.

My Thoughts

It seemed strange to have an SS man as a protagonist, (which was also acknowledged by one of the American characters in the book) but Harris did an excellent job with March’s character. March exudes this almost hopeless dedication to justice in a society which he knows is unjust. He eschews Party involvement, but still tries to use his place within the system to do some good. He wants to be a good father to his son but can’t find a way to break through the propaganda the child has been fed to make a connection. I found myself rooting for March, hoping that maybe, just maybe he could manage to win against the Nazi juggernaut.

Did he? Well, I won’t give any spoilers. I’ll just say that the book had enough twists and turns to keep me fully engaged, and that while it’s a grim read (be prepared for some language and violence) I wouldn’t call it bleak. If you like a good detective story with high stakes, Fatherland is a solid offering.

What about you, Readers? Have any of you checked out Fatherland or Harris’s other novels? Any thoughts to share? Have you read or watched any other ‘alternate histories’ that you enjoyed (or didn’t)?

Thanks for stopping by today!

The release of Swords and Maidens, an anthology in which I have my own piece of World War II speculative fiction featured, is only a month away! It’s currently up for Kindle pre-order. Click below to check it out.

12 thoughts on “What if the Allies Lost? FATHERLAND by Robert Harris”

  1. The Man in the High Castle series on Netflix portrays the USA under the divided control of the victors of WWII, Germany and Japan. The series is based on a book which I’ve not read.
    It was interesting to see how differently some Americans reacted; the collaborators and the rebels.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Anne, you have peaked my interest. I have not read Fatherland yet, but I will now.

    The scary thing about the premise is that we are closer to the fascist reality today than in 1964. Hopefully it won’t be too depressing. I am trying to keep my attitude up after Jan 6, 2001.

    Liked by 1 person

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