This week, the Crystal Palace and Welsh International goalkeeper Wayne Hennessy was accused by a Football Association hearing of “lamentable” ignorance towards Fascism and Adolf Hitler. This came after he used the excuse that he didn’t know what a Nazi salute was. This thirty-year-old highly paid premier league footballer’s appearance before the tribunal came after images of him emerged last year, at a Crystal Palace team dinner, making what was construed as a Nazi salute.
There have been enough movies and video games made, as well as books published in the past three decades,(Schindler’s List, The Boy in The Stripped Pyjamas, Inglorious Bastards and Call Of Duty) to leave only someone living in a cultural vacum or a hermitage, in this position. Following the decision of the Football association conduct hearing which cleared the player, he was sent informative material by The Auschwitz Memorial about Fascism.
Mr Hennessy, like quite a large number of people in the UK and across Europe, lives a good life owing to the sacrifices made by their grandparents and hopefully will never experience the constraints of Fascism or even Socialism, except in the realms of video games or as alternative history story lines in TV programmes and books. One of those books is this month’s second review, its Liberation Square by Gareth Rubin, published by Michael Joseph (www.penguin.co.uk/company/publishers/michael-joseph.html) on the 18th April .
Its 1952, in a divided European country following the end of the second world war. But instead of hearing German accents as you travel around this place they are English … Yes, the D-Day landings failed and England is divided following a German invasion. The Democratic United Kingdom controlled by the Allies lies beyond a border stretching from Bristol to the Norfolk coast. Beneath that line, is the Soviet controlled Republic of Great Britain and inside it is London a city divided in two by a large wall.
In the Soviet controlled sector of the city Jane Cawson, a school teacher, suspects her doctor husband Nick is having an affair with his first wife, Lorelei an actress and star of numerous propaganda films. Jane goes to Lorelei’s house in the hope of confronting the two of them, but finds the former Mrs Cawson murdered in her bath. Nick is arrested on suspicion of murder and held by the brutal Secret Police.
Jane then starts trying to prove her husband’s innocence to get him released, she starts probing Nicks relationship with his former wife, why are there coded messages hidden in a book in Lorelei’s house. All the while trying to protect her step-daughter, as well as not arousing suspicion from the authorities and nosy neighbours who are all too eager to tow the party line and curry favours. With the help of Tibbot, a middle-aged East End bobby, Jane starts to piece together the identity of Lorelei’s murderer and hopefully prove Nick’s innocence. But is he innocent? Was Lorelei consorting with the Allies and what does it have to do with her recent miscarriage…?
As alternative history driven plot lines go, this in the current climate is not too far from the truth. With Brexit looming over the United Kingdom, the country is divided and becoming even more fractured by the day.
Rubin’s book is superbly crafted and drives the imagination from the first page to its conclusion, with its Sliding Doors – “What If” scenario. Along the way it asks the reader to imagine what might have happened if the course of history had changed.
The description of the remnants of war-torn London and the citizens trying get by under a brutal socialist regime are thought provoking and envelopes the reader into the story with every turn of the page. The historical nuances are superb, especially when you have Jane coming up against the likes of Burgess and Blunt and other members of the Cambridge five spy ring, who in this story have been exalted into running the country for their soviet bosses, as a reward for their cowardice and betrayal.
As for the characters, Jane is an excellent heroine, whose simplicity allows her to be believable and sets her apart from the all too often, highly skilled, super spy protagonist you expect to find in these types of books. She’s a school teacher, in well over her head, but allowed to follow the course of her investigations by the assistance of some other remarkably drawn characters, such as Tibbot the police officer working up to his retirement and the cagey and mysterious Charles, Nicks practice manager. Not forgetting the other host of run of the mill cockney characters and party hangers on and apparatchiks who help drive the story forward, as well as making it as wholly believable as it.
This is English Author Gareth Rubin’s (http://gr8502.wixsite.com) first
novel, he’s written one previous book, an anthology of mistakes which have changed the course of British history, called The Great Cat Massacre A History of Britain in One Hundred Mistakes (2014). He’s journalist also a covering social affair, travel and the arts for various newspapers. In 2013 he directed a documentary about therapeutic art at The Royal Bethlehem Hospital in London, otherwise known as ‘Bedlam’.
Liberation Square asks the unthinkable; what if for example Alan Turing and his secret team at Bletchley hadn’t broken the Enigma machine or Churchill’s government hadn’t found enough little boats to Sail twelve miles across the channel to rescue the Allies from Dunkirk? It makes the reader realize how much of what happened during that time in history is down to coincidences and a stroke of luck, as well as how easily things could have gone awry. If things had happened as in this book, where would the likes of Wayne Hennessy be now? Would they have been even born?
So if you are looking for deeply engrossing debut thriller, to read over the Easter break, which will make you think twice about how good your life is now, then get down to your local book shop or download a copy.
Reviewed by Adrian Murphy
This book part of a Penguin Books blog tour, to see what the other reviewers thought. Visit their blogs listed below and if you pick up a copy, comeback and tell us what you thought. We’d love the feedback.