World War II plays out very differently in Blencowe’s imaginative alternate history.
In a preface, the author ponders how World War I could have gone differently if fate had intervened in various ways. He then applies this what-if theme to the year 1941, portraying key real-life and fictional power players of Europe, America, and Japan in a globe-trotting yarn set during World War II. In this version of history, President Franklin Roosevelt struggles against the effects of President Herbert Hoover’s legacy, Nazi Hermann Goering makes a fatal mistake, and the Japanese print counterfeit American dollars in a scheme with frightening implications. As Roosevelt shouts and swears in the Oval Office, struggling to guide the United States through this treacherous era, a 24-year-old German spy named Louise comes across information that calls alliances into question. The novel dissects the largely economic motives of the world’s leaders in a wide array of scenarios yet still shows them to be unquestionably human. Their sexual desires, for example, are as strong as their hunger for power; the book depicts its leading women characters, such as Hitler’s companion Eva Braun and Duchess of Windsor Wallis Simpson, as uninhibited seductresses. It also characterizes British Prime Minister Winston Churchill as an incompetent, boorish alcoholic. World War II sagas are plentiful, but Blencowe succeeds in putting a unique spin on familiar events and creating plenty of new ones. He explores the darker connections among governments, corporations, and the military in an informed manner (“Nations have no permanent friends or allies, they only have permanent interests,” one character says) and connects subplots in wildly different locales with relative ease. Even when ruminations about Henry Ford as the architect of planned obsolescence give way to scenes of explicit erotica, the novel’s voice is consistent and holds up well, although some of its diatribes go on for too long. Overall, Blencowe offers a fantastical, entertaining take on what could have been.
A lighthearted work of historical fiction with some lurid twists.