I enjoy reading alternate history books, books that seek to answer “What if?” questions from history and demonstrate what life might be like if history had turned out a little differently. There are many excellent books of this type, but one of the most famous is “Fatherland” by Robert Harris. I’ve had this novel on my “bucket list” for several years and finally got the chance to read it from start to finish recently.
“Fatherland” was released on May 7, 1992 and is set in a world in which the D Day Invasion failed and the Nazis won World War II. As Germany approaches Hitler’s 75th birthday celebration, 42-year-old SS detective Xavier March is called upon to solve a series of murders involving old party members with a sinister past. March is aided much of the time by American journalist Charlotte “Charlie” Maguire, who becomes deeply involved in the intrigue surrounding the series of murders.
In addition to those main characters, there are a number of “real” people in the book, but they appear in a fictionalized form. Some of those include Josef Buhler, Odilo Globocnik, Martin Luther, Arthur Nebe and Wilhelm Stuckart. Other real people who get a passing mention in the book include Adolf Hitler, Joseph P. Kennedy Sr., Winston Churchill, Charles Lindberg and others. You’ll also see references to notorious Nazis like Heinrich Himmler, Hermann Goring and Joseph Goebbels.
Tess Windham loaned me a copy of this book several months ago, but it took me a while to get started on it. Once I started reading it though, I thought it was great, and got sucked right into it. In addition to it being a prime example of top-notch alternate fiction, it’s also a first-rate murder mystery. To say that it was a page-turner would be an understatement.
Many of you will be familiar with this book thanks to the 1994 movie based on the novel. This movie originally appeared as a made-for-TV movie on HBO, but it was eventually released on DVD. Rutger Hauer played the role of Xavier March and Miranda Richardson played Maguire. It’s been a while since I’ve watched this movie, and reading the novel made me want to re-watch the movie.
Having now read “Fatherland,” I’m also left wanting to read Harris’ other books. His other novels include “Enigma” (1995), “Archangel” (1998), “Pompeii” (2003), “Imperium” (2006), “The Ghost” (2007), “Lustrum” (2009), “The Fear Index” (2011), “An Officer and a Spy” (2013), “Dictator” (2015) and “Conclave” (2016). He has also written five non-fiction books, including “A Higher Form of Killing: The Secret Story of Gas and Germ Warfare” (1982), “Gotcha! The Government, the Media and the Falklands Crisis” (1983), “The Making of Neil Kinnock” (1984), “Selling Hitler: The Story of the Hitler Diaries” (1986) and “Good and Faithful Servant: The Unauthorized Biography of Bernard Ingham” (1990).
In the end, how many of you have read “Fatherland” by Robert Harris? What did you think about it? What out alternative history books would you recommend? Let us know in the comments section below.