An outstanding book by Kevin McDonald, and a work of numerous tremendous qualities, from an author who is highly educated in his subject matter, as well as superbly eloquent. McDonald undoubtedly knows his local, geo-political and military history, and whilst the factual elements of the story are presented well and worth reading about on their own, he conspicuously manages to achieve what others frequently attempt and fall short at: presenting a highly plausible alternative history timeline, and what could very easily be the genuinely most probable outcome of the skew.
In McDonald’s scenario, just one single decision by a shamed Union soldier, in the American civil war, leads what is otherwise destined to become the United States toward a totally different future. Like the ripples in the butterfly effect, the consequences become more and more embedded in the new world dynamic, ultimately changing the whole course of World War Two, over 80 years later. I have to be honest: I was utterly engrossed, and couldn’t wait to find out the fate in store for North America and the world under Hitler’s rampaging campaign. Ordinarily I find alternative histories of Nazi domination, particularly those which involve invading the United States, to be a little sensationalist and gung-ho, as if the authors are desperately trying to write a fanciful version of their country’s part in the war. But, here is where this author stands out for me; Hitler’s strategic motivation for crossing the Atlantic, taking the fight and all the atrocities onto U.S. soil is not frivolous in this alternative timeline – it is both credible and, in fact, very likely a course of action he would have opted for. A Nation Interrupted is not an actioner; it is an intelligent wartime political thriller, vivid, ambitious and grand in scale. There is no glitter, just the sheen of quality throughout – this book is the real deal; a serious work of organic quality, which seamlessly blends fact and fiction. The era and setpieces feel real and authentic, while the author’s knowledge and presentation of American history, and that of the world, is the real star of the book; McDonald knows intimately the strategies, tactics and terminology of warfare and military engagement in differing eras, from a political viewpoint.
Ultimately, though, it is a celebration of America’s rich migrant culture, and the might of its collective warmth in the face of despicable provocation. In the second half, the book becomes perhaps a tiny bit more standard, with its narrative of Nazi occupation and the committal of atrocities against the Jewish population of New York – there is even a growing resistance movement – and if just coming into the book at this point you could mistake the setting for 1940s France or Belgium, with all the vivid descriptions of the genuinely nightmarish scenario of invasion. There are a few heroics in the latter part of the book, but ultimately the finale is exactly the one you would expect in this fantasy timeline, which uniquely manages to remember all the small details of things which actually did happen, and probably still would have. Its sense of full circle is a satisfying one. Exceptionally well written and researched, with its immense attention to detail and a continuous consciousness of its own credibility, this is a real triumph; highly recommended.
In : Book Reviews
Tags: kevin-mcdonald war world-war-two nazi hitler occupation concentration-camp history alternative-history civil-war