THE SEPARATION is the story of twin brothers, rowers in the 1936 Olympics (where they met Hess, Hitler’s deputy); one joins the RAF, and captains a Wellington; he is shot down after a bombing raid on Hamburg and becomes Churchill’s aide-de-camp; his twin brother, a pacifist, works with the Red Cross, rescuing bombing victims in London. But this is not a straightforward story of the Second World War: this is an alternate history: the two brothers – both called J.L. Sawyer – live their lives in alternate versions of reality. In one, the Second World War ends as we imagine it did; in the other, thanks to efforts of an eminent team of negotiators headed by Hess, the war ends in 1941.
THE SEPARATION is an emotionally riveting story of how the small man can make a difference; it’s a savage critique of Winston Churchill, the man credited as the saviour of Britain and the Western World, and it’s a story of how one perceives and shapes the past.
[A] subtle, unsettling alternative WWII history from British author Priest. Many alternative history novels are bloodless extrapolations from mountains of data, but this one quietly builds characters you care about - then leaves their dilemmas unresolved as they try to believe that what they have done is "right."
PUBLISHERS WEEKLY starred review
Himself the father of twins, Priest has embedded dualism and imposture at the very heart of this alternative history in a way that keeps readers constantly questioning what seems to be going on. Churchill and Hess are major characters, but their doubles make more than just cameo appearances, too. Priest is clearly as immersed in the period as his creation Gratton. Throughout a narrative built from diaries, wartime memoirs and official memos, his wartime feel never falters. A complex and enigmatic tale of identity, illusion and deception
Superbly constructed, the prose admirably spare and elegant ... Priest is a powerful and underappreciated writer, and The Separation is a queasily gripping and intelligent work of fiction
One cannot help but wonder how many discarded alternative personae litter the multiple paths of one's personal history, or histories, and this, for me, is the most disquieting legacy of this remarkable novel
There have been many novelistic re-creations of the second world war in recent years, but Priest's novel stands head and shoulders above them all ... this book is an astoundingly good piece of fiction: its narrative is gripping, its characters are involving, its prose is resonant, poetic, subtle, its overall effect is thought-provoking, haunting, brilliant ... This book is nothing short of a masterpiece
Like Hitchcock's work, The Separation begs for repeated readings to appreciate the cold brilliance and execution of its intricate plot fully. A masterly novel that deserves to become a classic
MAGAZINE OF FANTASY & SCIENCE FICTION
An astonishing achievement, the sort of novel that in a saner alternate world might well be a candidate for mainstream awards and bestseller lists