If it weren’t for the fact that Stephen Fry is everywhere these days, I probably wouldn’t have thought to pick up another one of his books and having read The Liar and The Hippopotamus years previously, it seemed like a good idea. The Amazon reviews didn’t dissuade me either, so what could possibly stop this book being another entertaining read?
The hackneyed plot was fairly obvious from the beginning, there were no real surprises to the tried and tested, meddling-in-history-and-changing-the-present formula. The question this time being would it have been better if Hitler had not been born?
As you would expect (and lets face it if it didn’t happen then the book would be somewhat pointless), an equally dastardly figure emerges into the Hitler ‘vacuum’ and then the questions presenting themselves to central character Michael Young are, has he made the right choice meddling in history? Is it better this time around? Etc, etc.
The problem facing novels dealing with subject matter such as this, is whether it marginalises or even reduces the impact of such catastrophic events as the onset of Nazism and the Holocaust, in its fictional setting.
For me the result is debatable but I find that more to do with the lazy writing style which is just plain distracting. The jauntiness and dare I say it, pretentiousness of the book is at odds with the subject matter, and the integrated screenplay parts that speeds the plot along seem gimmicky and not necessary in the slightest. There are probably better and more sensitive examples of the ‘making history’ genre.