“Are you trying to tell me that this is a final overthrow?” said Yeovil in a shaking voice; “are we to remain a subject race like the Poles?”
This book gets a fair amount of attention among Saki’s bibliography because it was written in 1913 just prior to World War I and it features a huge war between Britain and Germany in which Germany prevails and Britain becomes a German colony. It’s definitely got a nice hook and Saki’s writing is as solid as usual, but the book is hard to stomach for a few reasons. First of all, it’s strikingly xenophobic; the great downfall of Britain in the eyes of the main character, a wealthy patriot, seems to be solidified by the influx of immigrants from a lot of countries, not just Germany. The Jews particularly, rather ironically given the German-Jewish issues later to come, are treated very poorly in this book as getting above their station in a lot of ways in the eyes of Yeovil. Secondly, it just doesn’t seem like things are all that bad in Britain under German rule. You’ve got street signs in two languages and a lot of immigrants and that’s about it. One shudders to think about the Nazis taking over Britain or ISIS taking over Iran; these are people to be afraid of. And thirdly, it’s kind of annoying to be asked to feel such sympathy for Britain being a colony of another nation when Britain had, up to 1913 certainly, been one of the great colonizers of history. It would seem that Yeovil might simply muse, “What’s sauce for the goose . . .” and realize that it’s just time for the colonizers to become the colonized. The righteous indignation he feels is impossible to sympathize. It’s interesting for its vision of a war between empires, coming right before the real war broke out, but that’s really the only thing of any interest at all here. Strongly recommended against. 1 ½ stars.
tl;dr – fantasy of Britain under German rule is xenophobic, anti-Semitic and self-righteously hypocritical; a prescient vision of war between empires doesn’t really help. 1 ½ stars.