Alternative / thriller
1920s / 1930s
The Intrigues of Jennie Lee is alternative history, set in Britain in the late 1920s and early 1930s. The main characters are real: Jennie Lee, the MP for North Lanarkshire; Frank Wise, fellow MP in the Independent Labour Party; Nye Bevin; the Duchess of York; Ramsay MacDonald, and, central to the story, Sir Oswald Mosley, historically a charismatic politician and the eventual leader of the British Union of Fascists.
Author Alex Rosenberg effectively invokes the mix of hope and despair of the years before the crash of 1929; the class divides and the faith of some in the policies of communism in the Soviet Union. Both mining villages and country houses figure in the story, although the latter are better described than the former. Much of the story, fitting for a political thriller, takes place in and around the House of Commons.
What if, the story asks, Jennie Lee was not quite whom she seemed? What if there was support from the highest in the land for Mosley’s policies? What if an election had a different result? A plausible reconstruction of events, for the most part, with some clear and solid explanations of the issues facing the governments of the day and the rise of fascist thought.
The story suffers somewhat from uneven pacing and a reliance on coincidence, especially approaching, and in, its climax. However, in that it reminded me a bit of some of John Buchan’s novels, and it does not necessarily detract from the reader’s overall enjoyment. Repetition of facts also detracted, at least for me. The Intrigues of Jennie Lee is a solid, speculative thriller, and appears to offer the suggestion of a sequel. The real Jennie Lee was a strong, independent socialist, and she makes an appealing central character.
Reviewed for Discovering Diamonds
© Marian L Thorpe