In brief: Hitler’s British Traitors; Dark Water; La Belle Sauvage – reviews

Tim Tate exposes Britain’s Nazi sympathisers, Elizabeth Lowry follows in the wake of Melville, and Philip Pullman returns to the world of dust

Hitler’s British Traitors

Tim Tate

Icon, £25, pp384

The extent to which the British far right supported Hitler, even after the outbreak of the second world war, has largely been suppressed. Now Tim Tate’s absorbing study offers a bracing reappraisal of their sympathies. Following Anthony Quinn’s excellent Our Friends in Berlin, which explored the same territory, Tate reveals the widespread existence of a fifth column in Britain, using hitherto unseen archival material. Some, including Hastings Russell, 12th Duke of Bedford, were driven by antisemitic ideology, while others were motivated simply by financial gain, but Tate offers concrete evidence that hundreds of ordinary Britons happily betrayed their country: so much for keep calm and carry on.

Dark Water

Elizabeth Lowry

Quercus, £16.99, pp480

Elizabeth Lowry’s second novel arrives a decade after her first, The Bellini Madonna, and like its predecessor is an irresistible peek into the unknown. Just as her debut nodded to Nabokov, this one has an impressive literary forebear in the shape of Melville. As we follow the naive young doctor Hiram Carver on his maiden voyage on the USS Orbis, we are drawn into the presence of the charismatic, obsessive William Borden, a cousin of Captain Ahab. Lowry’s elegant and considered prose depicts mid-19th century America as a world in which the rational and the inexplicable uneasily coexist, and where the monstrous might be found within anyone, as well as outside.

La Belle Sauvage: The Book of Dust

Philip Pullman

Penguin and David Fickling, £7.99, pp560

After the unprecedented success of His Dark Materials, Philip Pullman’s prequel again proves him to be a visionary storyteller ranked alongside Tolkien and CS Lewis. Although La Belle Sauvage lacks the Miltonic sweep of his earlier books, with 11-year-old protagonist Malcolm Polstead a likeable but less dynamic central figure than Lyra, Pullman soon introduces (and reintroduces, in some cases) the elements and characters that made His Dark Materials so effective. Set a decade before the earlier books, the world of daemons, Dust and “the Church” takes on a thrillingly imaginative form once more. The promised sequels cannot come soon enough.

To order Hitler’s British Traitors for £21.25, Dark Water for £14.44, or La Belle Sauvage for £6.79 go to guardianbookshop.com or call 0330 333 6846

Contributor

Alexander Larman

The GuardianTramp

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