An author is researching a minor mystery of the European War, a history in which England signed a peace treaty with Nazi Germany in 1941. He comes across an intriguing journal by a former pilot; however, the journal contains a history different than the one that occurred. In 1936, twin brothers return from competing at the Olympic Games with a Jewish girl stowed away in their van. This first separation of many shapes the paths the two brothers follow, one as a bomber pilot and the other as a conscientious objector, and the brother that will determine which history will be achieved.
Like Priest’s earlier work The Prestige, The Separation is written mostly in the form of journals and other historical documents. This style of writing makes for a far more fascinating story than the conventional linear plot. Because the point of view is after the fact, the narration relies on memories and what the narrator chooses to tell us, both of which can be unreliable. The trick is to follow the story and the clues and see what happens.
Of course, it helps if the characters are extremely well written and this is perhaps Priest’s greatest strength: his characters. The characters are incredibly real. They seem to come alive off the page and feel like they might truly have existed during the period. Priest also succeeded in capturing the spirit, thoughts, and technology of the times, in making the reader feel like they were really immersed in the Second World War.
This alternative history novel was a joy to read and is highly recommended.