The Separation

The Separation

by Christopher Priest


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Researching the war between Britain and Nazi Germany, which lasted from May 1940 to May 1941, historian Stuart Gratton becomes intrigued by the enigma of J.L. Sawyer, an obscure figure who played a key part in bringing the conflict to its conclusion. As he digs deeper, he discovers there were two J.L. Sawyers - identical twins Jack and Joe, one a fighter pilot and the other a conscientous objector - divided both by their love for the same woman and their attitudes towards the war. But as the brothers' story emerges from books, letters, and diaries, the evidence does not all add up, and there may be an even wider separation between them - divergent realities, in which different possibilities and unexpected truths emerge, and nothing is quite what it seems.

Both a brilliant historical novel about World War II and one of the best works of alternate history ever written, Christopher Priest's The Separation earned the Arthur C. Clarke and BSFA Awards and ranks among his finest achievements. Like his classics The Affirmation and The Prestige, it is an engrossing literary puzzle that will keep readers turning the pages until its startling conclusion.

'An astonishing achievement.' - Locus

'A masterly novel that deserves to become a classic.' - The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction

'A complex and enigmatic tale of identity, illusion and deception.' - Glasgow Herald

'Superbly constructed, the prose admirably spare and elegant ... a queasily gripping and intelligent work of fiction.' - Daily Telegraph

'A subtle, unsettling alternative WWII history.' - Publishers Weekly (starred review)

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781941147900
Publisher: Valancourt Books
Publication date: 07/28/2015
Pages: 354
Sales rank: 709,314
Product dimensions: 5.00(w) x 8.00(h) x 0.79(d)

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The Separation 3.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 4 reviews.
phoebesmum on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I maybe half-finished this. There¿s not much point my reading an alternate history of WWII when I can¿t keep the real history straight in my head. Very much a boy book.
craso on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A writer of oral histories about World War II is fascinated by the mysterious J. L. Sawyer who is listed as an RAF pilot and a conscientious objector. He soon finds out there were two J. L. Sawyers; twin brothers. He receives a journal attributed to J. L. Sawyer that paints a very different picture of the war and its aftermath. Through the historian¿s research we learn about the lives of these brothers and how they influenced the outcome of the conflict.The story is told through journal entries and various government documents. It¿s as though we are reading the historians research materials. There are a number of separations in the story. The first is the physical separation of the main characters, Joe and Jack Sawyer. They are separated by the love they have for the same women and then by their differing ideologies. Jack is an RAF pilot and Joe is a conscientious objector working for the Red Cross. Another separation is the separate peace Britain negotiates with Germany.
g026r on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
In which Christopher Priest continues his obsessions with doubles and unreliable narrators. There's maybe half a really good book here scattered among the various sections/plot-lines, but the other parts drag a bit too much.
roxy on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I¿ve just finished reading this and I must admit that I¿m a bit confused¿ I¿m confused but I¿m also pretty sure that I haven¿t enjoyed ¿ no wait, I think I can say ¿ loved a SF book this way in a very long time. The Separation is the story of twins during the WWII; Joe and Jack known as JL. It starts in 1936, as they both leave for Berlin to participate in the Olympic Games. On their journey back, they bring back a young Jewish woman who they are both madly in love with¿ until she marries Joe. Priest provides us two (or perhaps even more) stories as Joe and JL both deal with the war and its consequences separately. JL becomes a pilot in the RAF while Joe, a pacifist joins the Red Cross. From then on, their paths go different way though they can never free themselves of this special bond that links as twins. However, History itself goes its own way as well and the reader is never quite sure which reality he is in and exactly how many realities there are. Is Joe dead or alive? Or is JL the one who¿s dead? Did the war truly end on May 11th 1941 when Churchill signed a separate peace treaty with Rudolf Hess, Hitler¿s dophin?The Separation can be classified as an ¿uchronie¿ (that would be the French term, perhaps in English you just stick to alternative history) but I would even go further than that and say that it¿s an ¿uchronie¿ about ¿uchronie¿ because unlike other novels of the genre, the author doesn¿t change on particular event so as to end up in a completely different world. There isn¿t a clear distinction between our world and the world(s) in which the characters evolve.Priest also uses this to explore the various possibilities offered by History. He raises the question of interpretation and perception of event and how people witnessing the same event never quite have the same point of view on what truly did happen¿ from then on, what is the truth?I was particularly interested by the twin¿s awkward love-hate-envy relationship and how in the end even though they were separated both because of the war and because of their opposite views of the war, their actions were often defined by their relationship¿ but then I¿ve always found twins fascinating and I suppose Priest knows what he¿s talking about since he¿s got two of his own.Some will love and others will hate, my point is that I don¿t think you can remain indifferent to this novel. Some will find it brilliant while others will find that it completely missed the point but then, isn¿t that what the entire novel is about? Interpretation.I was immediately caught up in the twin¿s everyday life. Here, the battles are mostly inner turmoil and the author uses SF to concentrate and analyse his characters. This is a novel I would recommend to all even those who don¿t usually read SF because they sometimes have the feeling that there¿s more science than fiction. Here it is not the case. If you aren¿t afraid of unexpected turn than go read it! Why are you still here?