In Alex Preston’s novels the vast, impersonal forces of history tend not to get much of a look-in: his interest is in showing us the human factor in the great disasters of our times. This Bleeding City, the debut in 2010 with which this bond-trader-turned-author made his name, skewered and dissected the City wide boys who were ultimately responsible for the recent financial unpleasantness. In Love and War, his third novel, sheds some light on the causes of the Second World War by asking what might have made certain intelligent English people of the 1930s become fascists.
We begin in 1937 and our hero is Cambridge undergraduate Esmond Lowndes, whose father, Sir Lionel, is second to Oswald Mosley among the big cheeses of the British Union of Fascists. Preston has made Sir Lionel an ex-comrade of the real-life poet and Conservative thinker T E Hulme, who was