Book: The Collaborator
Author: Margaret Leroy
Publisher: Mira Books
Story genre: WW2 – Civilians during occupation
This is a deceptively complex book presenting the story to the reader in many layers; complicated family relationships, the Guernsey community, the harsh reality of the German occupation and Nazi evil.
The narrative revolves in increasingly tense circles around Vivienne de la Mare from London, unhappily married into an established Guernsey family. Her husband is on active service and she finds herself stranded on the island with her two children (a trying teenager and an innocent but astute child) and her difficult senile mother-in-law. The occupation of the island draws Vivienne into a relationship with Gunther, a German officer and peacetime architect, who is billeted in the house next door. A forbidden friendship develops in the frightening world of occupied Guernsey risking retribution from both the occupier and the occupied.
The story is exquisitely told, the author describing the commonplace in intricate detail which literally paints a picture in the reader’s mind. You are actually there with Vivienne, aware of the hedgerows, the birds and insects, the light diffusing through leaves, the scents. It is this intense imagery that heightens the senses and created, for me, as the narrative progressed, a deep fear for the fate of the characters. So much so that almost three quarters of the way though the book I felt compelled to read the epilogue to discover who survived and who did not.
At the end you are left thinking, self-evaluating. Of the cruelty of war, of how a soldier as an individual is different to the soldier who is part of a malevolent ideology. What would you do? Collaborate or resist.