Book Reviews

‘The best moments in reading are when you come across something - a thought, a feeling, a way of looking at things - which you had thought special and particular to you. And now, here it is, set down by someone else, a person you have never met, someone even who is long dead. And it is as if a hand has come out, and taken yours.’ Alan Bennett

“Many a book is like a key to unknown chambers within the castle of one’s own self.” ― Franz Kafka

Wednesday, 8 June 2011

The Collaborator - Margaret Leroy

I really enjoyed this novel. It was a fairly quick read, but that’s not to say it lacked depth. I liked Vivienne the main character, she is not perfect, but tries to do the right thing for herself, and her family, whilst knowing that ultimately she is being led by her heart rather than her head. Set on Guernsey, starting in the second year of World War II and covering the next three years, this book tells the story of Vivienne de la Mare, her elder daughter Blanche, her young daughter Millie and her mother in law Evelyn. Vivienne’s husband Eugene has already left to fight in the war. Her marriage has never been a very happy, or satisfying one, since she moved here from London. The German Occupation of Guernsey begins, and life starts to change for the Islanders. Vivienne discovers that Germans have taken over the house next door to her, and as she observes and encounters the soldiers there, so begins a dangerous, secretive, passionate relationship.

Although primarily focusing on Vivienne and her relationships and struggles, the novel does give time over to discussing the slave workers that the Germans brought to Guernsey during the war, the terrible conditions they endured and the awful treatment dealt out to them, in fact this is incorporated well into the storyline, and adds to the tension, and to the development of the main story.

I felt that setting was very important in this novel, the beautiful colours and scents of flowers, her orchard and garden, and the other aspects of nature described, play a key part in Vivienne’s day to day world, and provide a vivid description of the surroundings for the reader, the idea of this beauty somehow persisting during such a sad time in history. Also the idea of secrets, and what we share and what we keep from others to protect them. Further, we get a sense of the struggle to make ends meet during wartime as goods become scarce.

A lovely read, highly recommended. I am looking forward to reading other novels by this author. 


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