The cover of this book and the corresponding title The Collaborator in some way give a potential reader exactly what this book is going to be about. A woman falls in love with a Nazi. And that is the basis of the story, in many ways. However Margaret Leroy, a new author to me, gives this a completely different dimension, setting and a range of emotions to work through with the main character and as a reader.
The setting of this novel is occupied Guernsey, during the Second World War. The book opens as Vivienne, is trying to decide what is best for her family. Her husband has already gone to fight in the war, and it is apparent that Vivienne is living a lie by loving him, but to maintain the perfect image she brings up their children Blanche, recently left school and ready to take on the world and Millie, a sprightly young girl who has lots of spirit and sees the world in much simpler terms without question. Vivienne also has her mother in law staying at Le Colombier, the family home where she is the first stages of dementia and cannot understand where her son his, and does not wished to be moved from her life on her home island.
Vivienne makes a decision which affects them all in different ways and soon the Germans move into the property next door to hers, and the occupation of Guernsey takes on a different outlook. From an historical point of view this book shows some of what happened during occupation, and there are some rather nasty scenes. It mentions the banning of radio sets, curfews and repatriation of non Guernsey born people, but these are almost the background and in my opinion rather skated over. Other issues are dealt with perhaps more clarity. The slave camps are housing men who have been luckily enough to survive the journey there and are just looking for a way out. Vivienne, then sees a different side to the Germans and their treatment of others, how can they treat another human being so when she has been treated with such love.
Vivienne finds herself drawn to one German officer in particular who shows what exactly love can be like, even if it has to be kept a secret, in the darkness of the night, with no one to share the joy with. Vivienne then begins to questions the actions of the war and the reasons behind events that begin to unfold. The ultimate question is how well do you ever really know someone? Will Vivienne ever find what she is seems to be looking for through those occupied years on Guernsey.
Margaret Leroy evokes much emotion with this book, through all the secrets and lies that are told to maintain a facade to those on the outside whilst your own inside is in complete turmoil. However, one feature that remains constant throughout the book is the nature of the island. The seasons move through winter to summer and back again, everything carries on growing, living, hibernating and dying before new life is breathed in it once again. Leroy has used some excellent prose to emphasise the way nature is the constant and that no matter what is going in outside of the war, outside of the island, there will be this love of the landscape, nature and all that is grown from it. Thus providing Vivienne with the only stable thing in her life.
A love story at its core, it is not a will they won’t they, happy ever after, it is a love story full of morals and ethics and whether love can traverse prejudices, countries and war. This book is going to be one those slow burners during the year that eventually everyone will catch on to.
Thank you to Amazon Vine, for allowing me the opportunity to read this book.
Normally I still have so many comments I wish to write about this book, and in some ways I do but I think all I would do is end up reciting passages of the book which moved me. Therefore hopefully the review does it justice and piques people’s interests into reading the book. Two things I take from this book, the perpetual line in the book “can you ever really know someone” makes me ponder many paths that I have taken in my life. The other is the historical element, which I would love to know more about.
Some reviewers have refered to The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society and that is without a doubt one of the best books I have ever read, but I really believe that it should and does stand alone in comparison with this book. I endeavour to do a little bit of research and find out a bit more, either through fiction or non fiction.