Book Review: The Collaborator (Margaret Leroy)

the-collaborator

Plot:

1940, Guernsey…

Vivienne de la Mare waits nervously for the bombs to come. Instead comes occupation. Nothing is safe anymore. But was anything truly safe before?

The façade of the perfect wife, with her husband fighting on the frontline, cracks under the strain of the lie. Her new life is one where the enemy lives next door. Small acts of kindness from one Nazi soldier feels like a betrayal. A forbidden friendship in a frightening world. But how can you hate your enemy when you know his name, when he makes you feel alive, when everything else is dying around you?

Vivienne is fighting her own private war. On one side, the safe, secret, loving world she could build with her captain; on the other, virtuous loneliness and danger. It’s time for Vivienne to choose: collaboration or resistance…

Rating: 8/10

A two word review of The Collaborator would be “thought-provoking”. Set in the Crown Dependency Island Guernsey during WWII, The Collaborator raises some interesting questions. Can we really call someone our enemy without them having personally slighted us? When they appear to be kind and thoughtful and ready to help out? When they are your enemy based on a war that is not occurring in front of your eyes but somewhere far away?

Leroy goes all out by writing her male lead as a German soldier, the most reviled characters of WWII. She refrained from writing Gunther as SS, because there would be no redeeming qualities in such a person and her book would have flopped. Gunther is merely a man that is fighting for his country and actually grateful to live on the small island and not to further Hitler’s mad plans around the world. He misses his old life, and Vivienne and Gunther are able to create some fragile contentment in their lives for a while. As the war continues Vivienne finds it more difficult to remain impassive about it and questions how much Gunther is also turning a blind eye too. Can the two exit the war unscathed?

Leroy wrote this book with an underlying tension. The feeling is so dreary and tense. It brings the reader to ground level and makes you question your beliefs about a lot of things – religion, the Germans in a time where everyone hated the Germans. Vivienne starts to crack as the soldier’s wife – she knew her husband cheated on her before the war, he made her feel inadequate and he was already emotionally removed from her when he left to go to war. Can we blame her for cracking? Do we dare? Max and Gunther, part of the German army, are seemingly good men fighting for their country’s honor. They aren’t evil bastards running death camps, they are soldiers working on a small island doing as they are instructed. They face harsh punishment and certain death if they rebel. Some in their group aren’t as kind as these two, which leads to some complications later on as one would expect.

What I consider a huge improvement from the previous Leroy novel I read, The Lake House, is that Vivienne actually cares for and considers her children a great deal. Millie and Blanche are a few years apart and both pose a different challenge to Vivienne – Millie is young and requires a lot of care, while Blanche is on the verge of the rest of her life and struggling to remain a young teenager when the world around her is crumbling and harsh. On top of these troubles is Vivienne’s elderly mother-in-law, who can be extremely forgetful and dangerously attentive at times. So can we really judge her for seeking her comfort with a kind, understanding German soldier? I couldn’t.

The book has some surprises in store – the awakening of Vivienne’s determination to do something for the prisoners of war, the twisting at unexpected times and the very sad and bleak end. I’m not usually one for such a depressing end, but it suited the tone of the book – war is a cruelty that changes people and destroys lives.

The Collaborator probably wouldn’t be enjoyed by everyone. I liked it though – it kept me in such suspense most of the time and I kept thinking about it while I wasn’t reading it, a sure sign that a book is a good read.

Links I Love 1

links i love

So after what seems like forever, I’ve finally managed to align my life perfectly to sit down at my laptop for five minutes and attend to my blog. I’ve missed it so much – I’ve been able to check a few blogs here and there, but as we all know scheduling posts takes ages.

SO, as I have a few seconds right now, here is something I’ve wanted to do for a while – post about the interesting posts I’ve read – both news worthy and blogging posts. This will hopefully become one of those installments that pops up from time to time – I read a lot of interesting articles and would love to have it up here for those who are interested to check out.

Leading the awesome news this week was the discovery of Homo Naledi at the Cradle of Humankind. I think this might be my favorite news titbit of the past week.

Now this is awkward: This post about Getty images suing a blogging site for the use of the Socially Awkward Penguin (Getty has the copyright on it) was very interesting. It is another subject that interests me – where bloggers should draw the line on images and whether large scale companies should lighten up a bit.

Ellen De Generes responded to Caitlyn Jenner’s not so nice comments about gay marriages. I personally find Caitlyn Jenner now the most irritating of the Kardashian clan and find it extremely rich that someone who underwent such a public and massive change in life would even think of judging what makes others happy.

The Syrian refugee crises had me captivated like everybody else on the planet. It humbles me and reminds me that the troubles we have in South-Africa are not really as bad as I would love to make it. This post from Buzzfeed about how Germany welcomed the Syrian refugees into their country really made me smile and think well of humanity for a moment.

Huffington post put up their weekly 20 funniest tweets from Women This Week again, and it was as hilarious as always (seriously one of my favorite installments of them)

The Telegraph had a really nice post about the Queen of England loving Downton Abbey #class #TheQueenandILoveTheSameThings

Cracked had a post about 6 Iconic Movie scenes that weren’t even planned to happen that way – right up the alley of everyone who reads this blog!

This Buzzfeed post had me go to it twice in stubbornness – the fifty characters in Harry Potter who are named the most.

Blog posts:

This blog post from Mushy Peas on Toast sums up my current feelings so well.

Soccer Awards: Best performances

It is nearly the end of the world cup * sad sad crying *. It has been an enormous amount of fun with all the friggin own goals, penalty kicks, dramatic coaches, heroic goalies and fabulous players (and acting). My only request for the next world cup is that it is held in a time zone that is not six hours behind my country. And that Bafana Bafana actually get INTO the World Cup this time around.

I am pretty sure that Germany will lift the trophy tonight, but I am putting up this post up ahead because I don’t want to jinx my team. Good luck guys!

Best coach

Miguel Herrera: Mexico

In a game where coaches generally have plenty to say next to the field (a miracle that they can’t get yellow cards), Miguel Herrera stands out as the most entertaining with the highest level of excitement and the funniest reactions of all time. I salute your spirit, sir.

Best Goal keeper

julio

Julio Cesar – Brazil

Julio doesn’t only have extremely lucky genetics, he is also an amazing goal keeper for one of the best teams around. His saves (especially during that penalty kick out), are legendary and when he choked up I nearly choked up. Cesar has unfortunately been removed since two spectacular defeats, although most blame should be heaped on the Brazilian defence, who left Cesar alone exactly seven times during the Germany game.

Guillermo Ochoa – Mexico

mexico goalie

Ochoa apparently means stone wall in some language, and man, how appropriate. Ochoa can be credited as the best goalie this World Cup. He held a spectacular number of teams at bay. I think Mexico honestly deserved to go further. They are a really respectable team and I think they just keep getting better and better.

Best Captain

philip lahm

A captain should be a guy that is calm amidst chaos and that carries himself with dignity – who better than the serious faced Phillipp Lahm of Germany?

Most ridiculous hair

forlan

There were days in the not too distant past that hair bands were used by lazy girls to hide dirty hair, but it is now used by temperamental soccer players. Introducing Diego Forlan from Uruguay. I really don’t like this guy, his team, or his attitude.

Most fabulous

Cristiano Renaldo

cristiano-ronaldo

You are welcome!

Best Actor

Arjen Robben

There are two options regarding Robben’s flighty feet: Harry Potter is in the stands, making him fall deliberately through magic, or Robben is tripping himself with his own dodgy brand of magic. Sadly I think it is the last.

What was your most entertaining moment of the tournament?