Hey everyone! I’m delighted to be on the blog tour today for Horizontal Collaboration, a graphic novel originally published in French, written by Navie and illustrated by Carole Maurel. I haven’t read a lot of graphic novels but they’ve been catching my eye lately (particularly thanks to bloggers with great recommendations, such as the lovely Sara!) So I took a chance on this one when I was offered a copy for review and I’m really glad I did.
“Horizontal Collaboration” is a term used to describe the sexual and romantic relationships that some French women had with members of the occupying German forces during World War II. In this poignant, female-centered graphic novel created by writer/artist duo Carole Maurel and Mademoiselle Navie, the taboo of “sleeping with the enemy” is explored through the story of a passionate, and forbidden, affair.
In June 1942, married Rose (whose husband is a prisoner of war) intervenes in the detainment of her Jewish friend and then accidentally embarks on a secret relationship with the investigating German officer, Mark. There is only one step between heroism and treason, and it’s often a dangerous one. Inside an apartment building on Paris’s 11th arrondissement, little escapes the notice of the blind husband of the concierge. Through his sightless but all-knowing eyes, we learn of Rose and Mark’s hidden relationship, and also of the intertwined stories and problems of the other tenants, largely women and children, who face such complex issues as domestic violence, incest, and prostitution.
This fascinating graphic novel tackles the still-sensitive topic of who it is acceptable to love, and how, and the story’s drama is brought vividly to life by intimate and atmospheric illustrations.
As I mentioned in my introduction, I haven’t read many graphic novels but I’m going to do my best to review this one well because it deserves it. I’ll start by talking about the art itself since obviously that is a large percentage of the story.
Before I even started reading, I flicked through the pages and I was struck by the beauty of the colour scheme. The neutrals and muted tones really added to the book and allowed the story to shine. There were, however, pops of brighter citrus colours at appropriate moments, which I loved because they added emphasis to important plot points.
The illustrations were also really beautiful. I’ve photographed a couple of my favourite spreads for you to see!
Now in terms of the story, I thought this was a very unique take on a period of history that has been written about often. I have a soft spot for WWII fiction but I acknowledge that the market is somewhat saturated. However, this is the first time I have read about that era from this perspective. Navie captures the innocence of children, the hardships of war and the complexities of loveless marriages with nuance.
I will admit that I would occasionally lose my bearings while reading, as the scenes would change very quickly and without warning. I don’t think it helped that I was tired while reading though! I was able to sort things out in my mind without too much difficulty and didn’t have any problems understanding what was going on.
Finally, I enjoyed how the characters’ stories all interlinked and I was impressed with the amount of empathy the author and illustrator were able to evoke from me in such a short amount of pages. The ending was very poignant.
I definitely recommend this one to fans of WWII fiction! Thank you to the publisher and Anne Cater/Random Things Tours for providing me with a free copy!
If you’re interested in this one, keep an eye open for the rest of the stops on the tour!
Can you recommend some more graphic novels that I should try? I think I’ve got the bug now! x