“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.
Carole Maurel cut her teeth on animated films before devoting herself to illustration, in particular, graphic novels. Her 2017 book The Apocalypse According to Magda was awarded the Artémisia Avenir award, which celebrates women in comics.
Navie is a screenwriter for press, cinema and television. She has a degree in history from The Sorbonne in Paris, where she specialized in the history of fascism – making Horizontal Collaboration an excellent fit for her first graphic novel
This is a beautifully drawn story, translated into English by Margaret Morrison from the original French. The beating heart of the book is the love affair between Rose and Nazi officer Mark. But there are other stories in every apartment, of hiding Jews, and resistance, of love and loss, art and pain.
I loved this, told through the lives of women; a period where so often much of the focus is on men at war and not those left behind or under siege.
Part of my family originally came from France and I was raised by Francophile parents so I have a deep affection for the country and its people, as well as a fascination with its history, so linked are Britain and France. This year I want to read more French writers (especially women) and so this book slots beautifully into that aim.
*I was kindly gifted this book to take part on the blog tour but all opinions remain my own.