About the Book
“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.
Horizontal Collaboration is a stunning graphic novel telling the story of women in World War 2. The book opens with Virginie and her grandmother Rose in the present day talking about love, and this leads to Rose reflecting back on the man she truly loved (not the man she married). We then discover the stories of three women whose lives overlap during the war, and get to understand things from each of their perspectives.
The novel is set in an apartment building and we get to see inside each of the inhabitants’ lives and how they all intertwine.
Rose is married to Raymond, who is away at war, and she is raising their young son Lucien. Over the course of the memoir we see her relationship with a German soldier, which she desperately needs to be kept secret but she has fallen in love with him and can’t stop seeing him. This is such a dangerous situation for Rose, but I couldn’t help but feel for her.
Josephine is another young woman who works at a cabaret club but is also working as an escort as its the only way she can make ends meet. I really liked her and felt so anxious that things weren’t going to work out for her. She seemed so lonely and sad, never giving her full self to anyone.
Then there is Madam Flament. She was something of an enigma to begin with. She seems to be quite scatty; she’s obsessed with her cats in the basement and seems to care more about them than the people living in her building. But there’s something that made me think she was watching and taking in everything that was happening, and this made me nervous about what this might lead to.
I will say that when I initially started reading this book I found it a little confusing as the story does jump from character to character. I soon realised that I needed to take my time with this novel and read it slowly, to properly appreciate the story being told and to enjoy the beautiful illustrations. Once I did this I became fully immersed in this book and I was captivated by what I was reading and seeing.
The illustrations throughout this novel are stunning. The colour palette is predominantly sepia toned but there is colour, and the way things like the way candles light up a room are captured so beautifully. The images capture the mood; the happy and the heartbreaking in such a way that I so many times had to pause for a few moments just to take in an image before moving on to the next part.
Camile is one of the only men in this book and I found that his story was the thread that pulled the others together. He is a kindly, older man that the other people in the building seem to gravitate towards. Camile is blind and it’s fascinating that for all the atmosphere of the time made people suspicious of each other and jump to conclusions; it is the one who is blind that really saw the full picture. He heard all the things that weren’t been said, he put the pieces together but he also keeps his counsel.
It felt to me all the way through this book that it was going to have a tragic ending. I think it’s partly the time the book is set in but also there is a feeling of pressure building inside the individual characters in this book and you can feeling it simmering but you know some part of it is going to give way. The tension is palpable at times, and I spent a lot of the time I was reading this book holding my breath.
This novel really captures the fear of living through a war, and also the way that people had to find happiness where they could and to survive however they could. I really felt that this book showed how nothing is ever black and white, and that in war there are so many more shades of grey than you could ever imagine.
Horizontal Collaborations is a beautiful novel is every way. The story is incredibly written and so moving, and the illustrations are stunning. I’d recommend this book to everyone, and if you’ve never read a graphic novel before I urge you to give this one a try. This is such a poignant book that has imprinted itself on my heart and I won’t forget it!
Many thanks to the publisher for my copy of this book and Anne of Random Things Tours for my invitation to take part in this blog tour. All thoughts are my own.
Horizontal Collaboration is out now and available here.
About the Authors
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.
You can find the rest of this tour at the following blogs: