Review: Horizontal Collaboration by Carole Maurel and Navie | @rolcamaurel @KoreroPress #GraphicNovel @annecater #RandomThingsTours

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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.


My Thoughts

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.

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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!

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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

Navie and Carol Maurel Author pic

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.

Twitter @rolcamaurel


You can find the rest of this tour at the following blogs:

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#BookReview: The Best We Could Do by Thi Bui @AbramsBooks


About the Book

An intimate and poignant graphic novel portraying one family’s journey from war-torn Vietnam, from debut author Thi Bui.

This beautifully illustrated and emotional story is an evocative memoir about the search for a better future and a longing for the past. Exploring the anguish of immigration and the lasting effects that displacement has on a child and her family, Bui documents the story of her family’s daring escape after the fall of South Vietnam in the 1970s, and the difficulties they faced building new lives for themselves.

At the heart of Bui’s story is a universal struggle: While adjusting to life as a first-time mother, she ultimately discovers what it means to be a parent—the endless sacrifices, the unnoticed gestures, and the depths of unspoken love. Despite how impossible it seems to take on the simultaneous roles of both parent and child, Bui pushes through. With haunting, poetic writing and breathtaking art, she examines the strength of family, the importance of identity, and the meaning of home.

In what Pulitzer Prize–winning novelist Viet Thanh Nguyen calls “a book to break your heart and heal it,” The Best We Could Do brings to life Thi Bui’s journey of understanding, and provides inspiration to all of those who search for a better future while longing for a simpler past.

My Thoughts

I requested this graphic memoir as I read a few of them last year and wanted to make sure I read more this year. This sounded interesting so I was pleased when I was approved.

I was expecting a graphic about a family’s experience of fleeing Vietnam to America and, whilst this book is about that, it’s also about so much more. It’s about three generations of a family and how their lives have been, how one generation affects the next. It looks at how it feels to be other, to move to a different country and feel that their ways are slowly changing you to be more like them. The way Ma looks out and sees all the streets around their house are named after American Presidents and feels it’s turning her more American and on the next page talks about a school shooting – I could feel how small and scared she felt.

This book is also very much about loss – not just loss of where you’re from, your culture, but also the loss of babies and that really got to me. The way the novel opens with a baby being born and then the reader is taken back over all the babies that Thi’s parents had, including the baby that died. It’s heartbreaking.

The baby being born as the book begins is a new grandchild for Ma, and she can’t bear being in the room with her daughter as she gives birth and her reason is that it brings the pain back. At first it seemed strange that she had given birth so many times and now couldn’t help her daughter, but then it dawns on you that the pain she can’t face, and the memories coming back are the ones of loss, the heartache – not just of her babies but of her homeland, and all the things she’s lost or had to leave behind in her life.

The book still resonates with the world we live in now, the way the family moved to San Diego from Vietnam to make a life for themselves but aren’t welcomed by everyone in the port city as people are still raw from what happened during the Vietnam war. The woman feels other, outcast, different. The family struggle to fit in, to make a life in America. The children feel the frustration of their father but are too young to understand where it comes from. They can’t comprehend the disappointment of their dad’s life – the way he has come to America to make a better life and now all he worked for in Vietnam, his degree etc, are worthless and unrecognised and so he comes to feel worthless and invisible.

This graphic memoir looks at the way political changes have a direct affect on the people who love there; it really highlights how the political is made personal. It also really makes you think about the way we see a photo and are led to believe that it’s the whole story but for the people involved, the people who live in a war-torn country it doesn’t show context or the whole story.


An example of the art style in the book

‘I had no idea that the terror I felt was only the long shadow of his own…’

The book is about how the pain from one generation is revisited on the next. It’s about how we have to understand what came before, what happened to our parents and grandparents to grasp how they came to be how they are. It’s about finding tolerance and peace with the bad that has been done to us.

There is a lot of heartache in this memoir. It really brings home how everyone has their own story, and how an event that may have led to the best time of your life could have been the thing that took someone else away from what made them happy. It really gives you something to think about, the way that one decision can change everything and you can’t go back. When Ma and Bo met it was the best thing that happened to him, but for Ma, it took her away from her studies and she grew to resent that. Ma fell pregnant before marriage, so circumstance dictated that she marry Bo and she duly did, but then the baby died and Ma was already trapped in this marriage.

When Thi’s family finally, after so much planning and hardship, get to leave Vietnam it is on a crowded boat in the dead of night, they had no way of knowing what awaited them on the journey or whether they’d even make it. Ma was heavily pregnant at the time. It must have been terrifying – and it really made me think of the images we see on the news now of desperate people fleeing war-torn countries – knowing they risk their lives in cramped boats but also knowing that they can’t stay in their home land another day.

It was incredibly affecting when I read about what Thi refers to as the ‘refugee reflex’. The way that in a new country there is so much to learn but the biggest lesson she learnt as a child was to know where the folder of important documents was at all times, and to make sure you grab it in the event of leaving home in any kind of an emergency. To learn that when so young and to have that reflex stay with you, it’s heartbreaking to thing of living with that fear even when you have finally reached a place of safety.

The memoir gradually brings you back to the present day, where Thi has given birth in the hospital and it leads her to reflect on her relationship with her parents. She ponders on that moment when you realise that you’re not the centre of the universe, and that you can’t keep hanging on to resentment about your parents not being who you thought they were, or who you wanted them to be. People are who they are and Thi realises that you have to be okay with that. It becomes a little existential at the end as Thi wonders at the way we’re all joined to those who came before us, and I found this incredibly moving and humbling.

The images in this novel are so striking, they really fit the story being told and add to its impact. The colour palette is very muted with just black and white with an orange wash that is used in various ways throughout. It really is beautiful to look at.

I highly recommend reading this memoir. It’s one of those books that really stays with you for a long time after reading.

I received a copy of this book from the Abrams via NetGalley one exchange for an honest review.