War is, to coin a popular phrase, Hell. But even in the midst of the chaos, destruction and confusion of conflict, life sometimes finds a way to bring a little hope to the shattered individuals caught in its thrall. Horizontal Collaboration is the story of Rose, a young nurse trapped in a loveless marriage whose husband is a Prisoner of War, and Mark, a German intelligence officer stationed in her city, who manage to find each other and fall in love during the Nazi occupation of Paris in 1944. A tale of intense devotion and passion, Horizontal Collaboration is told in flashback as an elderly Rose tells her granddaughter about the only time she fell hopelessly in love, and explores the all too real effects that war can have on the innocents who become ensnared in its clutches.
An intimate and at times unflinching story, Horizontal Collaboration strips away the smooth veneer of the social norms that all too often disguises the truth and exposes the raw underbelly of human nature as the cast of characters that surround Rose and Mark do whatever they can to make it through each day and survive the harsh reality of living behind enemy lines in the midst of a totalitarian state. Friends and neighbours, driven by suspicion, jealousy and fear, betray each other as they gradually transform into the worst versions of themselves, a change hasted and powered by their ever evolving environment.
Navie’s very human, beautiful story of one of the most turbulent times in French history focuses on the eternal truism that despite artificial boundaries, loathsome nationalism, uniforms and flags, people are the same regardless of where they come from. We all find joy in similar things, we laugh, we cry, we feel the bitter sting of loneliness and sorrow and we’re powerless, even in the face of desperate adversity, to prevent the most intense of human emotions overpowering us and rejecting the established “rules” that govern every aspect of our lives. Brought to vivid, and all too real, life by the alluring art of Carole Maurel, Horizontal Collaboration is a story that embraces the very best and worst of human nature and balances on the increasingly frayed line between good and evil that is often stretched to breaking point, which sometimes makes it incredibly difficult to tell the difference between monsters and heroes.
If you’re looking to lose yourself in a story that holds on to, and refuses to let go of, its happily ever after, then maybe this isn’t the book for you, because just like War, Horizontal Collaboration doesn’t end well for any of the cast whose lives play out on its stage. However, if you know that happy endings are the stuff of fairy stories and understand that sometimes history isn’t quite as clear cut as we’d like it to be, then you’ll almost certainly enjoy spending a couple of hours in Mark and Rose’s company… Tim Cundle