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4.4 out of 5 stars27
4.4 out of 5 stars
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on 18 August 2007
The history of France during 1940-45 is complex and much debated, and Reginald Hill's book captures the essence of these complexities very well. Following the plight of a French family and a German Officer posted to Paris during the Occupation, the book covers the history of this period in excellent detail. It picks up on many of the political and sociological issues faced by the French people during this period and how they dealt with them - and indeed how they reacted to the changing prospects of the war. The atrocious realities of the round-ups of French Jews and their subsequent deportation are told with breathtaking clarity. It goes on to draw astute parallels between the defeat of 1940 and the liberation of 1945. The story itself plays brilliantly on how humanity struggled and coped (or didn't cope) with the events of this era, and keeps you guessing right up until the last few pages as to the fate of the main characters. A wonderful, moving, thought-provoking read made the more chilling by its closeness to the reality of the period - the characters may be fictitious but the story is all too real. Definitely recommended - an absolute must to anyone interested in the history of the period. Thank you Mr Hill!
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on 23 February 2006
This is quite a a departure from the Daziel and Pascoe books we expect from Hill, but I thoroughly enjoyed this novel set in occupied Paris.
It focuses on a young mother who compromises herself with links to an Abwehr agent in order to secure her husband's return to Paris from a German PoW hospital and to ensure safe passage for her young children to Vichy. The book details the utter self-destruction of Parisian society presided over by the Axis, and the revenge of the Parisian mob against collaborators.
This might sound a bit 'heavy', but the book is characteristically well written and moving. Thoroughly recommended.
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 31 October 2005
This old, republished novel from Hill may surprise many of his fans who only know him through his Dalziel and Pascoe series (though, as he likes to point out, they only constitute half his actual authorial output). A novel of wartime in Paris, it's completely different from almost every other book of his that's readily available. Different in everything but style, adeptness at drawing character, and excellence.
The Collaborators is an intelligent, moving, challenging novel that questions the nature of personal loyalties during war-time. It's written with Hill's usual style, married to a great understanding of human behaviour in times of great trial, and with sly traces of humour (though it's less obvious than some of his most recent D&P novels). Taking place over a period of about 6 years, it may be 450+ hardback pages, but it moves very quickly, and there's never a dull moment. The characters and their complicated relationships, with others and themselves, are extremely well done. It's very different, but very good.
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on 16 December 2010
Reginald Hill, the author of this historical thriller, is of course better known as the creator of the enormously successful Pascoe and Dalziel detective novels. Here Mr Hill attempts something very different. He gives us a thrilling novel set almost exclusively in Paris during the German Occupation. We are presented with a group of well drawn characters as they try to pick their way through the testing trials of occupation. As the story unfolds both occupiers and occupied are forced to undergo severe tests of their courage, loyalty and integrity.

I found the plot satisfyingly engaging and I think that Mr Hill has created some very convincing characters.

The most fully drawn characters are Janine, a young Parisian wife and mother whose husband is a POW, and Oberleutnant Günter Mai of the Abwehr (the German Wehrmacht's Military Intelligence Service). It is the twists and turns of their inter-relationship through the years of the Occupation that form the heart of the book. They are both broadly sympathetic characters but both find themselves compelled to do things that they know are wrong and which sting their consciences. However as the months and years pass they find that they share a genuine if anguished love. Janine in particular goes through hell but Günter too in the end suffers terribly as a result of allowing his love for Janine to override his self interest.

I found all the main characters, of whom there are more than a dozen, convincing and engaging evocations of human types. Mr Hill shows us how they like Janine and Günter have to compromise their ideals, courage and dignity to survive in the increasingly savage world of wartime of Paris. The only failure is the Siecherheitdienst (SS Security Service) commander who was something of a cliche. However, Miche the blackmarketeer, Janine's old school conservative petit-bourgeois parents, Christian the resistant with feet of clay, Melchior the gay boulevadier, Pajou the utterly vile fellow travellor with the SD - all these characters add to a rich and satisfying picture of a great city on the rack.

This is a work of popular fiction and it would be wrong to ask of it the qualities one expects from a work of literary fiction but I assure you that this novel is good popular fiction. The descriptions of wartime Paris ring true (by that I mean that I as a reader was convinced - I have no actual experience of wartime Paris). All in all this is a very satisfying read and can be heartily recommended to anyone who enjoys emotionally involving thrillers.
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on 15 May 2010
I first read this story in the Readers' Digest collection of novels circa 1992 - yes, way back when! Anyway, to cut to the chase, this novel left an impression on my psyche for the best part of twenty years. I have been searching for this book, and I read this book again, which reaffirmed why it had left such an impression on me.

Janine Simonian is a Parisian shop girl working in her parents' cafe, who married a Jewish man and had two children with him. The Second World War has broken out, the Germans have come to occupy France, which is how she meets Lieutenant Gunther Mai... Her Jewish husband has been injured in the fighting, and her children were nearly shipped off to a concentration camp, with her mother in law. The only way she could help her loved ones was by becoming a Nazi Collaborator...

When one cuts through the lengthy 'gangster dialogue' between the Resistance characters, one is left with a poignant tale of the lengths a human would go to save their loved ones. A must-read.
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The wonderful mystery writer Reginald Hill (Pascoe and Dalziel series, etc.) turned to another period and another country with "The Collaborators", an exciting and insightful but cold-eyed story of desperate living under wartime occupation and the variety of ways that the French chose to respond to their captivity. Collaboration with occupying Germans or with homegrown fascists was often the only way to make a living, protect loved ones or otherwise live a normal life in the years 1940 to mid-1944 in France. But there were others--well documented in this novel's characters--who saw it as a way to make a buck, settle old political scores or further a political agenda. These categories all figure in "The Collaborators", which rarely sounds a false note through to its conclusion.

With a central focus on Parisian wife and mother Janine Simonian (married to a French Jewish resistance hero) and German officer Gunter Mai (an intelligence officer with unusual humanity), the story encompasses a large number of characters, all attempting to survive--and sometimes prosper--without running afoul of the Gestapo and deportation to a concentration camp. Some do survive; some are destroyed by their anti-German resistance; but all are mightily injured by the experience of conflict or by the necessity of compromise and collaboration by war's end.

This is a thoughtful and engrossing novel. Not surprising since it is the product of one of the UK's best writers.
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VINE VOICEon 6 February 2013
I've just started to read Reginald Hill and what a book to start with! His writing style is clear and concise. The story centres around a group of Parisiens who, for one reason or another, decide to collaborate with their Occupiers during WWII - some for purely opportunistic reasons, others simply to save their skin and one woman who is desperate to save her children. The story doesn't deviate from this plot which makes it extremely tight and tense. One of the best books of occupied France I have read in a long time.
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on 9 April 2014
Reginald Hill's The Collaborators is not your typical police procedural or detective drama. A young French woman stands in court before a jury of ex-Resistance members. Her head brutally shaven, dragged into the dock, she stands proudly in front of the judge and pleads guilty to the charges of collaborating with Nazi forces (and the resulting death of her own husband). Opening in 1945 Paris at the trial of Madame Simonian, the novel goes back to the very beginning of Janine's story, allowing us to make our own judgements on her case.

Hill's evocation of Paris under Nazi rule is atmospheric and compellingly claustrophobic. The arrival of the troops is met with anger and fear but also with a terrible underlying uncertainty and it is this that informs the decisions of almost every character we meet. These characters may border on stereotype: the sympathetic Nazi, the melodramatic homosexual, the stolid man-of-the-people baker, but the developments of the plot carry them beyond these simple definitions. Coincidences occur believably, for the most part, driving the plot forwards without (for the most part) feeling particularly stage-managed.

We watch as the gears of the Occupation grind Janine and her family slowly forwards towards the conclusion of the opening pages. We see how the people around her change and compromise, how the rules of the game adapt to the political weather. In perhaps the most interesting plot strand we follow the development of a young idealistic French government employee into a fully fledged Resistance leader - for all the dramatics of the setting this is a novel where people make decisions for believable reasons and then deal with the consequences as they come.

Given the subject matter it feels wrong to describe this as a light read, but a page-turner it most certainly is; exciting, pacy and compassionate. It's also thought-provoking on the most simple and the most complex of levels: judging the degree of guilt attendant on Janine's collaboration with the occupiers and judging the 'what would I have done?' question that so often haunts these historical moments.

(Note: it genuinely did not occur to me until a few days after I finally set the book aside that the name of Reginald Hill was not unfamiliar. Yes, Dalziel and Pascoe fans, it is he. Yes, I am an idiot.)
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on 21 May 2013
At first I found this book to be a little confusing as it jumps forward in time by, in some cases, many months. I realise it had to do this to cover the time period involved, but a smoother transition would have helped. However it really came alive in the second half building to an intriguing finale. Well worth a read particularly if you are interested in this period of French history.
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on 28 November 2012
This is a very well written book covering a very important time. What struck me was how people became collaborators in lots of different ways, by accident, through greed, for revenge etc. What I didn't like was reading about brutality. There is enough in the real world, but it was what happened so could not have been left out.
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