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by Reginald Hill
HarperCollins, November 2005
448 pages
ISBN: 0007212062

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

In 1945, in Paris, Janine Simonian stands accused of supplying the Nazi occupying troops with secret information. This information led to the murder of key members in the French Resistance including her husband. This accusation surprises some as Janine's husband was Jewish and she was very vocal regarding her hatred of Nazi troops and their propaganda.

Why Janine would be willing to betray her husband and her ideals is the question at the forefront of many people's minds. As the story develops, the answer is revealed. She was willing to sacrifice everything in order to keep her children safe and out of the concentration camps. Whether the truth and a mother's love is enough justification to save Janine from execution remains to be seen.

THE COLLABORATORS is a very different type of book from the Dalziel and Pascoe police procedurals for which Reginald Hill is best known. Unlike these, there is no clear concept of guilt and innocence or right and wrong in this book. It is wrong for the Nazis to force Janine to betray her country but Janine is still guilty of doing so. Yes she has a reason for doing so but in a clear-cut world of black and white, her actions are viewed as wrong. In any book dealing with war, it is almost impossible to provide a clear concept of morality and justice.

In THE COLLABORATORS, Reginald Hill uses Janine Simonian and the situation in which she finds herself to explore the concepts of morality and motivation. The book tries to explain why some people who supported the Resistance also helped the Nazis. These actions seem contradictory and illogical; yet, this situation still occurred.

This book also attempts to demonstrate that people's motives for their actions can be noble regardless of whether they were members of the Nazi party or the Resistance. This final point might be difficult to agree with as the Nazis are viewed by history as bad and the French Resistance is viewed as good. Hill's willingness to challenge this mentality convincingly is a tribute to his talents as a writer and is a justification for reading THE COLLABORATORS.

Reviewed by Sarah Dudley, June 2006

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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