Every Friday Book Beginnings on Friday is hosted by Gillion at Rose City Reader where you can share the first sentence (or so) of the book you are reading. You can also share from a book you want to highlight just because it caught your fancy.
I enjoy Hill’s Dalziel and Pascoe crime fiction, but he also wrote thrillers, historical novels, science fiction and, later, a smaller humorous series set in Luton, featuring the black private detective Joe Sixsmith.
This week the book I’m highlighting is The Collaborators by Reginald Hill, a standalone novel of wartime passion, loyalty – and betrayal. It is set in Paris from 1940 to 1945, when Janine Simonian stood accused of passing secret information to the Nazis that led to the arrest and torture of several members of the French Resistance.
My Book Beginning:
She dreamt of the children.
They were picnicking on the edge of a corn field. Pauli hiding from his sister, Céci giggling with delight as she crawled through the forest of green stalks. Now too she was out of sight, but her happy laughter and her brother’s encouraging cries drifted back to their mother, dozing in the warm sunshine.
Also every Friday there is The Friday 56, hosted by Freda at Freda’s Voice, where you grab a book and turn to page 56 (or 56% of an eBook), find one or more interesting sentences (no spoilers), and post them.
‘It’s a worrying time for her what with the children being ill and no news of Jean-Paul’, said her husband.
‘If you ask me, she’ll be better off if she never gets any news of him,’ said the woman.
First published in England in 1987, this novel departs from Hill’s usual mystery oeuvre ( Ruling Passion ). With thoughtfulness and insight that call to mind le Carre, Hill reconsiders an aspect of the German occupation of France during WW II that many Frenchmen would prefer to forget–the collaboration.
Set primarily in Paris, the novel follows the lives of Jean-Paul and Janine Simonian, he a Jew, she a boulanger’s daughter married against her parents’ wishes. Upon his release from a military hospital after France’s humiliating defeat in 1940, Jean-Paul joins the Resistance. For her part, Janine worries–about her two children and the husband who has become emotionally so dark and distant. Gunther Mai, an otherwise kindly German officer in the Abwehr, befriends Janine and uses her as a source of information on her husband’s activities–a relationship that works well until he falls in love with her.
What Hill portrays so successfully is the conflict between social and personal responsibility. Through a wonderful range of secondary characters, he skillfully characterizes the collaborator in his various guises–from the self-serving black marketeer to the loving mother and wife. Best of all, Hill captures the collapse of morality in occupied France.
What do you think, does it appeal to you? What are you currently reading?