Tuesday, 27 August 2019

Book Review: THE COLLABORATOR by Diane Armstrong

Author: Diane Armstrong
Publisher: Harlequin Australia
Read: August 2019
Expected publication: out now
My Rating: 🌟🌟🌟1/2

Book Description:

It is 1944 in Budapest and the Germans have invaded. Jewish journalist Miklos Nagy risks his life and confronts the dreaded Adolf Eichmann in an attempt save thousands of Hungarian Jews from the death camps. But no one could have foreseen the consequences...

It is 2005 in Sydney, and Annika Barnett sets out on a journey that takes her to Budapest and Tel Aviv to discover the truth about the mysterious man who rescued her grandmother in 1944.

By the time her odyssey is over, history has been turned on its head, past and present collide, and the secret that has poisoned the lives of three generations is finally revealed in a shocking climax that holds the key to their redemption.

My musings:

I can never resist a good story set during WWII, especially one that explores lesser known historical events during that dark time in history. Diane Armstrong’s latest book, THE COLLABORATOR, falls firmly into that category. Inspired by real happenings  and people, her captivating story focuses on the fate of 1500 Hungarian Jews who were saved from certain death in German concentration camps by the actions of one man – who will later have to stand trial for being a Nazi collaborator. Hero or traitor? How can one and the same action be considered to be both, depending on how you look at it?

It was immediately obvious that Armstrong has done A LOT of research into her topic, as her story is peppered with facts and historical details that opened my eyes to political events that had somehow slipped under the radar for me. If history lessons had been as captivating as this book, I would certainly have known more about the fate of the many Jewish people who managed to escape the Nazi death camps and started their new lives in Israel, facing a whole new set of challenges after the war was over. Armstrong seamlessly weaves historical fact with fiction, with characters that practically leap off the pages, take the reader by the hand and draw them into their world. I feel like I learned so much by reading this story!

Narrated in a dual timeline format, one part of the story is being told through the eyes of Annika, an Australian journalist trying to find out the truth about Miklos Nagy, the man who allegedly saved her grandmother’s life together with 1500 other Jews during the war. Since her grandmother remains tight-lipped about the subject, Annika decides to go to Hungary where her grandmother was living during the war. She thus embarks on a journey that will take her from Hungary to Israel, only to uncover a remarkable and heart breaking story of love, courage and betrayal.

The second timeline, set during the war, explores the very events Annika is investigating, and is narrated through the eyes of Miklos Nagy himself, a man who is lauded as hero by some, traitor by others.

Personally, I connected more with Annika’s story, and related to her quest to uncover some truths about her grandmother’s past. I have worked with numerous holocaust survivors, whose families never knew about the terrible tragedies they had suffered, so Annika’s grandmother’s silence on the subject rang true for me, as did her quest for answers. Whilst I found Miklos Nagy’s chapters fascinating and eye opening, they also felt a bit more detached and at times heavy with historical facts. This is not a criticism, merely a caution to readers to allow time to digest the story rather than expecting a quick entertaining read. I found myself looking up facts about Hungary and the fate of its Jewish population because I felt I needed to understand the context more – and I am grateful to have learned from the story as well as appreciating the armchair time travel.


All in all, THE COLLABORATOR was a well-researched, interesting and thought provoking novel based on real life persons and events that explored a chapter of WWII history not often touched upon in historical fiction. I found it relevant and educational as well as deeply moving, and recommend it to all lovers of the genre.

Thank you to Netgalley and Harlequin Australia for the free electronic copy of this novel and for giving me the opportunity to provide an honest review.

1 comment:

  1. Totally agree! What a great read - a vivid historical fiction that captures your heart over and over again!