Saturday, September 5, 2009

Transgression-James W. Nichol

James W. Nichol
Harper, Sep 22 2009, $13.99
ISBN: 9780061782312

In 1941 Vichy France, Adele Georges seeks her beloved missing father who encouraged her imagination. The last place she knows of news of her pere who served in the medical corps was in Arras; so she goes to the Wehrmacht run Domestic Population of Information Bureau in nearby Rouen seeking help. German clerk Manfred Halder tries to assist her.

For the next three years Adele and Manfred hide their love affair from her family who would gladly slit his throat and the Gestapo who would gladly slit his throat. The Allied invasion starting with D-Day brings fresh hope to occupied France except for Adele. Her family, neighbors and former friends loathe her as a "horizontal collaborator" while her beloved has been shipped to the Eastern front for being a co horizontal collaborator. After the hostilities end, Adele searches for her Manfred amidst the ruins of Europe, which leads to Paris, Ontario. There a severed human finger and its rotted corpse are uncovered leading to police chief Jack Cullen investigating a murder case that takes him to Adele married to Canadian veteran Alex Wells.

This exciting historical thriller contains two terrific subplots (in Europe during WWII and in Canada just after the war) that merge through Adele. The story line is haunting as issues of what is a transgression arise. Although the climax feels shortened and abrupt, readers will highly regard this look back at the 1940s through the “dreamy” eyes of a French exile.

Harriet Klausner