Book talk: The Collaborator


This week, Michael Popple looks at an emotional historical adventure from an inspiring Australian author. You can find more of Michael’s book reviews on his blog:

The Collaborator by Diane Armstrong

HQ Fiction, $32.99

In Budapest in 1944, Miklos Nagy makes a desperate deal with Adolf Eichmann to save thousands of Hungarian Jews from the Nazis. While his gambit pays off, it will have unforeseen consequences for both himself and the fledgling country of Israel. Years later, in 2005, Australian journalist Annika Barnett sets out on a journey to uncover what happened to the man who saved her grandmother’s life. But what she discovers is a heartbreaking tale of love and betrayal as she attempts to work out whether Nagy was a tragic hero or an infamous collaborator.

Written by Diane Armstrong, a Holocaust survivor who emigrated to Australia in 1948, The Collaborator is an intense drama that cleverly utilises the story of a notable historical figure. The character of Nagy is closely based on the controversial Rezső Kasztner. This man’s life and eventual downfall makes for a fascinating read that Armstrong does an exceptional job of examining in this excellent novel.

The story is split into three separate timelines including: the events in Hungary in 1944, Nagy’s infamous trial in 1950s Israel and Annika’s journey of discovery in 2005. I really enjoyed the way that Armstrong chose to tell this story, as it not only allows for three cleverly interconnected and dramatic storylines but also shows the long-term impacts of some of the various character’s actions. The uncovering of Nagy’s entire story in the 2005 storyline really adds some emotional punches to the book, and it resulted in some intriguing examinations of a number of historical events from World War II and the formation of Israel, as well as a look at contemporary Israel and Hungary.

Guaranteed to hook you with its powerful and emotive journey back into a turbulent history, The Collaborator is a superb and compelling novel that comes highly recommended.

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