"In 1919, in a small town in the province of Berry, France, under the crushing heat of summer heat wave, a war hero is being held prisoner in an abandoned barracks. In front of the door to his prison, a mangy dog barks night and day. Miles from where he is being held, in the French countryside, a young extraordinarily intelligent woman works the land the land, waiting and hoping. A judge whose principles have been sorely shaken by the war is traveling to an unknown location to sort out certain affairs of which it is better not to speak. Three characters. In their midst, a dog who holds the key both to their destinies and to this intriguing plot. Full of poetry and life, The Red Collar is at once a delightly simple narrative about the human spirit and a profound work about loyalty and love"--Provided from Amazon.com.
Lantier visits Morlac daily to interrogate him in addition to quizzing the locals about him. He learns that Morlac’s dog was with him during his time fighting abroad, and that he has a love interest named Valentine who has a son, likely Morlac’s. The more he learns, the more he tries to entice Morlac to admit guilt under extenuating circumstances so Morlac can be released with a light sentence. Morlac, however, refuses.
As the story progresses, we find that Valentine is from a revolutionary family that aids deserters of the war. As Lantier speaks with her, we learn that Morlac underwent a transformation during his time in the war, moving from thinking simply about his forced efforts to fight to thoughts of doubt and revolution. We also learn Morlac has refused to visit Valentine since returning home and that Morlac’s imprisonment has something to do with his dog.
Lantier finally puts all of the pieces together after his many conversations with Morlac, Valentine, and other locals. What unfolds is a story about loyalty and different perspectives of what being loyal is depending on where one stands and what information one has.
Rufin packs a great deal of story in such a small volume. This was extremely well-written, and I enjoyed it thoroughly. I love that he built anticipation by divulging fragments of the story through various characters over time.