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3.55 of 5 stars 3.55  ·  rating details  ·  2,403 ratings  ·  499 reviews
A propulsive novel of World War II espionage by the author of New York Times best seller The Glass Room.

Barely out of school and doing her bit for the British war effort, Marian Sutro has one quality that makes her stand out—she is a native French speaker. It is this that attracts the attention of the SOE, the Special Operations Executive, which trains agents to operate in...more
Published May 1st 2012 by Other Press (first published 2012)
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Jeanette (Most of My Favorite Authors Are Dead)
3.5 stars, rounding up to 4 because I like the way he ended it realistically. I also appreciated the subtle building of suspense a couple of times near the end of the story. It's not the heart-pounding suspense you get from a thriller, but a much more natural feeling of dread and uncertainty while the characters are trying to act nonchalant.
I enjoyed learning about the various training exercises women went through in Scotland and England to prepare them for life as infiltrators.

But the best thi...more
If you were to read a simplistic blurb of Simon Mawer's Trapeze - at the height of World War II, a young English-French woman trains as a spy and is dropped into Occupied France to aid the French Resistance - you might think you hold an espionage-adventure in your hands. Which, in fact, you do! But Mawer isn't after writing a Robert Ludlum thriller. He offers us a subtle, mannered take on a well-worn theme: how war forces the most ordinary amongst us to behave in the most extraordinary ways.

In war there’s a fine line between being alive and being fully human.

I enjoyed this book immensely. “Trapeze” centers around a young English woman, Marian Sutro, who’s recruited to be a spy embedded in France. Marian is the daughter of an English diplomat and a French woman. She grows up in Switzerland where her father is stationed. She’s the adored younger sister of a brilliant scientist brother. She’s also adored by and adoring of her brother’s fellow scientist Clement. Mawer quickly catches t...more
I hoped for more from this novel. The protagonist, Marian/Anne-Marie/Alice is a difficult character to warm to and the novel relies heavily on her being an interesting and accessible character because she's our way in. I found Marian spiky, aloof and quite irritating, especially as an agent in training. Apart from anything else, she blabs about her exciting new venture immediately after being explicitly told not to tell anyone.

The novel doesn't really take off until Marian, now known as Alice,...more
4 Stars - 3 Stars - 4 Stars

Is it me or is it the book?

At the outset I was very interested in reading Trapeze as it promised a peek into ta little known piece of World War II history --a fictionalized account of the 39 women, members of The French Section of the Special Operative Executive.

As someone who has tandem jumped and who also is the niece of a World War II parachutist who died doing just that during the Battle of the Bulge, I was intrigued by the thought of these women who parachuted in...more
I bought this book because every previous book I read by Simon Mawer was excellent. Sad to say, this book comes no where near his previous standard. The plot is plain silly, the heroine ditto and so is the writing. If you read Sweet Tooth by Ian McEwan you will understand how an intelligent Britain based wartime spy story should be written. This one is about a young half British/French girl who is transferred from her position as an ordinary WAC (the British equivalent is apparently called a FAN...more
Anastasia Fitzgerald-Beaumont
The Girl Who Fell from the Sky – published in the US as Trapeze - is a thriller, a spy story, a coming of age narrative, a tale of sexual awakening, of self-discovery, of the terrors of working under an assumed name in a land occupied by a malign presence. The life that it has is all that it has, and it’s yours and yours and yours! Is it mine? The honest answer is that I’m not at all sure.

It’s the first novel I’ve read by Simon Mawer, though his much lauded The Glass Room is in my collection an...more
Elizabeth B
Perhaps once in a decade you come across a book like this. With fluid prose that carries you along, this book joins every major genre under one cover. Suspense, spy, historical, romance, coming of age – a thread of each type of story blends together almost seamlessly to craft a story that will appeal to a wide and varied audience. I admire the author’s attempt to include so many different types of elements into the story and, for the most part, feel the author has done so successfully. While I f...more
Based on the true story of a group of young women who were recruited in Britain, during WWII, to serve in the French Division of The Special Operations Executive, the book is filled with historic facts about their training, innocence and bravery in the face of enormous danger. The SOE trained these women for espionage and all types of weapon use. Dropped into France, in secret, they became different people, and they performed whatever assignments they were given, often completely on their own, f...more
Some novels should come with an advisory: “Readers will not get anything done until they have completed this book.” Trapeze by Simon Mawer is desperately in need of that label. Readers are immediately drawn into this novel by its main character, Marian Sutro, a young woman wondering what her place is in the fighting of World War II. Marian is the daughter of an English father and a French mother, and is bilingual, making her the perfect addition to the French Section of the Special Operations Ex...more

What an amazing story! I hated for it to end, and such an ending it was! Adding to the appeal was my discovery, after reading a note by the author on Amazon, that this nail biting tale of the French Resistance is based on the experiences of one Anne Marie Walters. At the time the author’s mother joined the WAAF during World War II, Anne Marie was serving in her unit. Mawer read Anne Marie’s battered memoir, Moondrop to Gascony, which ‘recounts in vivid first person, the experiences after she was...more
This whole book felt shallow. I was looking farward details! which where missing in abundance! The author just scoots around the idea of some young women becoming a spy, missing out all of the training in any depth, reducing it to "we did an assault course that day" and "later we did monkey bars". The whole book reads more like a plot outline then an actual book. Also, if i have to hear the line "he laughed that *insert word here, such as "throaty"/"russion"/or"deep" Laugh" AGAIN i will go crazy...more
***spoiler spoiler spoiler***

I've been sitting on the fence for some time in regards to how I shall rate this one. Seeing how I'm still frustrated just thinking about the ending in relation to the story buildup and the fact that this book still resonates in my mind, I've decided on a final 2 star rating.

I really wanted to like this one, but after mulling over the story for weeks since finishing the book, there were too many conflicting emotions that I have with the character's demise that contr...more
Ordinary people doing extraordinary things. That's one of the things that war does. And we wonder too, if we were placed under such pressures as having our country occupied by an enemy, would we too do find ourselves doing extraordinary things? Almost immediately after France was occupied by Germany in 1940, General De Gaulle, from his base in London, as head of the Free French movement, called on his compatriots in France to resist the German occupation at all costs so as to keep France free an...more
Robin Webster
The main character of this novel is 23 year old Marian Sutro: fluent in both French and English. She is sought out by the Special Operations Executive to work undercover in occupied France. She is parachuted into the Bordeaux region of France staying in a small town called Lussac and starts working as a courier for the resistance. However, her most important mission is to contact an old friend of her brother in Paris who is a nuclear physicist called Clement Pelletier and try to persuade him to...more
Recently I had a conversation with someone about the Holocaust; we agreed that those with direct experience would be gone in the next 10-15 years, and that the memories of those with direct experience were (now) fading or being lost to old age. So it's not surprising that the children of those people are striving to keep those memories alive and to honor their parents' experience.

In this case, the author is writing (loosely) about a friend of her parents, a woman who worked for the Special Opera...more
There was already a novel with this title by Heidi W. Durrow published in US and so to avoid confusion this was published there as Trapeze. The novel was written as a tribute to the 39 women of the Special Operations Executive who risked their lives during WWII to enter France as undercover operatives during the German occupation.

The novel opens with Marian preparing for her parachute drop into France and then loops back to describe her recruitment and training before continuing on with her mis...more
Alice Meloy
Reading this now novel from Simon Mawer after his excellent The Glass Room, I was reminded of how I felt reading Mary Doria Russell's Dreamers of the Day after The Sparrow and Thread of Grace: did someone else write this novel or is it perhaps a resurrected earlier work? It's not a bad novel, but it doesn't measure up to the depth of The Glass Room. Three and a half years into the Second World War, a young British woman is recommended for special espionage work in France. Her mother is French, a...more
The premise was fascinating and true -- young women who had volunteered for low-level support roles in WWII-era Britain were secretly tapped to infiltrate Nazi-occupied France as spies.

This book could have been a great glimpse into a covert operation, but unfortunately it fell flat. The main character never developed, really, and the supporting characters were never more than paper-doll men.

It told me what happened instead of showed me, to the point where the last few paragraphs were literally a...more
I found this a fast read and enjoyed it as an adventure story. I definitely wanted to know what was going to happen next and couldn't help but imagine what a good movie it could be. The love/sex parts of Marian's story didn't quite ring true for me, always a tough one for a male author writing a female character, but overall I thought she was a memorable strong but flawed heroine.
Valerie Walley
I could not turn the pages fast enough. A literary thriller of the highest order. Atmospheric, daring, great characters. I loved The Glass Room a lot and this book is much faster paced.
Bryan Higgs
I have discovered quite a number of interesting books that I would not have known about, nor considered reading, as a result of listening to the Diane Rehm Show on National Public Radio. This is one of those books. Diane Rehm interviewed the author about this book, and it sounded interesting, so I suggested that my wife and I read it.

I was right. It was a very interesting and well-written book, and at the same time an absorbing page-turner. My wife liked it a lot, too.

I'll let you discover the b...more
Barely out of school and doing her bit for the British war effort, Marian Sutro has one quality that makes her stand out - she is a native French speaker. It is this that attracts the attention of the SOE, the Special Operations Executive, which trains agents to operate in occupied Europe. Drawn into this strange, secret world at the age of nineteen, she finds herself undergoing commando training, attending a "school for spies," and ultimately, one autumn night, parachuting into France from an R...more
Nancy Oakes
for a longer version, click on through.

Marian Sutro is a member of the Women’s Auxiliary Air Force (WAAF); as the novel opens she has been recruited by the Inter-Services Research Bureau, an organization which "trains people to work in France." Everything is hush-hush; she is not allowed to talk to anyone about what she is doing -- her parents think she's being trained as a nurse. Sent to Scotland for training, Marian goes through an intense series of courses, learning everything from parachuti...more
This novel literally gets off to a flying start: We meet our heroine Marian Sutro as she sits in a juddering plane, parachute pack strapped to her back, waiting to drop over Nazi-occupied France so she can start work as a British spy.

It is a bizarre situation, but not far-fetched at all. This ninth novel by English author Simon Mawer, who was shortlisted for the Booker Prize in 2009 for The Glass Room, is based on operations by Britain’s Special Operations Executive, which sent 50 female agents...more
Huw Rhys
On the face of it, this is a WW2 espionage story about a female agent operating in France. Had the author simply stuck to this idea, we may have been given a better result.

As it is, we have a slow, turgid novel which barely gets going at all until the last few chapters, wrapped up in a load of completely inappropriate and often embarrassing, florid passages.

Firstly, to begin to appreciate much of this extraneous verbiage, the reader needs to be not only fluent in French, but au fait with French...more
I am mixed on this book. The beginning was interesting, and the end kept me on the edge of my seat, but the middle lagged. I was also disappointed that the ending was an obvious cliff hanger for his next book. I always feel tricked by the author when I read an entire book only to have it stop and not end.

The main character really wasn't well developed enough for me to relate to. I was reading this book and wondering if it was because it was written by a man. I have read books by men with women m...more
Intense story of a young woman during WWI, French mama, British papa. Schooled in Geneva. Recruited to be part of British secret support of French Resistance. Think weapons training, parachutes, Morse code, coded messages, hidden wireless, costume changes at the open market to escape the Nazis, and romance. Most wonderful part of the story is the way the author allows his young naive recruit to mature, almost overnight, into a seasoned undercover agent, with impressive decision making and a gent...more
Diane S.
Hitler invades France and France becomes a pl;ace of tension and horror, food shortages although good wine can still be had. We know many of the names of the villains of World War II but few of the heroes, especially the regular people who stepped outside of their comfort level in an attempt to change a small part of history. For me the strength of this novel is that it made me think. A young woman of a privileged background joins the WAAF when England declares war on Germany. She is picked to j...more
It is WW 2, the Germans are in France--Paris is a haunted town. Into this maelstrom comes a young woman who is a British spy. The author has written about the story of British women spies who undergo a grueling training and then are air lifted to France to work with the underground. He has selected one anonymous women to tell the story of these spies. Of the 39 women spies, 12 were murdered and others died of illness. The author lifts the reader into this bizarre time and makes the reader one of...more
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Female espionage 1 28 Jun 28, 2012 07:26AM  
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Simon Mawer (born 1948, England) is a British author. He currently lives in Italy.

More about Simon Mawer...
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