Huw Rhys's Reviews > The Girl who fell From the Sky

The Girl who fell From the Sky by Simon Mawer
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did not like it

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 slang. If long, and seemingly important passages from another language are going to be used in a book, then they need to be explained. The author surely realizes this, as at one point, he invokes some (again, unnecessary) German language into the narrative, which is neatly translated so that the impact of the words aren't lost on the reader. But using half a dozen different slang words for German soldiers, with little or no explanation, simply ends up confusing the reader, adding yet another diversion away from the main plot.

Then there are the strange English words introduced as well. "Fasty" is one such word. Was it a typo? Was it meant to be like "Fastish", as in "rapidly"? Or was it something to do with not eating? Impossible to tell - but yet another unnecessary distraction.

Then there is the constant "poorly written sex pieces" - most of which is again completely and utterly unnecessary to the plot, and is usually completely embarrassing even when reading it in private. The thought of even going into detail in illustrating some of this stuff is stomach churning in itself – it’s stuff I’d sooner forget, but I fear that some of it will remain as an unpleasant image in my mind’s eye for far too long.

On a broader level, the characters are paper thin, as well as being all quite unsavoury – it really is difficult to empathise with any of them, particularly our main protagonist. The difficulty is further exacerbated by the fact that the plot goes to great lengths to try and hammer home how our character is trained to behave by her spymasters – and then she almost immediately goes out and acts in an opposite way, with no reflection at all on her misdoings. Is the author trying to make too clever a point here (another possibly recurring theme throughout this dreadful novel) or is it just sloppy writing?

Then there is completely inappropriate use of metaphor and imagery. At one stage he invokes a “turd at the backside of an elegant old lady”. Interesting imagery. To what could he be referring to? Would you believe that he was simply talking about a brown van parked outside the back of a college? And so the complete embarrassment goes on.

Even the ending is a straight lift from one of the best known WW2 escape films. Not even a pretence to change much of the detail. Another piece of deep and meaningful imagery? No, by this stage you know it’s just sloppy, lazy writing, confirming finally the growing sense of unease and disbelief that any editor has allowed 90% of this book to be printed.

A real shocker.
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Reading Progress

September 7, 2013 – Started Reading
September 7, 2013 – Shelved
September 7, 2013 –
page 168
September 7, 2013 –
page 220
September 8, 2013 –
page 264
September 9, 2013 – Finished Reading

Comments Showing 1-1 of 1 (1 new)

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Sharon I understand German and I did not see a single long passage in that language, translated or not. Yes, there were a few untranslated French expressions but surely a reader who does not know French could decipher the meaning from the context? I read your review befor reading the book and I have to say, there was really only one sex scene and one masturbation scene, both of which I agree were unecessary, but they hardly overwhelmed the rest of the book?

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