The Girl Who Fell From The Sky by Simon Mawer

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The Girl Who Fell From The Sky Note: This book is released as Trapeze in the US

Five words from the blurb: recruited, undercover, France, training, war

In WWII specially trained women were dropped into France, performing secret operations in difficult, often dangerous conditions. The Girl Who Fell From The Sky is based on their work, focusing on Marian Sutro, a young bilingual woman who is selected to undergo specialist training. The book details her preparations in England and the dangerous reality of living undercover in France.

I was aware that women worked undercover in France, but I knew nothing of their rigorous training. The tiny details brought this period of history to life and I loved learning the secrets that these women had to master in order to stay alive.

He delivered a first-aid course in reverse – how to cut the brachial artery with a knife slash to the forearm, how to dislocate the knee with a single stab of the foot, how to snap a man’s spine by dropping him across your knee, how to inflict the maximum damage in the minimum time. You could render a man helpless with a handclap to both ears, knock him unconscious with a matchbox, kill him with an umbrella.

The book was simple to read, but engaging throughout. I think it will have broad appeal because it can be enjoyed on many levels. I’m sure that a re-read would reveal many hidden messages, but the pace and intrigue of the plot will ensure it appeals to a wider audience.

Marian’s character was perfectly drawn. She was a complex, flawed individual, but I cared deeply for her. Her relationships were realistic and her bonds with other people brought up complex dilemmas about love and trust.

The plot wasn’t complex or gimmicky – it was good old fashioned storytelling at its best. It could be described as a coming-of-age story, historical fiction, or a romance, but I don’t think it is possible to pigeon hole this book. It is simply the story of an ordinary woman placed in an extraordinary position. It shows how resilient human beings are and encourages the reader to question how they`d react in similar situations.

My only criticism was the inclusion of a few cringe-worthy sex scenes. I expect to see this book included in longlist for this year’s Bad Sex in Literature Award, but as these passages were very small I’m willing to forgive it.

The Glass Room was one of my favourite reads in 2009, but although The Girl Who Fell From The Sky is far simpler in terms of structure, I think it is the slightly better book. It is easy to underestimate the skill it takes to write something so simple, yet so powerful.

This book sheds light on a small, but important, area of history and its themes will have lasting appeal.

It is my favourite book of the year so far. Highly recommended.

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One Comment

  1. Tracey says:

    This sounds excellent Jackie – I’ve been looking forward to reading your review and this sounds right up my street. Onto the wish list it goes – thank you!

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