The wonderful new novel from the Man Booker Prize shortlisted author of The Glass Room is both a gripping adventure story and a moving meditation on patriotism, betrayal and the limits of love.
Marian Sutro is an outsider: the daughter of a diplomat, half French, half British, naive yet too clever for her own good. But when she is recruited from her desk job by SOE to go undercover in wartime France, it seems her hybrid status - and fluent French - will be of service to a greater, more dangerous cause. Trained in sabotage, dead-drops, how to perform under interrogation, and how to kill, Marian parachutes into southwest France with an urgent mission....
©2012 Simon Mawer (P)2012 W F Howes Ltd
"The Girl Who Fell from the Sky comes from a long and glorious tradition of spy novels that you just can't put down. It's taut fiction at it's best." (Stylist)
Marian Sutro is bilingual and is recruited by the Special Ops unit in the Second World War to be trained to be a French agent. The novel follows her through this period and into France as she pursues her 'special mission'. I couldn't stop listening to this book - it has a great plot, which keeps you wondering what happens next and really getting involved in Marian's fate. Further though, this is not just a good thriller, the writing is at times absolutely beautiful, and some descriptions will stay with me for a long time.
The narration is also beautifully done, with each character having their own distinctive voice. I thoroughly recommend.
Like other reviewers, I was looking forward to a thrilling and ineresting story as I knew a little about SOE and the exploits of some of its female recruits. However, it felt very much like this was the outline of a story, without much depth or detail. Marion just seemed to slip easily into becoming a spy with a sort of jolly-hockey-sticks attitude to the whole thing and little questioning of what she was doing or detail about how she made the transformation. The story lacked pace and excitement for me, although the ending was well done.
The fictional character of Marian Sutro is based on several real-life Special Operations Executive (SOE) agents.
Like "Anette", she is given a powder compact by Colonel Maurice Buckmaster before leaving for France, works on the WHEELWRIGHT circuit based on Toulouse, and gets her face on "Wanted" posters. Like "Colette" she has grown up in Geneva, the daughter of a League of Nations diplomat, and falls in love with a fellow agent who is parachuted down with her. Like "Odette" she enlists in the egregiously named FANY (First Aid Nursing Yeomanry). Unlike any of her real-life counterparts she is sent on a highly prejudicial mission which trumps her work for the Maquis: to bring out Clement, a French atomic scientist, a family friend with whom she became infatuated whilst still at convent school.
This is high romance though, not "faction". It tells how a sweet young thing is transformed into a ruthless terrorist and efficient killer, and how she discovers she's both tool and victim of a cause so tremendous and horrifying in its implications as to submerge brotherly love beneath national duty.
There's maybe a bit too much nuclear physics gone-into. Would her brother Ned, working on the British atom bomb project, really have plunged into all that theory to deflect her accusation of having used her as a pawn, indeed as bait? All the reader needs is the realisation which made Prof James Chadwick take to needing sleeping pills: the inevitability of one side or the other developing a bomb to obliterate an entire city in an instant.
This is scant criticism beside the novel's achievement in bringing into sharp focus a once-brilliant and cultured city reduced to a drab world of arrogant, ogling troops, intrusive police and cowed natives. A stifling sense of mounting dread is sustained, worthy of Dickens in "A Tale Of Two Cities": you feel yourself living the fearful, furtive existence of a spy. And, like a rifle bullet, you'll never hear the end coming till it hits you.
I have read the Glass Room and enjoyed it immensely. Listening to the audio version of The Girl who Fell from the Sky was a wonderful experience. Not only is the writing superb but Anna Bentinck's reading is one of the best. She perfectly complements the exqusite writing and storyline. Both her French and German accents are flawless. Thank you so much. I cannot recommend this audible book high enough. I didn't want it to end.
This was the second novel I'd listened/read by this author and it didn't disappoint. It is a compulsive listen, well narrated and beautifully written - I couldn't stop once I got started.
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. Repetitive writing too? its a one star from me.
I enjoyed this audio book and was engrossed by the heroine's exploits in occupied France as she evaded the Nazis, fell in love and helped the French resistance. The narrator brought characters to life and I was sorry when the book ended. I felt a sequel is needed to tell us what happened next to the players in this exciting story.
Why do I (and you) like stories tied up with the last war? That is something that would take up too many characters to discuss - but I can say in very simple terms that this is an absolutely excellent book - well written and well read (bearing in mind the vast array of characters this cannot have been easy). The reason I have given it a final 5 star is however its ending - which took me completely by surprise and which I think about every day.
After listing to this story I have a better idea of how spies operated during the war. Descriptions are detailed and I really felt the fear that they must have had when dropped into France. I use talking books to go to sleep at night but I must admit that I was so troubled by this book that I did not sleep on the nights I selected this story. I do recommend it.
I really enjoyed this book. Mainly because it concentrated on the characters not the mechanics, Usually WW2 books spend a lot of time explaining how the characters got where they are. This one refers back in simple terms about the characters skills and how they learnt them.
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