Posted by: Lisa Hill | July 15, 2015

The Girl Who Fell from the Sky (2012), by Simon Mawer

The Girl Who Fell from the SkyI’ve had Simon Mawer’s The Girl Who Fell from the Sky on my ever-groaning TBR since mid 2013, purchased as soon as I saw it because I really liked The Glass Room which was nominated for the Booker.  (See my review).  What prompted me to read it now was that the sequel Tightrope has just been released and I wanted to start with the war time exploits of Marion Sutro before reading about her Cold War career…

My father is going to love this book.  Published for some reason also under the title Trapeze in some editions, The Girl Who Fell from the Sky is unputdownable.  I mean that: I started reading it at bedtime and didn’t turn out the light until I’d finished the book some six hours later.  And my heart was still thudding from the tension of the last few pages…

Marion Sutro is the bilingual daughter of a British diplomat, born in France but evacuated to safety when the Germans launched their brutal assault on Europe.  She is recruited by Special Operations for undercover work and – after exhaustive training in sabotage, covert radio operations, setting up parachute evacuations, interrogation survival techniques and the art of face-to-face killing – she is parachuted into rural France as a courier for the Resistance.  Mawer subtly avoids the clichés of this genre with a fine psychological study of an opinionated and wilful young woman, resistant to the assorted boffins and military minds who are there to prepare her for her mission.  Inclined to romanticise the job from the relative safety of Britain yet only too ready to disregard the dangerous realities, Marion in her various aliases on the ground in France makes the fundamental mistake of trusting too many people, the author stage-managing the tension as the reader tries to untangle which characters are about to betray her.

Attractive, (of course), Marion finds herself the object of attention from a brash young fellow operative while also rekindling an old love from her adolescent years in Paris.  At the same time, there are German men who use the  power of victors to try to take advantage of a pretty girl.  Are these men part of the German surveillance system, or just opportunist?  Mawer makes it tantalisingly hard to judge.

The tension amps up as Marion is tasked with evacuating a scientist researching the nuclear bomb.  Clement Pelletier is an old boyfriend, and SOE hopes that mutual affection (or more) will persuade him to abandon wife and child and bring his secrets to London.  Another thread develops when the moral issues implicit in developing weapons of mass destruction bother Marion, but Clement is interested in pure science and doesn’t want to engage in any moral dilemmas.

So this is a rich and compelling novel exploring how individuals deal with identity, trust, deception, betrayal and love of country in the service of a great cause, and it also questions the ethics of WW2 warfare with its deliberate targeting of civilians.   The Girl Who Fell from the Sky is not a cheap adventure-thriller; it’s exciting literary fiction written by an thoughtful author at the top of his game.

I can’t wait to read Tightrope!

Update: see my review of Tightrope here.

Author: Simon Mawer
Title: The Girl Who Fell from the Sky
Publisher: Little, Brown, 2012
ISBN: 9781408703519
Purchased from Benn’s Books Bentleigh $29.99


Fishpond: The Girl Who Fell from the Sky


  1. Only read glass room myself which I enjoyed this sounds in a similar historic vein


    • The Glass Room was great, I thought. Such a talented writer, and I didn’t realise how many other books he’d written until I looked it up at Goodreads….


  2. […] only a day or two since I read Simon Mawer’s The Girl Who Fell from the Sky (see my review) but I liked it so much I went straight to the newly published sequel Tightrope and finished it […]


  3. Thank you for this review. I didn’t know if I would like this novel or not but I want to read it now!


    • Have you read the first one? Do, if you can, I think I enjoyed it more because I did:)


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