What’s it all about?:
Marian Sutro is an outsider: the daughter of a diplomat, brought up on the shores of Lake Geneva and in England, 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 south-west France, her official mission to act as a Resistance courier. But her real destination is Paris, where she must seek out family friend Clément Pelletier, once the focus of her adolescent desires. A nuclear physicist engaged in the race for a new and terrifying weapon, he is of urgent significance to her superiors. As she struggles through the strange, lethal landscape of the Occupation towards this reunion, what completes her training is the understanding that war changes everything, and neither love nor fatherland may be trusted. This book is also featured on the Richard and Judy Spring Book Club for 2013.
What did WE think?:
CHRISSI: What were your first impressions of the book?
BETH: This book started off really well for me, I really liked the character of Marian/Anne-Marie, she was independent and strong-willed, all good things in a female character! I was intrigued by the premise of the novel, and thought the parts where she was training to be a spy, well-written and exciting. Personally, further through the novel, I felt a bit of a loss of connection to Marian, almost like the reader didn’t really know her properly and this was slightly frustrating for me.
BETH: How did you feel about our main character, Marian? Did she seem real and believable?
CHRISSI: At the beginning I really warmed to her, I thought she was going to be strong female protagonist, but I feel along the way that I began to become bored with her character. It was, like you mention, that there was a loss of connection to the character. I think she felt real, but I’m not so sure about believable. We didn’t know enough about her for her to be believable.
CHRISSI: You’ve read The Glass Room by the same author, how does this book compare?
BETH: I absolutely loved The Glass Room, and was not surprised that it was long-listed for the Man Booker prize. However, for some reason, this novel didn’t live up to my somewhat high expectations. In fact, I felt it could almost have been written by a different author. I am willing to try another Simon Mawer book though, mostly down to how great I thought The Glass Room was.
BETH: Did you feel that her character changed through the novel? What do you think of her actions?
CHRISSI: I felt that Marian became a bit of a flaky character. I didn’t understand why she made some of the judgments she did. I also didn’t like the way she endangered herself by disobeying instructions. She became less real. I think she was a much stronger character at the start of the novel.
CHRISSI: Did you feel drawn in by the plot or did you have to force yourself to read it?
BETH: At the beginning, I was definitely drawn in and intrigued by what was going on. I enjoyed the Foreword of this book also, where the author writes a short paragraph about how many women spies infiltrated France to assist the war effort. Further on though I thought the book lost some of its initial “bounce,” and became a bit monotonous.
BETH: How do you think this book compares to other novels set during the time of World War II?
CHRISSI: I think other novels set during the time of World War II are superior to this one. However, I feel like The Girl Who Fell From The Sky is much more than a war story. I think it raises questions about love and duty.
CHRISSI: The book was set in different locations. Do you feel like this affected the book or helped move the plot along?
BETH: I liked the different locations in the book although I thought the author could have told us a little more about the setting i.e. slightly better descriptions rather than focusing solely on the characters. I feel like this would have made it seem more realistic as during reading it, it didn’t seem like it was a different location, it could have been the same place or anywhere, if that makes any sense!
BETH: Has reading this novel changed your opinion of any of the events of World War II?
CHRISSI: Not really. I think it covered a lot of ground that has been covered in other World War II books.
CHRISSI: Were you satisfied with the ending?
BETH: I think the ending was one of the better parts of the novel. It seemed like it was going to head in one direction, but then there is a small surprise. I feel this made it more exciting and made you wonder about a future for our characters.
BETH: Would you read another book by this author?
CHRISSI: I want to try The Glass Room as I’ve heard a lot of good things!
Would WE recommend it?:
BETH: Not sure.
CHRISSI: It’s not for me! I thought that Simon Mawer had an interesting writing style, but the plot didn’t grab me enough to keep me interested. It’s a shame, as I think it really started off well.
BETH’s Star Rating (out of 5):
CHRISSI’s Star Rating (out of 5):