Source- Review copy
Publication date- 8th May 2012
Synopsis- Barely out of school and doing her bit for the war effort, Marian Sutro has one quality that marks her out from all the others – she is a native French speaker. It is this that attracts the attention of the curious Mr Potter who calls her to an interview in an anonymous office in London. Potter is a recruiting officer for the Special Operations Executive, which trains agents to operate in occupied Europe. So it is that Marian finds herself undergoing commando training, attending a school for spies, and ultimately, parachuting from an RAF bomber into the South-West of France to join the WORDSMITH resistance network.
However, there is more to Marian’s mission than meets even the all-seeing eyes of the SOE. Before long a friend from the past returns and it soon seems that Marian could hold the key to the future of the whole war effort. A fascinating blend of fact and fiction, The Girl Who Fell From the Sky is an old-fashioned adventure about a woman who did the most extraordinary things when the ordinary was not enough.
Review- Set in wartime France, The Girl Who Fell from The Sky by Simon Mawer is an intriguing story about a fictional young woman who was sent into the field by the French section of the Special Operations Excutive in the 1940’s.
Marian Sutro, a young woman in England is summoned to an interview with the Special Operations Executive who wants to make use of her native French speaking skills. She trains to become an undercover agent (a.k.a British terrorist) to infiltrate Paris and work with the resistance. From what to do if she is interrogated to how to shoot a gun, Marian is equipped with a new identity (Ann-Marie) and is parachuted into South-West France along with associate Benoit.
Marian catches the eye of Benoit prior to the mission and they have a brief romantic encounter that creates some confusion in their friendship. Benoit seems to desire Marian exclusively but she is too preoccupied by her teenage crush Clement, an older male friend who she was separated from many years prior when he remained in Paris at the beginning of the war.
Not coincidentally, Clement is a successful physicist in his field and is wanted back in England and it is Marian’s secondary mission to convince him to do it. With naïve hopes of reuniting with Clement, she accepts the mission only to find out Clement’s life went on when their friendship ceased while she was still at school.
Marian is a naïve young woman with a sharp tongue when she accepts the mission with and desires to make her family see her as successful and important. The growth in her character is evident as she completely immerses in the role of Ann-Marie and links in with the resistance network in Paris while trying to keep up her French persona. Life-threatening situations on a daily basis test Marian’s strength and composure and ability to focus on the task at hand. I felt disappointed for her when she does reunite with Clement as it does not go how she unconsciously desired, but on the other hand I had a soft spot for cheeky, candid Benoit too. With the war looming, Marian juggles her conflicting desires for both of these men.
When I requested to review this book, I was instantly intrigued by the premise- a young woman going undercover during the war. The first chapter was captivating; with Marian parachuting out of a plane and then the story goes back to how it all began and what happens after the drop into France. Although I really liked the characters in the story, the relationships and Marian’s inner conflicts in the context of the war, I felt there could have been more happening in the plot to demonstrate Marian’s specialized skills in the field. The story was a little slow in the middle and I was a little disappointed by the ending, it didn’t end quite how I’d hoped. But I suppose it was a clear feminist point of reference that no man was going to save the day for Marian.
If you enjoy war stories with a strong heroine then I’d recommend The Girl Who Fell from the Sky which provides a unique premise in this heavily written about era.
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