[Published by Abacus, 2013. First published 2012]
I don’t think I will ever lose interest in World War II fiction (especially if it is written by Simon Mawer!). ‘The Girl Who Fell from the Sky’ is one of the most exciting war stories I have read in some time – following Marian Sutro as she changes identity and prepares herself for her mission in occupied France.
I found myself very quickly immersed in the life of this young woman, so intent on doing something extraordinary, as she trains to kill, handle interrogation, and communicate in code in preparation for her parachute drop into the dark sky of France to aid the French Resistance.
Before long, we realise that her connection with an old love, Clement Pelletier, a nuclear physicist, has something to do with her appointment and I felt her anguish as she was torn between her memories of this man and her yearning to make something of herself during this tragic period of human history. Her struggle for identity (as ironic as it may sound for someone undercover) is a tangible force within the book and it is full of surprises in terms of how she evolves within the story.
I found myself wanting more from the story at times – some more detail, some more emotion. In hindsight, however, perhaps Mawer’s writing achieved the perfect balance. And that is certainly what this book is about – balance and juxtaposition. The pre-war years mingle as memories with a markedly different Europe in the 1940s; the Marian Sutro before the war and the woman who was capable of transforming herself into an agent to serve her country. This is a book about trust, a book about betrayal; it is about love and courage and how war can change everything. It is also a glimpse into the roles of women in war and the resistance in particular.