Trapeze by Simon Mawer


16 Critic Reviews

One of the qualities of good historical fiction is how it blends fact and fiction. By this yardstick, Mawer's "Trapeze", blending action, love, betrayal and death, is a success.
-Huntington News


A propulsive novel of World War II espionage by the author of New York Times best seller The Glass Room.

Barely out of school and doing her bit for the British war effort, Marian Sutro has one quality that makes her stand out—she is a native French speaker. It is this that attracts the attention of the SOE, the Special Operations Executive, which trains agents to operate in occupied Europe. Drawn into this strange, secret world at the age of nineteen, she finds herself undergoing commando training, attending a “school for spies,” and ultimately, one autumn night, parachuting into France from an RAF bomber to join the WORDSMITH resistance network.
   But there’s more to Marian’s mission than meets the eye of her SOE controllers; her mission has been hijacked by another secret organization that wants her to go to Paris and persuade a friend—a research physicist—to join the Allied war effort. The outcome could affect the whole course of the war.
   A fascinating blend of fact and fiction, Trapeze is both an old-fashioned adventure story and a modern exploration of a young woman’s growth into adulthood. There is violence, and there is love. There is death and betrayal, deception and revelation. But above all there is Marian Sutro, an ordinary young woman who, like her real-life counterparts in the SOE, did the most extraordinary things at a time when the ordinary was not enough.

About Simon Mawer

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Simon Mawer is the author of the national best sellers Trapeze and The Glass Room, which was short-listed for the Man Booker Prize. Mendel's Dwarf was named a New York Times Notable Book and was a finalist for the Los Angeles Times Book Award. Mawer's other novels include The Fall (winner of the Boardman Tasker Prize) and The Gospel of Judas. English by birth, he has made Italy his home for more than thirty years.
Published May 1, 2012 by Other Press. 385 pages
Genres: History, Mystery, Thriller & Suspense, War, Literature & Fiction. Fiction
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Critic reviews for Trapeze
All: 16 | Positive: 12 | Negative: 4

NY Times

Below average
Reviewed by Jan Stuart on Aug 10 2012

Spiky banter and character shadings enhance what is, in the end, a collection of road-­tested war-thriller gestures.

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Publishers Weekly

Below average
Mar 26 2012

While the history behind this story is captivating, Mawer’s take unfolds with inertia, is leaden with research that often feels unnecessary to the story, and is plagued with undeveloped characters, particularly his young heroine.

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Book Reporter

Reviewed by Ray Palen on May 04 2012

Mawer deftly blends psychological intrigue along with espionage to keep the story pulsing with life and constant tension.

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NY Journal of Books

Below average
Reviewed by Ariel Balter on May 01 2012

Although Marian is by far the most developed and complicated character in the novel, she still comes across, at times, as a typical figure from a spy thriller whose motives aren’t entirely credible.

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The Washington Post

Reviewed by Wendy Smith on Jun 11 2012

Although narrower in scope than Mawer’s earlier work, it is no less rich and provocative. And in Marian he has created a marvelous heroine, called by circumstance to a life she was born for.

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The Daily Beast

Reviewed by Nicholas Mancusi on Apr 30 2012

...although the narrative cleaves tightly enough to the realm of possibility, it is also so full of adventure as to be an almost J.K. Rowling–escapist fantasy, with spies replacing wizards.

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Huntington News

Reviewed by David Kinchen on Apr 30 2012

One of the qualities of good historical fiction is how it blends fact and fiction. By this yardstick, Mawer's "Trapeze", blending action, love, betrayal and death, is a success.

Read Full Review of Trapeze

The Seattle Times

Reviewed by Valerie Ryan on Jun 03 2012

In a perfect combination of intrigue, romance, betrayal and incredible bravery, Mawer has, once again, as he did in "The Glass Room," told a story that is factual and fictional with the edges blurred just so.

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Baltimore Brew

Reviewed by Doug Birch on Jun 01 2012

“Trapeze” benefits from its historical grounding, giving it the feel of an authenticity that espionage novels sometimes struggle to establish.

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Lit Stack

Reviewed by Lisa Riley Emig on May 23 2012

The novel is well written and suspenseful, often times keeping the reader on the edge of their seat as Marian must decide who she can trust and who she must avoid while making life or death decisions on the fly.

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Tzer Island

Below average
May 07 2012

The novel's only drawback is its failure to surprise. The plot contains no unexpected twists and the identity of the traitor is rather obvious.

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Seeing the World Through Books

Reviewed by Mary Whipple on May 14 2012

...this one is an entertainment, with a “Maisie Dobbs” quality – historically focused and fun to read but less serious stylistically and thematically than literary fiction.

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The Year in Books

Reviewed by Nancy O. on May 25 2012

But the big payoff is her time spent in Paris... the reader is there right along with her -- and the combined suspense and unease suddenly become palpable.

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The Little Reader Library

Reviewed by Lindsay on Apr 14 2012

an exciting book right down to the very last page and I didn't want it to end - it is a thrilling, fast-paced denouement, which I read with a quickened heartbeat!

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BookRoom Reviews

Reviewed by Christina Zawadiwsky on May 01 2012

Through trying to avoid detection and imprisonment, extreme fatigue and not knowing who to trust, Mawer has made the character of Marian very real to us, and at the same time has brought to life a piece of history.

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Country Chick-City Chic

Reviewed by Cynthia on Apr 30 2012

...Mawer’s attention to details is exquisite.  You’ll feel like you’re walking the dangerous war time Paris streets right next to Marian.

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