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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.
“A fascinating WWII novel based in fact…Coming-of-age story meets old-fashioned tale of adventure.” —Publishers Weekly
“Much-lauded British author Mawer vividly describes the deprivations in a war occupied country and its once-vibrant capital and provides testimony to the courage of countless members of the French Resistance. But this is primarily a masterfully crafted homage to the 53 extraordinary women of the French section of the SOE on whose actual exploits the novel is based. With its lyrical yet spare prose and heart-pounding climax, this is a compelling historical thriller of the highest order.” —Booklist (starred review)
“The book is full of the fascinating minutiae of espionage—aircraft drops, code-cracking, double agents, scrambled radio messages. There’s a romance, too, though Mawer isn’t one to dwell on his characters’ inner lives, and Marian, who is ‘trained to keep secrets,’ remains frustratingly unknowable. Still, Mawer exhibits a great feeling for suspense, and produces memorable episodes in dark alleyways, deserted cafes, and shadowy corners of Père Lachaise” —The New Yorker
“Incorporating many of the finest elements of spy thrillers and even romance novels, Trapeze is a fascinating tale of and homage to the resistance fighters and members of the SOE.” —New York Journal of Books
“Trapeze sets a thriller-like pace, and Mawer writes compellingly about the deprivations of wartime France as well as the everyday dangers of occupied Paris…Though very much a story about the intricacies of the spy network, Trapeze is also about a young woman who is called upon to do something extraordinary and is thus forever changed.” —Bookpage
“Where his last Booker-shortlisted novel, The Glass Room, gave an expansive overview of a whole country over the course of 50 years, Mawer’s latest is a more intense and tightly-focused story. Radiating an atmosphere of tense suspicion and claustrophobia, it is utterly gripping from start to finish.” —Daily Mail (UK)
“Simon Mawer is an elegant writer and a meticulous researcher…[Trapeze] combines a stirring adventure with a potent reflection on the allure of desire, duty and danger.” —London Evening Standard (UK)
“Trapeze...is a stark, focused adventure...[a] skillfully and intelligently executed thriller.” —Washington Post