Thursday, January 10, 2013

ESCAPE TO THE PAST WITH: Trapeze by Simon Mawer

I missed the last couple meetings of my bookclub–too many end of the year commitments and too much work to do. But this month’s book choice is a historical fiction selection, making me all the more determined to be there. And so, I read Trapeze by Simon Mawer.

Trapeze is set in England and occupied France during World War II. Its heroine is Marian Sutro (alias Alice, alias Anne-Marie Larouche.) Marian is a young and beautiful woman working for the WAAF in England when she is approached by a top secret military organization that wants to recruit her as a spy. Marian’s main qualification is that she is fluent in French. (Although her father is British, her mother is French, and she grew up effortlessly bilingual.)

Marian is an adventuress at heart. She accepts even though she is given a 50-50 chance of survival. After a rather grueling training period, during which she meets some interesting and mysterious people, she finds out what she is being trained to do–she will be parachuted into France to join the resistance workers there, to serve as a courier.

The thought of going to France thrills Marian, and not simply for patriotic reasons. There is a man in Paris, a man who may have been an old school girl's crush or who may have been something very much more. The fact that he is also a brilliant physicist, and the British government would like for her to contact him on the sly, makes the journey all that more appealing–and all the more dangerous.

Trapeze is an exciting, emotional account of a young girl trying to test her own limits, to discover what she is capable of in a world turned upside down by war. Marian is an admirable, if somewhat emotionally muddled, protagonist. As a fictionalized peek into the actions of the women of the Special Operations Executive, the book is an informative story. Still, I couldn’t help drawing comparisons to Code Name Verity as I was reading, even though the plots are quite different. Trapeze is more straight-forward, and in some ways a gentler read, despite its war-time horrors. Trapeze is tension filled, but just not edge-of-my-seat, can’t-put-it-down the way Verity was. I can recommend Trapeze to historical fiction fans and to WWII book fans, but I think I might have enjoyed it more if I didn’t still have Code Name Verity so fresh in my mind. And that’s unfair to this book which is so strong in its own right.

This is book 2 in the Historical Fiction Challenge, hosted by Historical Tapestry.