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Tightrope: A Novel
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From the author of the best-selling and Booker Prize--shortlisted The Glass Room and TrapezeAn historical thriller that brings back Marian Sutro, ex-Special Operations agent, and traces her romantic and political exploits in post-World War II London, where the Cold War is about to reshape old loyalties As Allied forces close in on Berlin in spring 1945, a solitary figure emerges from the wreckage that is Germany. It is Marian Sutro, whose existence was last known to her British controllers in autumn 1943 in Paris. One of a handful of surviving agents of the Special Operations Executive, she has withstood arrest, interrogation, incarceration, and the horrors of Ravensbrück concentration camp, but at what cost? Returned to an England she barely knows and a postwar world she doesn't understand, Marian searches for something on which to ground the rest of her life. Family and friends surround her, but she is haunted by her experiences and by the guilt of knowing that her contribution to the war effort helped lead to the monstrosities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. When the mysterious Major Fawley, the man who hijacked her wartime mission to Paris, emerges from the shadows to draw her into the ambiguities and uncertainties of the Cold War, she sees a way to make amends for the past and at the same time to find the identity that has never been hers.A novel of divided loyalties and mixed motives, Tightrope is the complex and enigmatic story of a woman whose search for personal identity and fulfillment leads her to shocking choices.
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Street Date:
11/03/2015
Language:
English
ISBN:
9781590517246
ASIN:
B00TCI408O
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APA Citation (style guide)

Simon Mawer. (2015). Tightrope: A Novel. Other Press.

Chicago / Turabian - Author Date Citation (style guide)

Simon Mawer. 2015. Tightrope: A Novel. Other Press.

Chicago / Turabian - Humanities Citation (style guide)

Simon Mawer, Tightrope: A Novel. Other Press, 2015.

MLA Citation (style guide)

Simon Mawer. Tightrope: A Novel. Other Press, 2015. Web.

Note! Citation formats are based on standards as of July 2010. Citations contain only title, author, edition, publisher, and year published. Citations should be used as a guideline and should be double checked for accuracy.
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      • bioText: Simon Mawer was born in 1948 in England. His first novel, Chimera, won the McKitterick Prize for first novels in 1989. Mendel's Dwarf (1997), his first book to be published in the U.S., was long-listed for the Man Booker Prize and was a New York Times Book to Remember for 1998. The Gospel of Judas, The Fall (winner of the 2003 Boardman Tasker Prize for Mountain Literature), and Swimming to Ithacafollowed, as well as The Glass Room, his tenth book and eighth novel, which was short-listed for the Booker Prize. Trapeze (Other Press) was published in 2012.
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shortDescription
From the author of the best-selling and Booker Prize--shortlisted The Glass Room and Trapeze

An historical thriller that brings back Marian Sutro, ex-Special Operations agent, and traces her romantic and political exploits in post-World War II London, where the Cold War is about to reshape old loyalties


As Allied forces close in on Berlin in spring 1945, a solitary figure emerges from the wreckage that is Germany. It is Marian Sutro, whose existence was last known to her British controllers in autumn 1943 in Paris. One of a handful of surviving agents of the Special Operations Executive, she has withstood arrest, interrogation, incarceration, and the horrors of Ravensbrück concentration camp, but at what cost? Returned to an England she barely knows and a postwar world she doesn't understand, Marian searches for something on which to ground the rest of her life. Family and friends surround her, but she is haunted by her experiences...
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title
Tightrope
fullDescription
From the author of the best-selling and Booker Prize--shortlisted The Glass Room and Trapeze

An historical thriller that brings back Marian Sutro, ex-Special Operations agent, and traces her romantic and political exploits in post-World War II London, where the Cold War is about to reshape old loyalties


As Allied forces close in on Berlin in spring 1945, a solitary figure emerges from the wreckage that is Germany. It is Marian Sutro, whose existence was last known to her British controllers in autumn 1943 in Paris. One of a handful of surviving agents of the Special Operations Executive, she has withstood arrest, interrogation, incarceration, and the horrors of Ravensbrück concentration camp, but at what cost? Returned to an England she barely knows and a postwar world she doesn't understand, Marian searches for something on which to ground the rest of her life. Family and friends surround her, but she is haunted by her experiences and by the guilt of knowing that her contribution to the war effort helped lead to the monstrosities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. When the mysterious Major Fawley, the man who hijacked her wartime mission to Paris, emerges from the shadows to draw her into the ambiguities and uncertainties of the Cold War, she sees a way to make amends for the past and at the same time to find the identity that has never been hers.

A novel of divided loyalties and mixed motives, Tightrope is the complex and enigmatic story of a woman whose search for personal identity and fulfillment leads her to shocking choices.

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reviews
      • premium: False
      • source: Kirkus Reviews
      • content: "A fun, intelligent read."
      • premium: False
      • source: The Sunday Times (UK)
      • content: "Mawer is a skillful writer and this is a sophisticated, deviously constructed story of a woman who finds her true self in the distorting mirrors of the intelligence game."
      • premium: False
      • source: The Guardian (UK)
      • content: "Mawer's period detail is perfect, and his prose impeccable. Mawer's greatest creation is undoubtedly Marian herself... Beautifully inferred and brilliantly imagined... It is difficult to create a character with genuine charisma, but Mawer seems to have managed it with Marian. She is indeed perhaps the closest thing to a female James Bond in English literature."
      • premium: False
      • source: The Daily Telegraph (UK)
      • content: "Mawer captures Marian's disorientation with affecting conviction. His feeling for time and place remains impressively sharp, from rationing-era London to the 'strange, febrile vitality' of post-war Paris. Marian remains a compelling heroine, whose many contradictions are all believable."
      • premium: False
      • source: The Times (UK)
      • content: "Mawer sensitively evokes the crushing normality of post war Britain and the struggle of a woman who has lived in high definition to forge a new life in a grey world."
      • premium: False
      • source: The Sunday Mirror
      • content: "...Sutro is a singular creation--a fascinating and compelling character and the account of how she becomes caught up in Cold War espionage is enthralling."
      • premium: False
      • source: The Scotsman (UK)
      • content: "Marian is at the heart of the novel. ...She is a thoroughly and impressively imagined character."
      • premium: False
      • source: The Tatler (UK)
      • content: "A compelling Cold War story... told by a series of flashbacks... The start's a slow burn, but Mawer soon grips you with his labyrinthine plot."
      • premium: False
      • source: The Financial Times (UK)
      • content: "In Marian, Mawer has created an attractively awkward figure -- damaged, resilient, self-contained and needing danger in order to become truly herself. ...It is Mawer's focus on character as much as on action, and on recognizing the morally complex worlds in which those characters operate, that inescapably calls John le Carré to mind. Comparisons can be invidious though: Mawer is no acolyte and here shows again his own distinctive talent."
      • premium: False
      • source: The Irish Times
      • content: "Tightrope is a nuanced spy novel akin to the best work of John le Carré, in that it bypasses the cloak-and-dagger conventions in pursuit of the noble flaws, foibles and idiosyncrasies that lie at the heart of the most fascinating spies. ...Mawer delivers an absorbing tale about an extraordinary woman who finds her understanding of duty, patriotism and honour ripped to shreds by epoch-defining circumstances."
      • premium: True
      • source: Publisher's Weekly
      • content:

        September 7, 2015
        In the classical mode of a Graham Greene “entertainment,” Mawer’s (Trapeze) latest introduces the reader to Englishwoman Marian Sutro, who spent World War II as an SOE undercover agent in France, where she was betrayed, tortured by the Gestapo, and ultimately sent to the Ravensbruck concentration camp. Repatriated to England at war’s end, Marian has a difficult time getting on with her life. Tortured by memories of her wartime experiences, she nevertheless marries and finds work as a librarian. But then a man from her past, Major Fawley, appears and asks her to spy for his secret organization. At the same time, she meets a Russian journalist, David Trofimovich Absolon, who turns out to be a GRU agent intending to blackmail her. She ends up walking a tightrope between both men. And then there is Sam Wareham, a younger man who has had a crush on Marian for years and will end up her confidante, lover, and maybe even her savior. Like le Carré, Mawer spins out Marian’s story in an immaculately methodical and suspenseful manner. And in Marian he has created a complex, contradictory heroine, emotionally fragile, endlessly resourceful, and unrepentantly amorous. If the novel is a little too long and too busy, it nevertheless tells a dramatic story about one woman testing the boundaries of loyalty as one kind of war gives way to a shadowy new one.

      • premium: True
      • source: Kirkus
      • content:

        September 1, 2015
        Mawer (Trapeze, 2012, etc.) dives into the hurricane of evil that was World War II and the Holocaust, examining the horror through Marian Sutro, an agent for Britain's Special Operations Executive whose life later becomes dezimformatsiya personified. As part of an underground resistance operation, Marian parachuted into Nazi-occupied Europe. Soon her mission changed: get a physicist vital to atomic weapons research out of France. Then she was betrayed, captured, and sent to Ravensbruck concentration camp. The story is told through memories half a century later and is related by Sam Wareham, a family friend a decade Marian's junior who's always been enamored of the mysterious and sensual but broken woman. As the SOE is demobilized after the war, Marian is in limbo, physically debilitated, rotten with survivor's guilt, being debriefed by desk-jockey bureaucrats, her parents hovering. Within a mood-weather, vehicles, clandestine meetings-that resonates, Mawer's pacing is meticulous, detailed rather than slow, never frustrating or boring but rather creating an ominous atmosphere. Marian is drawn to "neither death nor life, but an existence between the two states," but soon, unknowingly, she's lured into "the spider's web of intrigue and betrayal" that is Cold War espionage. Marian remains war-fractured and mired in existential crisis, an "awful abyss of indifference," flitting from, or willingly seduced by, lovers with agendas. Mawer's minor characters linger in the memory, and as with many British writers, he laces the narrative with arcane references and language-benison, anfractuous-making for a fun, intelligent read. Very much in the vein of John le Carre-a damaged individual trapped in a complex and morally ambiguous international intrigue set on the stage of the early Cold War.

        COPYRIGHT(2015) Kirkus Reviews, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

      • premium: True
      • source: Library Journal
      • content:

        September 15, 2015

        This story rests in a frame: the narrator, a British Spec Ops agent, is called out of retirement to close the file on World War II heroine Marian Sutro, another operative, whom he's known and adored since childhood. Marian parachuted into France in 1943 on special assignment but was soon betrayed and suffered the horrors of the Ravensbruck concentration camp. Cleverly, she escaped but once repatriated found adjustment nearly impossible and suffers anxiety, even fugue states. A job with a peace council helps--but the A-bomb changes everything. Marian is lured back into service by the enigmatic Major Fawley because her council draws some funding from the Soviets, and a Cold War thriller ensues. Marian is supposed to "turn" Soviet agent Absolon, but her physicist brother (along with many others) fears atomic weaponry in America's hands alone. She shares nuclear information (and a bed) with Absolon, and when he vanishes after the Soviets come after him, she's their next target. VERDICT Heroine/"traitor" Marian, introduced in Trapeze, is compelling and complicated. Even if the concept "cold war thriller" has been a bit overworked, the fast-paced, compelling narrative structure could almost be called "first-person-omniscient." Excellent for historical thriller readers and those interested in the dawn of the nuclear era. [See Prepub Alert, 6/21/15.]--Robert E. Brown, Oswego, NY

        Copyright 2015 Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

      • premium: True
      • source: Booklist
      • content:

        Starred review from November 15, 2015
        In this outstanding sequel to Mawer's superb Trapeze (2013), we pick up the story of Marian Sutro, WWII British spy, after the war has ended, and she has been liberated from a German concentration camp. Gradually but inexorably, Marian is drawn into the game again, as the mysterious Major Frawley recruits her to turn a Russian spy whom she first encountered in Germany after the war. The Russian, meanwhile, is charged with blackmailing Marian into working for him. It is a classic Cold War situation, yet Mawer uses it for much more than espionage-driven suspense. Is Marian a British agent, a Russian double-agent, or is she pretending to be both while actually being neither, a woman, in other words, with no real identity, trolling for an elusive sense of self lost after too many years of tradecraft? And is her love affair with the Russian the real thinga way to break with the undercover worldor is it yet another illusion? That we see much of Marian's life through the eyes of a boy and then young man who idolizes and eventually falls in love with her gives Marian's story yet another level of tantalizing ambiguity. Like John le Carre's A Perfect Spy (1986), Mawer's novel offers a meditation on the problem of identity in a world where everything is cover for something else. A spy novel, yes, but one with the psychological richness and complexity of literary fiction.(Reprinted with permission of Booklist, copyright 2015, American Library Association.)

subtitle
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