Day 1220: Tightrope

Cover for TightropeYet again, I had no idea that Tightrope, which I read for my Walter Scott project, was a sequel until I went into Goodreads to indicate I had started reading it and saw that it was “Marian Sutro #2.” In this case, the novel seemed to recap the events of the first novel rather heavily, so I don’t think I missed anything by skipping the first book except maybe some feeling for Marian.

I found Mawer’s The Glass Room to be icy in its distance from the characters, so I wasn’t excited about reading Tightrope. It turned out to be better than I expected but not much.

Tightrope begins toward the end of World War II, when Marian Sutro returns to England. She was one of the women sent over to infiltrate Europe during the war, where she worked with the French resistance. But she was betrayed and spent the last two years in Ravensbrück. Shortly before the liberation, she and some other women managed to escape.

Because of Marian’s background, she is of interest to the British secret service. She is of interest to the Russians, too, primarily because her brother Ned is a nuclear physicist. Her own beliefs that knowledge of nuclear weapons must be shared to maintain peace also draws her into the midst of the Cold War.

This novel is narrated by Sam, the son of one of Marian’s friends, and his story contains lots of details he couldn’t have known, even though he had access to her file and she tells him parts of her story. This narrative also allows Mawer to insert a certain amount of salacious detail, as Sam has a mad adolescent crush on Marian. I think I mentioned Mawer’s fascination with labia in my last review.

Marian is essentially an unknowable character, which kept me, as a reader, from becoming very engaged with her story. It didn’t help that she seemed to be the product of some adolescent idea of a perfect woman—a beautiful woman who sleeps with just about every man she meets and cares for none of them. Yet we are to believe she cares for one, even though there is little evidence for it. I found the book blurb, which says “Marian must risk everything to protect those she loves . . .” laughable.

Quotes on the cover call Mawer “a true master of literary espionage” and call the novel “gripping.” If you want gripping, try John Le Carré or Robert Harris instead.

Related Posts

The Glass Room

Sweet Tooth

Code to Zero

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7 thoughts on “Day 1220: Tightrope

  1. Carmen May 22, 2018 / 4:53 pm

    Was Marian Sutro a real-life character? It sounds like it.

  2. Alex May 23, 2018 / 1:48 pm

    Oh dear, you are the third person today, myself included, who have recently read a dude of a novel, where accuracy, details and characters were at the mercy of bad writing. Commiserations.

    • whatmeread May 23, 2018 / 11:42 pm

      Not badly written, perhaps, but not enjoyable.

      • Alex May 24, 2018 / 6:50 am

        Ah! Always good to know, thanks.

  3. Helen May 25, 2018 / 2:30 pm

    I haven’t read this yet and was wondering whether I would need to read the previous book first. It sounds as though it works as a standalone, so that’s good to know.

    • whatmeread May 25, 2018 / 6:10 pm

      I don’t think it relies much on the other book. Perhaps you might like Marian Sutro better if you read it, but Mawer is so detached from everything but the character’s sex life that probably not. I don’t think he should use women as his main characters, because really I felt like she was mostly a sex object.

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