And The Winner Is…..

So, the votes are all in, the counting has taken place and been verified by independent assessors and the result can now be declared: this year’s Summer School will be reading the three novels gathered together under the heading Paying the Price. To save you hastily scanning through previous posts to find out what they are, here is the list and contrary to the usual disclaimer, they are in a particular order.

A Whispered Name ~ William Brodrick

The Reckoning ~ Rennie Airth

The Girl Who Fell From The Sky ~ Simon Mawer

Collectively, these novels deal with issues to do with the First and Second World Wars and they need to be read in the order I’ve listed them because the central book looks both ways, back to to the First World War issues dealt with in the Brodrick novel and forward to those concerning the Second and written about by Mawer in the last of the trio.

A Whispered Name is one of Brodrick’s Father Anselm novels and deals with the question of those young men who were shot for desertion.  I am going to lead this discussion myself because one of the subjects that Brodrick is concerned with is the flexibility of narrative depending on who is telling the story. However, I know that I will find it very difficult to reread this book because the horror of what was done to those young men by their own side is truly abhorrent.  Nevertheless, it is an excellent piece of writing and certainly gives the lie to those people who decry genre fiction as ‘not really good literature’.

The second choice, The Reckoning, is the fourth in Rennie Airth’s series featuring DI John Madden.  This book is set in the late 1940s but deals with family secrets that stem from both the First and Second World Wars.  In the case of the First it is, like the Brodrick, to do with the question of desertion; in respect of the Second it is concerned with those brave individuals, members of the SOE, who put themselves in terrible danger by parachuting into occupied France to help with the Resistance.  This is a more typical crime novel than the Brodrick, but Airth is a seriously good writer and not, I think, well enough known.  I’m looking forward to introducing his work to a group that I think will appreciate him.

Simon Mawer’s The Girl Who Fell From The Sky, (published in the US as Trapeze) tells the story of Marian Sutro, half French, half English, who is recruited by the SOE and then sent into South West France, officially to act as a Resistance courier.  Her real mission, however, is to make her way to Paris and establish contact with an old family friend who is involved in developing a nuclear weapon.  The novel is based, to some extent, on the wartime experiences of Mawer’s mother and other women whom she knew during that time.  This will be quite a hard hitting book to finish the week on but I’m hoping that it will encourage people to go off and read Tightrope, which carries the story forward and possibly Mawer’s other books about European conflict, The Glass Room and Prague Spring.  Again, he is a writer that I don’t think is well enough known.

I’m really pleased with this selection and as far as is possible, given the subject matter, looking forward to rereading them all.  If I have time I shall also try and reread Leo Marks’ book From Silk to Cyanide.  Marks, a member of one of the families which owned Marks and Co, better known as 84 Charing Cross Road, worked as a code maker for the SOE from 1941 to 1945 and the story he has to tell will prove useful background for the second and third books as well as being a worthwhile read in itself.

The Summer School will take place during the week beginning August 19th and as far as is possible I shall try and post about our deliberations as soon after they happen as I can.  If any of you want to read along with us and join in the discussion on line then you would be most welcome.


22 thoughts on “And The Winner Is…..

  1. Rohan Maitzen June 25, 2019 / 6:31 pm

    These look like very interesting selections – and I haven’t read any of them, so I’m glad to have them put on my radar. I hope (and expect) it’s another successful summer school venture!


    • Café Society June 26, 2019 / 10:44 am

      I think you would like both the Brodrick and the Mawer, Rohan. You might also want to try Mawer’s The Glass Room which is about the tensions in Czechoslovakia just before the Second World War. For me that is his outstanding novel.


  2. Liz June 25, 2019 / 7:27 pm

    Great choices – you are all going to have such fun! I am definitely tempted to see if I can read along with you – we’ll see how that goes. I have just bought all my Edinburgh Book Festival tickets, so there will be plenty of summer reading for those events too – never a dull moment! 😀


      • Liz June 26, 2019 / 9:23 pm

        Such a nice problem to have! 😀


  3. Helen June 25, 2019 / 7:38 pm

    I haven’t read any of these, but all three sound interesting and perfect for discussion. As part of my project to read all of the shortlisted titles for the Walter Scott Prize I will need to read Tightrope by Simon Mawer, so I have The Girl Who Fell From The Sky on the tbr too. I hope everything goes well with the Summer School – I’m sure it will!


    • Café Society June 26, 2019 / 10:47 am

      You will need to read the earlier Mawer to properly appreciate Tightrope, Helen. If you have the time, Leo Marks From Silk to Cyanide will give you excellent background and it is very readable.


  4. FictionFan June 26, 2019 / 12:14 am

    I don’t think this was the group I chose, but it sounds good nonetheless. I love Rennie Airth too and agree he’s not well enough know. I feel his books may be too slow and thoughtful to fit very comfortably in today’s crime fiction market. The other two I haven’t read. Mawer has been on my radar for years but never made it onto my TBR yet. The other one I’ve never heard of, but it sounds interesting, though possibly quite harrowing?


    • Café Society June 26, 2019 / 10:49 am

      FF if you haven’t read Brodrick you really should. Start with the first in this series, The Sixth Lamentation and then go on. He also has a different series, written as John Fairfax. I think you’d enjoy those as well. As for Mawer, he is one of my go to authors. I read everything he writes.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. smithereens June 26, 2019 / 3:50 pm

    Wow, I haven’t heard of those 3 but they look fascinating!


    • Café Society July 3, 2019 / 1:07 pm

      They are and each is part of a series, so if you like one of them you’ve got others to enjoy as well.


  6. BookerTalk June 26, 2019 / 9:34 pm

    This wasn’t the group I chose largely because I didn’t much care for the Simon Mawer. It had a lot of promise but I felt it rather limped at the end ….


    • Café Society July 3, 2019 / 1:08 pm

      I know what you mean, Karen. I think he must have already had Tightrope in mind, but of course, we weren’t to know that. Have you read The Glass Room? I think you would find that more satisfying.


      • BookerTalk July 4, 2019 / 7:40 pm

        No I havent read it. I think I was put of Mawer ….


  7. mlegan June 28, 2019 / 11:33 am

    I have Simon Mawer on my list now. Off to to check the library. I’ve read (and enjoyed) the first two books.


    • Café Society July 3, 2019 / 1:09 pm

      Mawer is one of my favourite writers, Mary Lou and I think this is a good way into him. You might also want to try Tightrope, The Glass Room and Prague Spring.


  8. Jeanne June 28, 2019 / 11:47 am

    I half-seriously think it’s a good thing right now for more people to think about paying the price for the actions they choose.


  9. Jennifer July 2, 2019 / 12:34 am

    I’ve really enjoyed Rennie Airth’s novels. Each is a great read.


    • Café Society July 3, 2019 / 1:11 pm

      Aren’t they, Jennifer? Did you know that there is a new one due out sometime next year?

      Liked by 1 person

      • Jennifer July 4, 2019 / 1:11 am

        I didn’t know that, but now I do, I’ll be looking out for it. Thank you 🙂


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