Discovering Simon Mawer

It seems long ago that I read so much while spending quality cuddling-while-she-slept time with Lady Baby. Now we mostly read “Bear Snores On” or Sandra Boynton books about hippos’ belly buttons. But I get to read when I fly to see her!

In September I read a review in The New Yorker about Simon Mawer’s new book, “Trapeze.” The review got my attention by calling the book “enthralling,” and Mawer (brand new to me) made flying hours, well, fly.

I began with “Trapeze” – a story set during WWII of a young Englishwoman with a French past. Recruited, rigorously trained, then parachuted into occupied France, the heroine is tested and challenged by her work with the French Underground. I was anxious for her safety and completely engaged.

In New York I climbed up a ladder in the Strand Bookstore and bought used copies of two more Mawer novels. “The Glass Room,” his longest and most encompassing novel, is an utterly satisfying story of a house – and its inhabitants. Perhaps my favorite, “The Fall,” combines mountain climbing with a tale of complicated relationships – love, betrayal, many surprises.

Mawer’s language seems perfect to me, both careful and exhilarating. Descriptions of mountain ascents in Wales and Europe, hospital life during the Blitz, and codes and secret signals of spies transported me in geography and time with just enough history, technical knowledge, and knotty romance. All the books have good women characters.

Every time I glance at Mawer’s author photo on the books and read that he’s a Brit but has lived in Italy for 30 years, I think what a smart guy! I picture a writing table under a grape arbor. Not sure about that, but I did enjoy reading this Guardian article about him: http://www.guardian.co.uk/culture/2009/oct/03/simon-mawer-life-in-books.

I’ve tucked away two books for upcoming plane journeys – Mawer’s “Mendel’s Dwarf” – and a book I’ve heard much about (technically a Young Adult book), “Code Name Verity.”

It’s a new year – and full of new books!

Travel teacup