Bingeing on John Le Carre

April 5, 2012 § Leave a comment

Life recently- it went from hot summer weather to snow in a week, typical spring. I’ve also been reading a lot of John Le Carre.

I finally read Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, and I loved it. I inhaled it, and was finished in under a week. Then I promptly ran down to the library to try and find The Honourable Schoolboy and Smiley’s People in order to complete the trilogy, but Sheffield Library was all out. This is my only gripe with libraries, sometimes you are desperate to read something and somebody else got there first. I am now first in queue for The Honourable Schoolboy, so I should be catching up with Smiley in a couple of weeks.

I’ve been meaning to read more John Le Carre for years after studying The Spy Who Came In From the Cold at university. I absolutely loved it, and was reminded of this when the TTSP film came out last year. I enjoyed the film, and when someone bought my Mum the book I promptly stole it to read for myself. And it was love.

Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy follows the enigmatic George Smiley, forcibly retired from the Secret Service (known as the Circus) before being asked back to secretly investigate a high-ranking mole. Smiley is quietly brilliant and incredibly subtle. It is necessary to concentrate on every last word of the novel to keep up with what is going on, but it is an absolute joy to read. I don’t want to give away too much about the plot, but if you’re interested in 20th Century European history then this would be an interesting read for you. I love travelling in Europe, and I really enjoyed reading about the (seemingly) exotic lives of the spies. Except it wasn’t exotic or glamorous really, it was just a grubby game with one side point scoring against the other. Every character seems to have a shattered, empty private life because they’ve been forced to give up everything for the Service. It’s hard not to be drawn in by the action though. Although the identity of the mole provides much of the novels tension, the main thread is Smiley’s own personal battle with his Russian counterpart Karla. This is why I need the next book in the trilogy- I need to see Smiley triumph.

After my library disappointment I picked two of Le Carre’s more recent works to fill in the gap until I can get my hands on The Honourable Schoolboy. They are his two most recent novels, Our Kind of Traitor and A Most Wanted Man. This was a mistake; I thought I wanted to read John Le Carre when I really to read Cold War Le Carre. Le Carre’s more recent novels are well written thrillers, as you’d expect. However they lack the classic, understated elegance of his earlier work. These are not the novels he will be remembered for but they fill an entertaining afternoon.

This story, luckily, has a happy ending. When I went back to the library to dump my two disappointing Le Carres I had a poke around the Thriller section just in case and came out triumphant with The Looking Glass War, published in 1965. Vintage Le Carre, and I’m so looking forward to reading it.

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