Hot Best Seller

The Secret Pilgrim

Availability: Ready to download

Nothing is as it was. Old enemies embrace. The dark staging grounds of the Cold War--whose shadows barely obscure the endless games of espionage--are flooded with light. The rules are rewritten, the stakes changed and the future unfathomable. Ned has worked for the British Intelligence all of his life--a loyal, shrewd officer of the Cold War. Now approaching the end of hi Nothing is as it was. Old enemies embrace. The dark staging grounds of the Cold War--whose shadows barely obscure the endless games of espionage--are flooded with light. The rules are rewritten, the stakes changed and the future unfathomable. Ned has worked for the British Intelligence all of his life--a loyal, shrewd officer of the Cold War. Now approaching the end of his career, he revisits his own past. He invites us on a tour of three decades in the Circus, burrowing deep in the world of spies from every corner of the globe. "Le Carre is simply the world's greatest fictional spymaster!" (Newsweek)


Compare

Nothing is as it was. Old enemies embrace. The dark staging grounds of the Cold War--whose shadows barely obscure the endless games of espionage--are flooded with light. The rules are rewritten, the stakes changed and the future unfathomable. Ned has worked for the British Intelligence all of his life--a loyal, shrewd officer of the Cold War. Now approaching the end of hi Nothing is as it was. Old enemies embrace. The dark staging grounds of the Cold War--whose shadows barely obscure the endless games of espionage--are flooded with light. The rules are rewritten, the stakes changed and the future unfathomable. Ned has worked for the British Intelligence all of his life--a loyal, shrewd officer of the Cold War. Now approaching the end of his career, he revisits his own past. He invites us on a tour of three decades in the Circus, burrowing deep in the world of spies from every corner of the globe. "Le Carre is simply the world's greatest fictional spymaster!" (Newsweek)

30 review for The Secret Pilgrim

  1. 4 out of 5

    Jaline

    Our narrator, Ned, is instructing a training class at “spy school” or Sarrat, as it is known. He invites George Smiley to give a talk to the class while realizing that it might not happen since Smiley has become quite a recluse in his retirement. To Ned’s surprise, the invitation is accepted and the opening scene begins with George Smiley’s address. As the talk goes on, Ned’s memories are triggered again and again. Some involve George Smiley himself while other memories involve other principals. Our narrator, Ned, is instructing a training class at “spy school” or Sarrat, as it is known. He invites George Smiley to give a talk to the class while realizing that it might not happen since Smiley has become quite a recluse in his retirement. To Ned’s surprise, the invitation is accepted and the opening scene begins with George Smiley’s address. As the talk goes on, Ned’s memories are triggered again and again. Some involve George Smiley himself while other memories involve other principals. What follows is a seamless knitting together of highlights from Ned’s career in the spy business, the life he led, and the people he met whose impact is sometimes haunting and sometimes a lifeline to sanity, all triggered by little nuggets from George Smiley’s discourse. This book was very moving for many reasons. There are parts that are indescribably raw and terrifying. These are, thankfully, mitigated by knowing that obviously Ned lived through it because he is telling the story to us. There is also an unexpected undercurrent of philosophy, significant and layered meaning and ponderable thoughtfulness running below the surface of this book. Written in 1990, it addresses many issues that we continue to face in today’s world. I remember reading a review somewhere that boldly stated that John Le Carré deserved to win a Pulitzer and/or Nobel Prize for his writing. After reading this novel, I have to say that I agree 100%. His intelligent and timeless contribution to literature shines through in all of his books, yet I can’t help but feel that in this one he surpasses himself. And guess what? This is only the 8th novel I have read by John Le Carré, and all of them part of a series that has one more to come. He has written at least 15 other novels that are not parts of a series. My original intention was to rotate the George Smiley series with my other monthly series and then move on. Now, however, I have a feeling that I will really miss out on something special if I don’t read some of John Le Carré’s other work. Although my reading schedule is over-booked (pun intended) for 2018, there is always next year to start planning for. I have a feeling that John Le Carré’s novels will have a presence in my reading plan. They already have a presence in my heart and mind.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Lobstergirl

    The phrase "invisible writing" kept entering my mind as I read le Carré's last Smiley novel, which consists mostly of a spy named Ned, on the verge of retirement, reflecting back on his career. Christopher Hitchens used it in reference to an Anthony Powell passage wondering what George Orwell (Powell's friend) would have been like in the Army. Hitchens and I are talking about slightly different things - he calls Powell's passage "deceptively dense." I would adapt it to mean writing that doesn't The phrase "invisible writing" kept entering my mind as I read le Carré's last Smiley novel, which consists mostly of a spy named Ned, on the verge of retirement, reflecting back on his career. Christopher Hitchens used it in reference to an Anthony Powell passage wondering what George Orwell (Powell's friend) would have been like in the Army. Hitchens and I are talking about slightly different things - he calls Powell's passage "deceptively dense." I would adapt it to mean writing that doesn't draw attention to itself, that tells you exactly what you need to know without pretense or showiness, propelling you forward without you being aware of the mechanisms of that propulsion. Le Carré is a genre writer, but it's easy not to notice because he's so much better than so many "literary" writers. Only our craven legal adviser, Harry Palfrey, seemed as usual to have weathered the changes, and as I entered Burr's shiny executive suite, Palfrey was slipping stealthily out of the other door - but not quite quickly enough, so he treated me to a rhapsodic smile instead. He had recently grown himself a moustache for greater integrity. * He interrupted his own flow while he looked me over. It was like being studied by a baby. * He was pulling open Frewin's file. I say "pulling" because his doughy hands gave no impression of having done anything before: now we are going to see how this file opens; now we are going to address ourselves to this strange object called a pencil.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Nigeyb

    Since the start of 2017 I have read all the George Smiley books with 'The Secret Pilgrim' (George Smiley #8) (1991) being the final book. Or that was the case, until the recent announcement that Smiley is set to return for the first time in 25 years in 'A Legacy of Spies', a new novel by John le Carré that is scheduled for publication on 7 September 2017. Back to 'The Secret Pilgrim': it’s less of a novel and more a collection of interlinked short stories, it is (or was) a perfect way to conclude Since the start of 2017 I have read all the George Smiley books with 'The Secret Pilgrim' (George Smiley #8) (1991) being the final book. Or that was the case, until the recent announcement that Smiley is set to return for the first time in 25 years in 'A Legacy of Spies', a new novel by John le Carré that is scheduled for publication on 7 September 2017. Back to 'The Secret Pilgrim': it’s less of a novel and more a collection of interlinked short stories, it is (or was) a perfect way to conclude the series. The stories are narrated by Ned, a former Smiley protege, and each is prompted by comments by Smiley during lectures at Sarratt, the spy-training college which Ned currently runs. Ned’s tales span the decades of the Cold War, and capture Ned's steady disillusionment and, to a lesser extent, that of George Smiley. The stories are universally good with a couple being superb. I cannot wait for the arrival of 'A Legacy of Spies’. 4/5

  4. 5 out of 5

    Jan

    Another classic espionage novel written in beautiful English. The narrator turns out to be Ned, the sympathetic, melancholy, Dutch-English head of the Russia House in the novel of the same name. And guess who appears next: dear old George Smiley, who gets an encore. I thought we had seen the last of him in Smiley's People, but here he is again. The Secret Pilgrim is really a book of short stories based on Ned's reminiscences of his life as a spy, while he listens to Smiley giving a lecture to Sa Another classic espionage novel written in beautiful English. The narrator turns out to be Ned, the sympathetic, melancholy, Dutch-English head of the Russia House in the novel of the same name. And guess who appears next: dear old George Smiley, who gets an encore. I thought we had seen the last of him in Smiley's People, but here he is again. The Secret Pilgrim is really a book of short stories based on Ned's reminiscences of his life as a spy, while he listens to Smiley giving a lecture to Sarratt, or, in Circus lingo, 'Nursery' students. The stories are good and memorable, and feature some of the well-known characters of earlier novels, such as Toby Esterhase and Harry Palfrey, the narrator of the Russia House. We even catch a few glimpses of Peter Guillam. For le Carre afficionados it's a treat to have some of the same characters turn up in different novels. It provides continuity and makes the world of the Circus, now called the Service, seem very real, and populated by real people. There are even such nuggets as the information that Paul Skordeno of Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy turned bankrobber and is serving a long jail sentence in South America. At one point it appears Smiley has been lecturing on his interrogation of Karla after his defection to the West at the end of Smiley's People, but unfortunately Ned does not tell us what was said at that legendary meeting between the two archetypal Cold Warriors. On a personal level, the novel is about Ned's problems with relationships with women, a recurring theme with le Carré's characters. The overall theme is the fading away of the old Cold War spies after Glasnost and the fall of the Berlin Wall. There's a lot of reflection in the stories on the morals of spying, and the difference between ideals and ground level reality, and whether the wrong people on each side won the Cold War and the right ones lost it, and generally it's the end of an era. Smiley seems to dissapear once and for all after finishing his lecture. The new head of the Service, Burr, a protege of Smiley and successor to the slippery Clive of the Russia House novel, is a young genius who knows the Cold War only from stories. Ned goes into retirement too. His last job/story is to try to stop a wealthy and immoral British upper-class capitalist from selling arms to militant parties in volatile regions in the Third World. Clearly he is one of the new enemies replacing Communism. Ned appeals unsuccesfully to his conscience. It provides the theme for le Carre's next novel: the Night Manager.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Sara

    Written in 1990, when the world found itself at the close of the Cold War and uncertain of the future, The Secret Pilgrim finds Ned, an aging spy, put out to pasture to teach the new recruits at Sarratt how to spy in a world where spying just might now be a second-rate trade. He invites our old friend Smiley to talk to his class, and as Smiley talks, Ned revisits his life as a spy. As Debra, one of the astute members of our reading group, observed, “this is a spy coming-of-age story.” It is indee Written in 1990, when the world found itself at the close of the Cold War and uncertain of the future, The Secret Pilgrim finds Ned, an aging spy, put out to pasture to teach the new recruits at Sarratt how to spy in a world where spying just might now be a second-rate trade. He invites our old friend Smiley to talk to his class, and as Smiley talks, Ned revisits his life as a spy. As Debra, one of the astute members of our reading group, observed, “this is a spy coming-of-age story.” It is indeed, just that. It traces the decline in innocence of one spy, and in doing so, highlights the deterioration of a system that I believe began in decency and hope and ended in futility and sometimes corruption. In the words of Smiley, "We concealed the very things that made us right. Our respect for the individual, our love of variety and argument, our belief that you can only govern fairly with the consent of the governed, our capacity to see the other fellow's view--most notably in the countries we exploited, almost to death, for our own ends. In our supposed ideological rectitude, we sacrificed our compassion to the great god of indifference. We protected the strong against the weak, and we perfected the art of the public lie. We made enemies of decent reformers and friends of the most disgusting potentates. And we scarcely paused to ask ourselves how much longer we could defend our society by these means and remain a society worth defending.” I think these might be observations and questions just as worthwhile asking in 2019 as they were in 1990--perhaps more so. I believe this was meant to be Smiley’s last appearance in print at the time it was written, although in 2017 John le Carre decided to visit him once again. Had this been Smiley’s last words on the subject of his life, they would have been profound ones. And yet, I wondered as I closed the book what Smiley would have done differently, given the same set of circumstances, and I decided the answer would have been, “nothing”. For Smiley did his best in a world that contained more evil and duplicity than he could ever have imagined--and what more can a person do?

  6. 5 out of 5

    Helen

    I always feel sad when I read a John LeCarre but sadness is not always a bad thing. I have the feeling that this was intended to be LeCarre's goodbye to spying so he says a number of things right out in this that needed to be said. He says that spying is needed because governments don't believe anything they haven't paid for, that no one knows who tomorrow's enemies or allies will be so you have to find out the secrets that are always there. The book is really a collection of profiles, almost sh I always feel sad when I read a John LeCarre but sadness is not always a bad thing. I have the feeling that this was intended to be LeCarre's goodbye to spying so he says a number of things right out in this that needed to be said. He says that spying is needed because governments don't believe anything they haven't paid for, that no one knows who tomorrow's enemies or allies will be so you have to find out the secrets that are always there. The book is really a collection of profiles, almost short stories and some of them have been published separately, but in this trawl through a case officer's memories we find spies who have been recruited because they were lonely, spies who have become disillusioned with some other life, spies who have changed sides and spies who have outlived their usefulness. It is a sad world and Ned says that when you look at yourself in the mirror you won't recognize the person there because you've changed so much of yourself. There are dangers to a spy, not being caught, but losing one's mind, losing one's marriage, losing one's peace. Smiley's last word is that the world is a different place and those who operated in the old one should leave it to the young to develop their own protocols. Le Carre's style is all there, the fatigue, the brown-ness, the flatness, the details which must be worked out so that things can go smoothly.

  7. 5 out of 5

    rameau

    This is a collage of old tales an ageing spy tells his students before his retirement. Unfortunately the stories were told in the first person voice from a perspective I never connected with. Despite his best efforts, le Carré couldn’t make me care about Ned, not even when he was reminiscing with Smiley. Smiley made a cameo and nothing more. I might have found a couple of the spy tales themselves interesting, but they always ended and a new chapter began just as I started paying attention. Someo This is a collage of old tales an ageing spy tells his students before his retirement. Unfortunately the stories were told in the first person voice from a perspective I never connected with. Despite his best efforts, le Carré couldn’t make me care about Ned, not even when he was reminiscing with Smiley. Smiley made a cameo and nothing more. I might have found a couple of the spy tales themselves interesting, but they always ended and a new chapter began just as I started paying attention. Someone else might think the description of a hardened spook letting go of his secrets and learning to live in a post cold war world is compelling in itself, but for me it simply wasn’t enough.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Quirkyreader

    This was a great page turner. Once I got sucked into the story I didn't want to stop. Alas, sleep and laundry got in the way. "The Secret Pilgrim" was a good ending to the Smiley series.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Brad Lyerla

    This is the most fun of the Smiley books. Written during the period of Glasnost, le Carré concludes THE SECRET PILGRIM by posing the question: Now that we have defeated rogue communism, how will we defeat rogue capitalism? Hmmm.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Neil

    It’s a nice idea. After a series of seven novels that involve George Smiley to one degree or another, that series is capped by a set of short stories held together by a framing device that makes them the memories of a spy called Ned as he listens to George Smiley giving a speech. This gives Le Carre the opportunity to reflect back over the decades of Smiley’s involvement with The Circus by looking at them from a slightly different view point. (It should be noted that this was originally intended It’s a nice idea. After a series of seven novels that involve George Smiley to one degree or another, that series is capped by a set of short stories held together by a framing device that makes them the memories of a spy called Ned as he listens to George Smiley giving a speech. This gives Le Carre the opportunity to reflect back over the decades of Smiley’s involvement with The Circus by looking at them from a slightly different view point. (It should be noted that this was originally intended to be the final book about Smiley. That was until, 25 years later, Le Carre decided to publish A Legacy of Spies. This is also fitting as I’ve lost count of how often in all the other books George Smiley comes out of retirement to re-engage.) For my personal taste, this framing and structure doesn’t quite work. These short stories feel a bit like fleshed out plot summaries for things that failed to become novels for one reason or another. They don’t generate the tension that the novels bring. It is however still true that Le Carre knows how to write elegantly, so it is never boring: it simply never quite reaches the heights of some of the other Smiley books that lead up to it. It is also true that Le Carre still continues with his mission to show us that the world of espionage isn’t as glamorous and exciting as James Bond might have made us think it is. Le Carre continues to show us the mundanity of spying and, more than that, the moral ambiguity. So, whilst I didn’t find these short stories as engaging as the Smiley novels (most of them, anyway), I did still enjoy the writing and questioning which made this an engaging read.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Manish

    "The Secret Pilgrim" is one of those works which show why le Carre is a class apart from the rest of his contemporaries who deal with the genre of spy thrillers. Almost written in the form of a short story collection, "The Secret Pilgrim" is a series of reminiscences by a British spy on the verge of his retirement. From the experience of trailing the wife of an Arab sheikh shopping in Britain to cultivating a contact who carries out landing missions on a motorboat, le Carre brings along a multit "The Secret Pilgrim" is one of those works which show why le Carre is a class apart from the rest of his contemporaries who deal with the genre of spy thrillers. Almost written in the form of a short story collection, "The Secret Pilgrim" is a series of reminiscences by a British spy on the verge of his retirement. From the experience of trailing the wife of an Arab sheikh shopping in Britain to cultivating a contact who carries out landing missions on a motorboat, le Carre brings along a multitude of events and landscapes (from the Negev Desert to the jungles of Cambodia to the bleak urban suburbs of Britain). All through out the novel, le Carre also brings around the fact that there's nothing glamorous in spying and intelligence gathering. The tediousness of listening to tapped telephonic conversations, reading reports on absurd topics and waiting for action to report on can be as intimidating as the risk of a moment of carelessness. Read le Carre if you want something more than a racy read! You'll come out enriched.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Darwin8u

    A final wrap-up to le Carré's George Smiley series is a chronological narrative of short-stories framed around the memories of spy Ned, and the stories of George Smiley, given to a group of trainees selected for the Secret Service. The stories span the 40+ years of the Cold War, and capture the gradual disillusionment of Ned and the ambiguity of the sagacious/perceptive George Smiley. While this is not the best in the George Smiley oeuvre, it is a nice victory lap. It allowed le Carré the opport A final wrap-up to le Carré's George Smiley series is a chronological narrative of short-stories framed around the memories of spy Ned, and the stories of George Smiley, given to a group of trainees selected for the Secret Service. The stories span the 40+ years of the Cold War, and capture the gradual disillusionment of Ned and the ambiguity of the sagacious/perceptive George Smiley. While this is not the best in the George Smiley oeuvre, it is a nice victory lap. It allowed le Carré the opportunity to publish a few pieces he had worked on, but not yet turned into novels...while also revisiting the themes of morality/love/individual vs amorality/duty/institutions he constantly addressed and returned to in his Circus/Smiley novels.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Dana Stabenow

    George Smiley returns! To Sarratt, to speak forsoothingly of agents and ops past to the aspiring agents of the future. Told from the viewpoint of Ned, one of Smiley's own agents in times past, this book is a series of vignettes of Ned's cases, each introduced by a story from Smiley. It's fun visiting with Smiley again, and there are plenty of on-screen appearances by le Carré's Big Bad, Bill Hayden, but this book didn't necessarily come fully together for me until the last page of the last chapt George Smiley returns! To Sarratt, to speak forsoothingly of agents and ops past to the aspiring agents of the future. Told from the viewpoint of Ned, one of Smiley's own agents in times past, this book is a series of vignettes of Ned's cases, each introduced by a story from Smiley. It's fun visiting with Smiley again, and there are plenty of on-screen appearances by le Carré's Big Bad, Bill Hayden, but this book didn't necessarily come fully together for me until the last page of the last chapter, when Ned on his last day on duty before retirement is sent down to give a come-to-Jesus speech to an arms dealer who doesn't want to retire. Sir Anthony, the arms dealer, replies in part thusly "I'm sorry," he began, which was a lie to start with. "Did I understand you were appealing to my conscience? Good. Right. Make a statement for the record. Mind? Statement begins here. Point One. There is only one point actually. I don't give a fart. The difference between me and other charlies is, I admit it. If a horde of niggers--yes, I said niggers, I meant niggers--if these niggers shot each other dead with my toys tomorrow and I made a bob out of it, great news by me. Because if I don't sell 'em the goods, some other charlies will...I'm Pharaoh, right? If a few thousand slaves have to die so that I can build this pyramid, nature." And poor, shell-shocked Ned can only think ...the evil that stood before me now was a wrecking infant in our own midst, and I became an infant in return, disarmed, speechless and betrayed. For a moment, it was as if my whole life had been fought against the wrong enemy...I thought of telling him that now we had defeated Communism, we were going to have to set about defeating capitalism, but that wasn't really my point: the evil was not in the system, but in the man. le Carré published this book in 1990, twenty-six years before the election of 2016. I don't know if I'm more awed or more depressed by his prescience.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Rachela Muracka

    On the one hand, I wouldn't have digested this work, had it not been an audiobook I could listen to while scrubbing the floors. On the other hand, I could not stand the superciliousness of the narrator and his travesty of non-British accents. Then again, I'm not sure the reading the text would have helped. Also, not being given an omniscient view of Smiley greatly diminishes one's ability to like or sympathise with him, that is, if one is a student of history and not a sheltered red-diaper baby. On the one hand, I wouldn't have digested this work, had it not been an audiobook I could listen to while scrubbing the floors. On the other hand, I could not stand the superciliousness of the narrator and his travesty of non-British accents. Then again, I'm not sure the reading the text would have helped. Also, not being given an omniscient view of Smiley greatly diminishes one's ability to like or sympathise with him, that is, if one is a student of history and not a sheltered red-diaper baby. Knowing the plight of the people behind the Iron Curtain, living amongst the elderly who endured it, working with people who remember licking the walls as children in an attempt to satisfy their need for calcium, and trying to raise children who shall still have the weight of those shoddy, baleful bureaucracies on their shoulders, I can only scoff at a novel about the privileged men-children of English public schools sipping wine and vapidly reflecting on how much of their souls they may have lost in spying on a totalitarian regime, which they would actually say may have been spiritually superior to their own. Utter. Rot. Yes, this 'flabby liberalism' is omnipresent in Cornwell's books, but at least in the Karla trilogy, I can empathise with people who lack conviction doing things that require it–actions that are materially evil–and losing their way in carrying out their duties. That is all pitiable, but Cornwell is losing his sense of proportion. Smiley remembered in 'Tinker, Tailer, etc.' that at least he should have been enraged against Bill for the deaths his treachery had caused. In this novel, he cheerily, if sardonically, comments on the debt of gratitude for the good Haydon's treachery did the Circus/Service. Spadaj. One would have to really love Smiley/Ned to get through this one.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Natalie

    This is the best end le Carre could give Smiley... ...Even if it isn't. I read the Secret Pilgrim without knowing anything about Legacy of Spies - and this review is not about Legacy, but I think it's important to note that this was the original swan song for George. A reflection by one of his apostles, on what makes a man great; on what failure says about a man. We know Ned from his sufferings in another book - it was strange meeting him here, another case of characters easing into another costum This is the best end le Carre could give Smiley... ...Even if it isn't. I read the Secret Pilgrim without knowing anything about Legacy of Spies - and this review is not about Legacy, but I think it's important to note that this was the original swan song for George. A reflection by one of his apostles, on what makes a man great; on what failure says about a man. We know Ned from his sufferings in another book - it was strange meeting him here, another case of characters easing into another costume between novels, but the character re-write is done to better serve him. In le Carre's 'look back on halcyon days' we have the loyal pilgrim (Ned) fill in the gaps of Smiley's speech to the next generation of spies, with his own stories and mistakes that he made across the years that Smiley was (one of) his teachers. It adds in the seedier and dirtier colour that the slightly misty eyed lecturer can't quite bring himself to recall - whilst deepening the wisdom which is being espoused. I thought it was beautiful. Closer to Chaucer than an anthology, the shorter narratives unpicked stitches and cleansed fetid wounds; they also dogged Smiley's steps throughout this mythical Circus, adding in his humbler days that we never really get to meet. Again, this review isn't about Legacy - which deserves its own review - but for me, this was the most appropriate ending to Smiley's story. With a speech that is left off stage, and a legacy that is ineffable.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Anne

    I re-read Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy a few weeks ago and it made me want to re-read all Le Carre books, so I am ploughing my way through our whole stack. Even though they are dated, and in most cases I can remember the outcome from the last time I read them (1970's), it's like sitting down for a while and catching up with an old teacher, getting the chance to remember so many aspects of the 'deepest' fiction author I have ever encountered. What have I learned? Reading Le Carre ensures that I prop I re-read Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy a few weeks ago and it made me want to re-read all Le Carre books, so I am ploughing my way through our whole stack. Even though they are dated, and in most cases I can remember the outcome from the last time I read them (1970's), it's like sitting down for a while and catching up with an old teacher, getting the chance to remember so many aspects of the 'deepest' fiction author I have ever encountered. What have I learned? Reading Le Carre ensures that I properly bury any notions of writing fiction. He is the master.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Lazarus P Badpenny Esq

    With the Cold War over and George Smiley providing little more than a cameo appearance, this episodic retrospective falls slightly short of being classic Le Carre but the novel's examination of the psychological effects of intrigue and deceit upon it's perpetrators is compelling nonetheless.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Stephen

    A very welcome, nostalgic return for Smiley. But this time he is reminiscing for the students of the service. This is essentially a framing device for a bunch of short stories. As such, it is probably one for those already into le Carré, not one to create converts. That said, there are some beautiful passages here — it kinda feels like pieces that he couldn't work into the novels (there is one which feels like it emerged from the writing of The Honourable Schoolboy for example). Written in the a A very welcome, nostalgic return for Smiley. But this time he is reminiscing for the students of the service. This is essentially a framing device for a bunch of short stories. As such, it is probably one for those already into le Carré, not one to create converts. That said, there are some beautiful passages here — it kinda feels like pieces that he couldn't work into the novels (there is one which feels like it emerged from the writing of The Honourable Schoolboy for example). Written in the aftermath of the fall of the Soviet regime there is a lot which still feels very highly relevant —toward the end of the book Smiley reflects on the negative effect that untrammeled capitalism has on democracy, which feels incredibly relevant at the moment. Recommended, but don't start here.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Alice

    My controversial John Le Carré opinion is that I don't like Smiley as a character and prefer standalone novels to the ones he's involved in. I loved The Secret Pilgrim, though; it's not a Smiley book but uses him as a device to walk us through the past of one of his colleagues. There are few things I like more than a book of short stories with the same central character (see also: Jeeves, Sherlock Holmes, the Saint), so this was a great treat.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Lysergius

    I suspect that this is le Carre's attempt to put the Cold war to bed. It is a reprise, and summarising of a number of episodes in the life of Ned an instructor at the spy school Sarrat. It is held together by George Smiley addressing as passing out class of young agents, in which he attempts to add perspective and clarification to the activities of the past and hopefully the future. It is curious to see how it has all worked out.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Rick

    An elegiac novel - really interconnected memories - centred on Ned, a spy on the cusp of retirement. Ned is reminded, through the presence of the visiting George Smiley, of his career in the service of Queen and Country; the personal betrayals, the pyrrhic heroism, the loneliness and, ultimately, the defeat, are detailed wryly, sometimes angrily, but always with compassion. The final memory is shocking, funny, apt and worrying.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Santosh Bhat

    This book contains episodes from the life of a spy in the British Secret Service, known to us only as "Ned". I liked this book, liked the themes in it. Some of the longer episodes such as the one of Cyril Fruin a bore, while some of the short ones such as the one of Smiley and the parents of a dead "alleged Spy" were poignant gems.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Isabelle Leo

    some of the stories were good but mostly it was bleah. @Ned get a life

  24. 4 out of 5

    David

    A bridge to A LEGACY OF SPIES ... much backstory...

  25. 4 out of 5

    Becky Kelly

    Last of the Smiley series, and the final one I hadn't read. Absolutely spectacular. This time we followed one particular spy throughout his whole career, from his first case to his retirement, thus there were many different stories in one really. Simply can't wait for the new (and presumably last) Smiley novel, coming out in the autumn. I'm so excited for that!

  26. 4 out of 5

    Scott

    I have recently started reading some of John le Carre’s novels, I am still unsure if I really like his work or not. I know I do not dislike his work, but none of his books have left me completely satisfied. This book seemed more like a series of short stories and I got the feeling as I was reading this book before some of his previous novels I was missing some points which were brought up but not fully explained as it appeared it was assumed the reader had the background information already. The I have recently started reading some of John le Carre’s novels, I am still unsure if I really like his work or not. I know I do not dislike his work, but none of his books have left me completely satisfied. This book seemed more like a series of short stories and I got the feeling as I was reading this book before some of his previous novels I was missing some points which were brought up but not fully explained as it appeared it was assumed the reader had the background information already. The few John le Carre novels I have read or listened to so far, seem filled with ambiguity, lack heroics or even specific opinions about specific policies, but instead seem mostly concerned with psychological issues of a variety of flawed but generally well intentioned individuals caught up in the spy game. Interesting, but maybe it is just the author’s British aversion to happiness or contentedness which at times feels a little unsatisfying from his “spy” novels. I liked it well enough to continue on and read another of le Carre’s novels and then we will see from there.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Simon Mcleish

    Originally published on my blog here in August 2001. The last Smiley novel is unique in le Carré's output. It is very episodic, and in many places reads like a collection of short stories. It has a regretful, valedictory tone, but is one of the easiest of le Carré's novels to read. The narrator is Ned, the former head of the The Russia House in the novel of that name, now running a secret service training course. He invites the long retired, legendary George Smiley to talk to the group, to find th Originally published on my blog here in August 2001. The last Smiley novel is unique in le Carré's output. It is very episodic, and in many places reads like a collection of short stories. It has a regretful, valedictory tone, but is one of the easiest of le Carré's novels to read. The narrator is Ned, the former head of the The Russia House in the novel of that name, now running a secret service training course. He invites the long retired, legendary George Smiley to talk to the group, to find that the discussion that follows sparks memories of his own past. Like most of le Carré's spy fiction, the episodes which come to Ned's mind do not reflect much credit on the British secret service and, being arranged neatly chronologically, demonstrate his growing disillusion with the job he is doing. Even so, the tone is light, perhaps a response to Ned's retirement, the vantage point from which he is writing. It is also, presumably, from le Carré's point of view part of giving Smiley a proper send off; it is made very clear that no more is to be written about him (he even asks, at the end of the evening, not to be asked back again, so that the new generation can move on from his influence).

  28. 5 out of 5

    Abhinav

    My first John le Carre novel this year (don't know why it took so long, really). This one's different from his other works particularly in terms of narrative, where each chapter is almost a short story in itself. Through the memories & flashbacks of the protagonist Ned College (in the course of a lecture by the legendary George Smiley) as he reflects on his career in British Intelligence, le Carre explores the questions & issues that have haunted the world throughout the Cold War Years. S My first John le Carre novel this year (don't know why it took so long, really). This one's different from his other works particularly in terms of narrative, where each chapter is almost a short story in itself. Through the memories & flashbacks of the protagonist Ned College (in the course of a lecture by the legendary George Smiley) as he reflects on his career in British Intelligence, le Carre explores the questions & issues that have haunted the world throughout the Cold War Years. Some of these episodes are quite haunting - the one that stands out is that of a British spy stationed in South East Asia getting disowned by his own daughter in the time during the Vietnam War as she is brainwashed by Communist propaganda. This also happens to be le Carre's last proper novel set on the Cold War years (though he did broach the subject later in 'Absolute Friends') & one can sense that slight personal connection as the author himself bids farewell to those times. 4 stars to 'The Secret Pilgrim' by John le Carre. Recommended for those who love espionage novels & a must read for fans of John le Carre.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Michael

    "There's no such thing as retirement [from spying], really. Sometimes there's knowing too much, and not being able to do much about it, but that's just age, I'm sure. I think a lot. I'm stepping out with my reading. I talk to people, ride on buses. I'm a newcomer to the overt world but I'm learning." ~ Ned This volume was my book introduction to Le Carre's work (having previously seen a movie based on one of his novels [The Russia House] and itching to see "Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy." This fi "There's no such thing as retirement [from spying], really. Sometimes there's knowing too much, and not being able to do much about it, but that's just age, I'm sure. I think a lot. I'm stepping out with my reading. I talk to people, ride on buses. I'm a newcomer to the overt world but I'm learning." ~ Ned This volume was my book introduction to Le Carre's work (having previously seen a movie based on one of his novels [The Russia House] and itching to see "Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy." This first sampling for me was a "smart" novel with lots of [expected] twists and turns, but with an intelligence that puts it above average for spy thrillers. No shootouts, but great mind games and wide-ranging psychological storylines. Looking forward to reading more of his work. Update: Just saw the movie starring Gary Oldman, Colin Firth et al. I was disappointed, to be frank. Though the acting was good, the story was slow -- too slow for a movie. I suspect the book is much better.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Rae

    I loved this book. I found the form of the novel intriguingly old-fashioned: a series of chapters from the life of a British Intelligence man near the end of his career, linked together by his own mentor Smiley's after-dinner talk to a new generation of spies. Although The Secret Pilgrim was written twenty years ago, the areas and ideas it discusses are of course very relevant today. In addition to le Carré's wonderful characterisation, this book might contain the finest of his writing I have ye I loved this book. I found the form of the novel intriguingly old-fashioned: a series of chapters from the life of a British Intelligence man near the end of his career, linked together by his own mentor Smiley's after-dinner talk to a new generation of spies. Although The Secret Pilgrim was written twenty years ago, the areas and ideas it discusses are of course very relevant today. In addition to le Carré's wonderful characterisation, this book might contain the finest of his writing I have yet read. It takes a tense, sometimes tender and sometimes shocking look at thirty years of secret history. My only problem might be that I haven't yet read any of the other Smiley books. I've just started reading Smiley's People so apparently I'm reading this backwards! I hope there aren't too many important spoilers.

Add a review

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Loading...
We use cookies to give you the best online experience. By using our website you agree to our use of cookies in accordance with our cookie policy.