Hot Best Seller

Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy by John le Carre Unabridged CD Audiobook

Availability: Ready to download

Unabridged CD Audiobook 9 CDs / 11 Hours long..


Compare

Unabridged CD Audiobook 9 CDs / 11 Hours long..

30 review for Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy by John le Carre Unabridged CD Audiobook

  1. 4 out of 5

    Jeffrey Keeten

    "The suspicious black car did not follow me home. How am I supposed to maintain this level of paranoia with this level of incompetence?" Tweet from jkeeten's defunct Twitter account. "I don't smoke but I always travel w/ a Zippo lighter in case I have to light a beautiful woman's cigarette or the wick of a Molotov cocktail." Another tweet from jkeeten's defunct Twitter account. The British Secret Service, resembling a corporation that has suffered sagging profits, has reshuffled key players, ouste "The suspicious black car did not follow me home. How am I supposed to maintain this level of paranoia with this level of incompetence?" Tweet from jkeeten's defunct Twitter account. "I don't smoke but I always travel w/ a Zippo lighter in case I have to light a beautiful woman's cigarette or the wick of a Molotov cocktail." Another tweet from jkeeten's defunct Twitter account. The British Secret Service, resembling a corporation that has suffered sagging profits, has reshuffled key players, ousted others, and in the process forced George Smiley into retirement. Smiley, in his twilight years, could have easily decided to take up gardening or researching an interesting point of history, but he has wife problems. Ann has left him, leaving him to cover her missing presence with little lies and subterfuge. Given his past he is quite good at it. He is somewhat surprised to discover how much he misses her given the problems she continues to create for him. He has spent a lifetime controlling his emotions, but she is quite good at making him suffer. "Putting on the hall light, he stooped and peered through his post. One "account rendered" from his tailor for a suit he had not ordered but that he suspected was one of those presently adorning Ann's lover; one bill from a garage in Henley for her petrol (what, pray, were they doing in Henley); one letter from the bank regarding a local cashing facility in favour of the Lady Ann Smiley at a branch of the Midland Bank of Immingham. And what the devil, he demanded of this document are they doing in Immingham?Who ever had a love affair in Immingham, for goodness' sake? Where was Immingham?" He is of course angry. What person wants to see the results of their spouses affair through a series of bills or in today's world credit card receipts? Smiley talks tough. "And if Ann wanted to return--well, he would show her the door." But when he is honest with himself. "Or not show her the door, according to--well, how much she wanted to return." With almost a sigh of relief, Smiley is summoned to interrogate an agent that has stumbled upon bit of intelligence hinting at the existence of a deep cover mole in the service (so much for retirement). This begins a cat and mouse game showing Smiley at his best sifting through incomplete files, weighing the validity of whispers, and chasing a ghost agent back into the Circus. Smiley is some what of an enigma to work with. One of his loyal followers Peter Guillam gives us some insight. "He spoke as if you followed his reasoning, as if you were inside his mind all the time." Smiley is really fighting a war on two fronts with his enemies within the service and with the subterfuge of the Karla organization. All players would like Smiley off the board. This novel is almost as complex as a Russian novel. There are a lot of names to assimilate early, don't despair, they start to sort themselves out as the plot advances. There is a lot of spy jargon. Babysitters, coat trailing, honey-pot, housekeepers, janitors, lamplighters, lotus eaters, mailfist jobs, pavement artists, reptile fund, scalphunters, shoemakers, and wranglers to name a few. You will come away feeling like you have a working knowledge of what it would really be like to be a spy. John Le Carre is the grand master of spy craft in my opinion, and there simply isn't a better example of his skillful plotting than this book. Read the book then watch the movie and if you want more watch the mini-series. If you are like me it might take all three just to feel like you have found every gem, and every clue that Le Carre so liberally sprinkled through this historical work of fiction. There are two more books in the Karla series...The Honourable Schoolboy and Smiley's People. I for one plan to follow Smiley every step of the way. If you wish to see more of my most recent book and movie reviews, visit http://www.jeffreykeeten.com I also have a Facebook blogger page at: https://www.facebook.com/JeffreyKeeten

  2. 4 out of 5

    Manny

    I'm one of many people who think that Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy is the greatest espionage novel of all time. Let's take the obvious things first. Unlike most examples of this genre, it's extremely well-written. Also, having worked in espionage himself, le Carré is able to get the atmosphere right. It feels 100% authentic, and you see that spying is like most other jobs. The greater part of it is routine and office intrigues, though every now and then something unexpected and dramatic happens. I'm one of many people who think that Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy is the greatest espionage novel of all time. Let's take the obvious things first. Unlike most examples of this genre, it's extremely well-written. Also, having worked in espionage himself, le Carré is able to get the atmosphere right. It feels 100% authentic, and you see that spying is like most other jobs. The greater part of it is routine and office intrigues, though every now and then something unexpected and dramatic happens. So, even if there were nothing more to it, I'd still say that this book was very good. What makes it great is that the author isn't content with giving you a realistic account of what it's like to be a spy. He's gone much further than that, and written a book that's not just about espionage, which most people never come into contact with, but about betrayal, which we see all the time. The thing about betrayal is that you're generally aware that it's happening before you know how, or why, or who. Things used to be good, and now they're not, and you know that even if you do figure out what's happened you'll never be able to put it right. At best, you'll be able to cut your losses, and move on. In TTSS, the main character, George Smiley, is being betrayed in two different ways. First, it's gradually become clear that there is a mole in his department. It can only be someone at the very highest level. One of his most trusted colleagues, someone he has worked with for years, and shared things with, and treated as a friend, is actually working for the Russians. They have it narrowed down to four people. He has to find out which one it is, and do what's necessary. And, at the same time, he's also realized that his wife is sleeping around. He can't really prove anything, and they never talk about it. But he knows that too. I can imagine any number of clumsy, over-obvious ways to link up these threads. Le Carré does it with a very light touch. You see these two things happening, and every now and then there is an echo of correspondence. He wants you to be a spy too, and put together the little bits of evidence until you reach a conclusion. It's a book that completely transcends the genre, and shows how a writer who has enough talent can achieve stunning results in any medium. Strongly recommended to anyone who's ever been betrayed, or themselves betrayed a person they're close to. Which, unfortunately, is most of us.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Jason

    A few months ago a stylish looking British adaptation of Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy was released in theaters and I was intrigued. But I knew better. Movies are for smart people. If I had to constantly nudge my wife during Superbad to ask questions like, “so who is that guy again?” and “wait, is she the same one from before?” then I had to admit that seeing this movie would only serve to make me feel very confused and intellectually inadequate. I do better with books. Books explain things. Book A few months ago a stylish looking British adaptation of Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy was released in theaters and I was intrigued. But I knew better. Movies are for smart people. If I had to constantly nudge my wife during Superbad to ask questions like, “so who is that guy again?” and “wait, is she the same one from before?” then I had to admit that seeing this movie would only serve to make me feel very confused and intellectually inadequate. I do better with books. Books explain things. Books are for people who need a little, uh, help in the hand-holding department. So like any other self-respecting moron, I decided to read the book instead (or at least, before seeing the movie)—that way I could have everything explained to me nice, nice. But I was duped. When my friend asked me to go with him to see Tinker Tailor, I told him it was not possible. I explained my reasoning while he nodded agreeably, accepting my oddities without judgment. But then he said, “I think you’ll find this to be an exception to your rule. In this particular case, you’re going to want to have seen this movie before reading the book. Trust me.” What. A Freaking. Liar. As soon as those last two words were uttered, warning bells should have gone off in my head. But I took him at his word and went to see a movie with the most convoluted plot I’d ever tried to absorb. 120 minutes later I had a raging migraine. I now understood the lengths to which someone would go in order to have a companion at the movies. I suppose I can’t begrudge a man that small favor, and I was not entirely the worse for wear—800 mg of ibuprofen and a good night’s sleep restored my faculties wonderfully. And that’s when I decided to read the book. John le Carré’s novel retains all the plot complexity of the movie and then some, but it is delivered in such a way that is digestible. Even though I knew the fate of Colin Firth’s character, my pulse still raced at the novel’s climax. The author opens up a world of secrets, lies, espionage, and scandal that are somewhat missing from my everyday life, but seem to be more or less commonplace in a Europe engulfed in the Cold War. Mistrust and paranoia run as naturally as snowfall in New England. I am generally very glad to have read this book despite having done so after seeing the movie.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Jaline

    Spy novels may be best consumed in large gulps by me. There is no question that John Le Carré is a brilliant writer, and his plots are peppered with surprise spirals throughout each novel. The one difficulty I had with this book was in the beginning, and it was my own difficulty. I had to quickly re-acquaint myself with British idiom, with spy jargon, distinguish between those two ‘languages’, and process many new players and how they related to characters I already knew from the previous 4 books Spy novels may be best consumed in large gulps by me. There is no question that John Le Carré is a brilliant writer, and his plots are peppered with surprise spirals throughout each novel. The one difficulty I had with this book was in the beginning, and it was my own difficulty. I had to quickly re-acquaint myself with British idiom, with spy jargon, distinguish between those two ‘languages’, and process many new players and how they related to characters I already knew from the previous 4 books in this series. Since I wasn’t very good at it, the beginning part of this book went slowly for me. Not the book’s internal pacing, of which John Le Carré is a master, but my own. Trying to keep up to the book while deciphering everything I needed to know was a challenge. Once I got a handle on the languages and the cast of characters, I was able to get on board this spy train and what a great ride it was! Control knew there was a mole somewhere in the upper echelon, and he knew it was one of five people and their code names were assigned from the ‘Tinker, Tailor’ children’s rhyme. George Smiley (Beggarman) was one of the five. However, after Control died and there was a changing of the guard regarding running their Operations (including George Smiley’s dismissal from service), the mole now had to be one of the remaining four. George Smiley’s assignment is to find out who that person is. Once I had grasped all the background information, this book flew by in a series of fascinating ‘interviews’, action sequences, and other events that all played a role in drawing George Smiley closer to his quarry. In the end, this was a very enjoyable and satisfying read. I am also looking forward to the next book in the series as there are likely to be many more changes for George Smiley to sort through and contribute to.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Candi

    "After a lifetime of living by his wits and his considerable memory, he had given himself full time to the profession of forgetting." Over the past couple of months, George Smiley has earned the distinction of my favorite spy. Not because he is handsome, sexy, charismatic or daring but rather because he is all too human. He’s the real deal, and no one could write a genuine character like him as well as the master, John le Carré. "Small, podgy, and at best middle-aged, he was by appearance one of "After a lifetime of living by his wits and his considerable memory, he had given himself full time to the profession of forgetting." Over the past couple of months, George Smiley has earned the distinction of my favorite spy. Not because he is handsome, sexy, charismatic or daring but rather because he is all too human. He’s the real deal, and no one could write a genuine character like him as well as the master, John le Carré. "Small, podgy, and at best middle-aged, he was by appearance one of London’s meek who do not inherit the earth. His legs were short, his gait anything but agile, his dress costly, ill-fitting, and extremely wet." How on earth does a guy like this get saddled with the onerous task of uncovering a Russian-planted mole at the highest level of the British Secret Service? Because he is brilliant and honorable, that’s how! There are many layers to George Smiley, and I am thoroughly enjoying the unpeeling of each one as I delve more and more into these novels. Smiley teams up with Peter Guillam, a younger agent who is further removed from the upper echelon of the service, partly due to a botched operation and partly as a result of his prior association with Smiley. The guys at the top have been very deliberately remaking the organization to their own advantage. Anyone with a loyalty to the former chief, or those that hovered too close to the truth, have been quietly relocated to lesser positions or simply dismissed. The organization is being carefully refashioned to the mole’s purpose. I was further pleased to become further acquainted with the somewhat eccentric Mendel, a former police inspector whom was introduced to us in le Carré’s novel Call for the Dead. Naturally, a huge theme in this novel is that of betrayal. George Smiley grapples with this not only in his professional life but also his private life. His sincere interior conflict further illuminates the real character of the man. I can’t help but feel sympathy for Smiley, and admire his courage to examine his own principles. "It worried him that he felt so bankrupt; that whatever intellectual or philosophical precepts he clung to broke down entirely now that he was faced with the human situation." One thing I have come to expect from le Carré is that I need to be a bit more savvy with my spy lingo. If there were a little glossary of the terms in the back of the book, I would be off and running with the story straight from the get-go. In reality, it takes me a little bit to settle in and really understand what is happening. It’s okay though, I get there eventually, and any earlier confusion is worth the payoff! I’m not very successful with my own personal psychological analysis of the characters, but I consider myself in good hands with the author who was once a secret service agent himself. I was once again fully invested with each character, and the plot took me down a twisty, furtive and thrilling path that I wouldn’t mind riding once more! This book is the first in the Karla trilogy – Karla being the working-name counterpart to Smiley in the Russian Intelligence agency. If all goes as planned, I will be reading the second one next month. If you have any interest in reading an authentic espionage thriller, then I highly recommend this or any of le Carré’s books. They really do deliver. I can’t forget to mention the movie adaptation – expertly cast with Gary Oldman as Smiley and highly entertaining! "Like an actor, he had a sense of approaching anti-climax before the curtain went up, a sense of great things dwindling to a small, mean end; as death itself seemed small and mean to him after the struggles of his life."

  6. 4 out of 5

    Bill Kerwin

    Whenever I think of Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy, I inevitably think of love: love that grants fortitude, love that clouds judgment, love that scars the soul and roots the heart. Although it is my experience of the book that guides me, it perhaps also has to do with the 1979 BBC miniseries, with the way Alec Guinness appears stolid and wounded, like an animal to the slaughter hit in the head with a hammer, with each inevitable mention of his wife’s beauty, each smirking hint at her chain of adul Whenever I think of Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy, I inevitably think of love: love that grants fortitude, love that clouds judgment, love that scars the soul and roots the heart. Although it is my experience of the book that guides me, it perhaps also has to do with the 1979 BBC miniseries, with the way Alec Guinness appears stolid and wounded, like an animal to the slaughter hit in the head with a hammer, with each inevitable mention of his wife’s beauty, each smirking hint at her chain of adulteries. Of course the book is about many other things besides love: it is about the mysterious nature of allegiances and the way they change over time; about social class as an inescapable system of markers and man’s bathetic attempts to emphasize or erase them; about how the look of a system subtly changes when it begins to betray itself; about how the illusions which make a man vulnerable also help him survive. Still, though, the book is about love: George’s love for Ann of course, but Roach’s love for his teacher too, Jim’s love for Bill Haydon, Bill’s love for himself, the outsider Percy’s love for the insider's power, barren Connie’s love for all her “boys.” Yes, on this much Karla and Smiley may agree: it is “last illusion of the illusionless man,” love. Above all the other loves in the book, though, there is one love who binds closest to herself those whom she betrays, the compromised goddess who requires devotion most particularly from her disillusioned devotees. Smiley, true to Ann, is true to her as well: Brittania, old England herself.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Diane

    I'm going to state the obvious and say John le Carré is a really good writer. This was my first le Carré novel, and I can see why he's considered such a master of the spy genre. The story itself was thrilling, but what I most appreciated were his thoughtful descriptions. The writing was so insightful that it was easy to become invested in the fate of the characters. A quick plot summary: George Smiley is a retired British spy. He was forced out during a reorganization of the Circus, a nickname for I'm going to state the obvious and say John le Carré is a really good writer. This was my first le Carré novel, and I can see why he's considered such a master of the spy genre. The story itself was thrilling, but what I most appreciated were his thoughtful descriptions. The writing was so insightful that it was easy to become invested in the fate of the characters. A quick plot summary: George Smiley is a retired British spy. He was forced out during a reorganization of the Circus, a nickname for the intelligence service. One day he's approached and asked to discreetly investigate a mole in the agency, someone who's been giving state secrets to Russia. George sets to work, getting help from some trusted colleagues. It was exciting watching George uncover the mole. Even though I knew the ending because I had seen the movie, it was still thrilling. Now that's good writing. But this wasn't just a book about finding a double agent — no, this was book about friendship, love and loyalty. It's about having a purpose in life. And it's about betrayal. They shared no harmony. They had lost all calmness in one another's company; they were a mystery to each other, and the most banal conversation could take strange, uncontrollable directions. Besides Smiley, my favorite character in the book was young Bill Roach, a student at a prep school. Roach is a good watcher, and quietly observes things others don't notice. For example, Roach observes some odd behavior by the school's new teacher, Jim Prideaux, which suggests he has some secrets. Here's an (abbreviated) early exchange between Jim and Bill that first showed me how well le Carré could write his characters: "What are you good at, Bill?" "I don't know, sir," said Roach woodenly. "Got to be good at something, surely; everyone is. How about football? Are you good at football, Bill?" "No, sir," said Roach. "What's your best thing, then?" Now this was an unfortunate question to ask of Roach just then, for it occupied most of his waking hours. Indeed he had recently come to doubt whether he had any purpose on earth at all. In work and play he considered himself seriously inadequate; even the daily routine of the school, such as making his bed and tidying his clothes, seemed to be beyond his reach. Also he lacked piety: old Mrs. Thursgood had told him so; he screwed up his face too much at chapel. He blamed himself for the break-up of his parents' marriage, which he should have seen coming and taken steps to prevent. Damn, that's a good introduction of a character. Rereading it, it's no wonder my heart went out to young Bill so early in the book. Speaking of strong introductions, check out this one for Smiley: Unlike Jim Prideaux, Mr. George Smiley was not naturally equipped for hurrying in the rain, least of all at dead of night. Indeed, he might have been the final form for which Bill Roach was the prototype. Small, podgy, and at best middle-aged, he was by appearance one of London's meek who do not inherit the earth. His legs were short, his gait anything but agile, his dress costly, ill-fitting, and extremely wet. His overcoat, which had a hint of widowhood about it, was of that black loose weave which is designed to retain moisture. Either the sleeves were too long or his arms were too short, for, as with Roach, when he wore his mackintosh, the cuffs all but concealed the fingers. For reasons of vanity he wore no hat, believing rightly that hats made him ridiculous. My one criticism of the writing is that the reader has to quickly adapt to the spy jargon, much of it made up by le Carré. I thought it was interesting he was inspired to write this novel because of Kim Philby, a real-life double agent. I recently read Ben Macintyre's book on Philby, A Spy Among Friends, which made me keen to read Tinker, Tailor. And now I want to read the rest of the George Smiley series. John le Carré is such a popular writer that I hardly need to say this, but I highly recommend this novel to anyone who likes spy thrillers. Favorite Quotes "He imagined that, like himself, Jim had had a great attachment that had failed him and that he longed to replace. But here Bill Roach's speculation met a dead end: he had no idea how adults loved each other." "He would set up as a mild eccentric, discursive, withdrawn, but possessing one or two lovable habits such as muttering to himself as he bumbled along pavements. Out of date, perhaps, but who wasn't these days? Out of date, but loyal to his own time. At a certain moment, after all, every man chooses: will he go forward, will he go back? There was nothing dishonourable in not being blown about by every little modern wind. Better to have worth, to entrench, to be an oak of one's own generation." "There are always a dozen reasons for doing nothing ... There is only one reason for doing something. And that's because you want to." "There are old men who go back to Oxford and find their youth beckoning to them from the stones. Smiley was not one of them." "He was of that pre-war set that seemed to have vanished for good, which managed to be disreputable and high-minded at the same time." "I have a theory which I suspect is rather immoral ... Each of us has only a quantum of compassion. That if we lavish our concern on every stray cat, we never get to the centre of things." "Sitting is such an eloquent business; any actor will tell you that. We sit according to our natures. We sprawl and straddle, we rest like boxers between rounds, we fidget, perch, cross and uncross our legs, lose patience, lose endurance." "If there's one thing that distinguishes a good watcher from a bad one... it's the gentle art of doing damn all convincingly." "Survival, as Jim Prideaux liked to recall, is an infinite capacity for suspicion." "He wondered whether there was any love between human beings that did not rest upon some sort of self-delusion."

  8. 4 out of 5

    Agnieszka

    Who can spy on the spies ? We are at the heart of British Secret Intelligence Service, commonly known as MI6. For the initiated the Circus. Tinker, tailor, soldier, spy it’s the look at the firm from the inside. Author himself worked there for many years and thanks to it I have no problems with his credibility. We get to know world of intelligence, its structure, jargon. Babysitters, lamplighters , ferrets, shoemakers, scalphunters . Sounds really crazy. Intelligence work it is not guns and Who can spy on the spies ? We are at the heart of British Secret Intelligence Service, commonly known as MI6. For the initiated the Circus. Tinker, tailor, soldier, spy it’s the look at the firm from the inside. Author himself worked there for many years and thanks to it I have no problems with his credibility. We get to know world of intelligence, its structure, jargon. Babysitters, lamplighters , ferrets, shoemakers, scalphunters . Sounds really crazy. Intelligence work it is not guns and fast cars and agents themselves look more like tired office workers. It is tedious, painstaking and endless digging in the archives, reading hundreds of reports to pick out this only one information, it’s patiently investigation of every new lead. It’s an experience of solidarity and friendship but also the bitterness of defeat and betrayal. We are in the middle of cold war and here nothing is what it seems. And people from MI6 have to struggle not only with outside threat but most off all with enemy in own ranks. Because in the Circus there is a mole spying for Russian. LeCarre has populated agency with well drawn, diverse characters. George Smiley, apparently slowcoach but in fact fiendishly intelligent and patient, charming Haydon, Prideux - a patriot and a soldier, Toby Esterhaze - a toady, Percy Alleline - fishy careerist, Tarr – young tearaway, loyal Guillam and the boss, Control. Don’t listen if others say that it was boring or unattractive. Believe me, there was more action than in any thriller and observing the investigation and set a trap was more exciting than any pursuit. Well, I’ve always preferred brainy guys than muscleman with a gun. And don’t feel yourself too comfortably . Though cold war had ended, though we were witnesses how Berlin Wall collapsed world didn’t change that much. There is a really thin line between us and them . Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that LeCarre is a philosopher or something. But after reading some disquieting thoughts hatching up in your head. So, welcome to the Circus.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Jason Koivu

    I didn't understand half of what I just read, and yet I loved it all the same! In John le Carré's (real name David Cornwell) Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy, a British intelligence service known as the Circus has been compromised by a mole, a supposed Soviet double agent. Former agent George Smiley is called back from retirement to ferret him out. This is more of a psychological suspense novel than an action-filled James Bond spy thriller. Smiley is getting up there in years and though he's conversa I didn't understand half of what I just read, and yet I loved it all the same! In John le Carré's (real name David Cornwell) Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy, a British intelligence service known as the Circus has been compromised by a mole, a supposed Soviet double agent. Former agent George Smiley is called back from retirement to ferret him out. This is more of a psychological suspense novel than an action-filled James Bond spy thriller. Smiley is getting up there in years and though he's conversant with a handgun, he's not about to go galavanting about blasting up the countryside. The whole novel is much more sedate than you might expect when you think of "spy thriller". And yet in ways, this book is undeniably thrilling! Here, I think this passage from Wikipedia explains it better: Most of Cornwell's novels are spy stories set during the Cold War (1945–91) and feature Circus agents as unheroic political functionaries aware of the moral ambiguity of their work and engaged in psychological more than physical drama.[21] Cornwell's books emphasise the fallibility of Western democracy and of the secret services protecting it, often implying the possibility of East-West moral equivalence.[21] Moreover, they experience little of the violence typically encountered in action thrillers and have very little recourse to gadgets. Much of the conflict is internal, rather than external and visible. When you read a book like this, you get the distinct impression that the author has lived this life. Frankly, it was quite clear to me that John le Carré worked in the secret service. You can't whip out that kind of jargon and insight with only a casual acquaintance with the topic. I've read a few spy novels before and this makes them look childish in comparison. The writing itself is topnotch. The character crafting, the stage setting, and the nuance of plot all come off so seamlessly. If there was a little more action, it wouldn't go amiss, but lack of action aside, Le Carré pens books that are an absolute pleasure to read.

  10. 4 out of 5

    K

    I freely admit that I am not smart enough to appreciate this book. The whole thing was way too convoluted for me. First I was in one character's head, then another, then back to the first. Then there was a third character who mostly made cameo appearances and was clearly unimportant, but we spend time in his head too. As if that's not confusing enough, different people narrate different parts of the story as master spy George Smiley (highly distracting name, I must say) interviews different playe I freely admit that I am not smart enough to appreciate this book. The whole thing was way too convoluted for me. First I was in one character's head, then another, then back to the first. Then there was a third character who mostly made cameo appearances and was clearly unimportant, but we spend time in his head too. As if that's not confusing enough, different people narrate different parts of the story as master spy George Smiley (highly distracting name, I must say) interviews different players who describe their experiences to him. Sometimes we're flashing back to George's memories; sometimes we're learning what George is reading in the archives in the present day although it feels like it might be a flashback. Eventually this all ties together, but I lacked the patience or motivation to understand how or why. The absence of a character about whom I cared even a little only added to my increasing disengagement from and disenchantment with the book. I spent most of the book wanting to quit but persevering in the hope that I would eventually get why this was a great book. Eventually I ended up finishing it just to be sure I wasn't missing something. But it seems I was. Apparently this is a classic and much-imitated spy novel. Maybe this isn't the genre for me then.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Willow

    Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy is not my type of book. I never read stuff like this. I don’t like contemporaries (unless there are vampires or witches in them) and I rarely read mysteries. I loved the movie though (I’m a big Gary Oldman fan) so I thought what the heck, I’ll read the book. After all, it’s not really a contemporary…at least not anymore. The action takes place during the early seventies. So here I am. First off, I have to say Le Carre writes with amazing detail. These guys aren’t like Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy is not my type of book. I never read stuff like this. I don’t like contemporaries (unless there are vampires or witches in them) and I rarely read mysteries. I loved the movie though (I’m a big Gary Oldman fan) so I thought what the heck, I’ll read the book. After all, it’s not really a contemporary…at least not anymore. The action takes place during the early seventies. So here I am. First off, I have to say Le Carre writes with amazing detail. These guys aren’t like regular characters. They’re like real people with complex motives, their own dialect, and little nuances that are personal to them. I got to know them, slowly, intuitively, especially since Le Carre never tells you what you should think of them or explains them. He just lets the reader develop their own opinion. You get to know everybody though dialogue and body language -- little tidbits like how someone sits down on a child’s swing set. It’s excellent! That’s not to say it wasn’t disorienting though. At first I felt like I had started a new job. I'm meeting all these new people, there are new rules, and there’s a whole new work lingo I have to learn. I was a bit lost at first, trying to keep track of names and figure out what people were saying (especially since I’m not a Brit.) There are so many characters, and no one can be cataloged in a nice neat box. To my surprise though, this sense of confusion actually made me pay closer attention. I loved being just thrown in there. I do believe it hit me on a deeper level too since I dreamed about this book. :D Were the characters likable? Yes and no. I liked Smiley a lot, but I would hate to work with him. He’s too tight-lipped and ruthless. You’d never know where you’d stand with him. He’s also waaay too observant, looking for everyone’s weaknesses. It was great being inside his head though. You can tell he unnerves people. That’s why so many people take a certain glee in telling him his wife is sleeping with someone else. They want to needle him. The other characters were great too. Percy is a worm. Jim is tragic and compelling. I couldn’t stand Bill. I thought Ricky was a hoot, even though he’s an ass. As you can see, I definitely had an opinion about everybody. Of course, all these different motives and dynamics make the book seem strangely complicated, yet the story is simple. There’s a mole in the secret service which has made everyone paranoid, and George Smiley is trying to lure him out and trap him. There are a lot of mind games. This brings me to the part of the book though, which I think was lacking. There’s not much suspense. Maybe if I hadn’t seen the movie, I would have been more curious to find out who the mole was, but I don’t think that’s it. I think the lack of action and danger made this a somewhat dry read. I would have never finished it if I hadn’t seen the movie. The beginning is slow. And while yes there are conversations and confrontations that are dynamic and thrilling, not much happens. That’s why I knocked a star. On the whole though, I’m very much impressed. Le Carre is a great writer. I want to read Smiley’s People because I’ve heard it’s even better than this book. I’m curious to see how George traps Karla, and I’d love to spend some more time in Smiley’s astute and clever brain.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Patrick Brown

    I had read The Spy Who Came In From the Cold on my honeymoon in Paris, and I remember liking it, but not rushing out to get more Le Carre. Well, now I'm going to rush out to get more Le Carre. I didn't give this five stars because it was a touch slow to get moving. I think if I'd just been able to focus a little more, I would've been into the plot faster. Le Carre has this ability to make every character a mystery. So much is withheld from the reader, and yet the characters are fascinating. I I had read The Spy Who Came In From the Cold on my honeymoon in Paris, and I remember liking it, but not rushing out to get more Le Carre. Well, now I'm going to rush out to get more Le Carre. I didn't give this five stars because it was a touch slow to get moving. I think if I'd just been able to focus a little more, I would've been into the plot faster. Le Carre has this ability to make every character a mystery. So much is withheld from the reader, and yet the characters are fascinating. I think what put me off about the beginning of the book is that I became very interested in Jim Prideaux, then had to shift gears to Smiley. Eventually, I got into the Smiley stuff, but at first, I just kept waiting for Prideaux to come back, and he didn't for a good long while. The way Le Carre describes the "secret world" of intelligence work is just incomparable. The details, the jargon (which, in the introduction, he reveals he mostly made up! Incredible!), it's so engrossing, I can't think of a reading experience that approximates it. Except maybe porn. My personal favorite scene in the story is when Peter Guillam steals the Operation Testify file from the Circus archives. That the archives of Britain's intelligence service are located on a street of shops, next to a coffee shop, and marked as a teacher's entrance for a school or something like that. Not guarded, in the traditional sense, no big barriers around it. Just a door that you'd never notice. Unless of course you'd been told to notice it. That's the essence of Le Carre, and precisely what makes this book so damn great.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Lewis Weinstein

    UPDATE 1-18-18 ... For espionage thrillers, this is as good as it gets. The setting is the Cold War, and both the Britain and Russia are tired but still engaging in lethal combat by spy. One central theme that I did not appreciate before this re-read is that the primary conflict, even when Le Carre tells the story from a British POV, is not between British spies and the Russians, but between Russia and America, with British spies taking sides, not always as expected. The conflict between persona UPDATE 1-18-18 ... For espionage thrillers, this is as good as it gets. The setting is the Cold War, and both the Britain and Russia are tired but still engaging in lethal combat by spy. One central theme that I did not appreciate before this re-read is that the primary conflict, even when Le Carre tells the story from a British POV, is not between British spies and the Russians, but between Russia and America, with British spies taking sides, not always as expected. The conflict between personal and patriotic motives plays out dramatically in each of the major characters. I can't close without a word of pity for poor Smiley, whose wife has apparently become a promiscuous tramp. Was this transition described in one of the other Smiley books? In any case, it is extraordinary for the lead character to suffer this fate. UPDATE 12-25-17 ... reading again ... for my course at Oxford this summer ... British spies in fact and fiction ... there is always something new in this magnificent book I just re-read this after many years. It is still terrific. I think everything I can think of to say has already been said in the many fine reviews others have already offered.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Ted

    I remember that when I read this (and the other Karla novels) years ago, I ripped through them to the detriment of my understanding of all the twists and turns of the plot. So although I enjoyed them immensely, when I was all finished (and even during the reading) I felt confused about what story le Carre had actually told. So a couple years ago I watched (Netflix) the BBC adaptation of the books with Alec Guinness. Again, I enjoyed it no end, but while the 7 hour condensation of the story had to I remember that when I read this (and the other Karla novels) years ago, I ripped through them to the detriment of my understanding of all the twists and turns of the plot. So although I enjoyed them immensely, when I was all finished (and even during the reading) I felt confused about what story le Carre had actually told. So a couple years ago I watched (Netflix) the BBC adaptation of the books with Alec Guinness. Again, I enjoyed it no end, but while the 7 hour condensation of the story had to have a much simplified plot, I again felt (during and after) that I wasn't fully comprehending the story. These experiences I think say something about the problems I have always had with short term memory. I am left with the question, do I read the books again, with extra attention, or note-taking, or whatever, to see if I can finally comprehend the entire magnificent labyrinth that le Carre has constructed in these books? I would love to, but life is short, especially at my age. It's hard not to conclude that time would be better spent (even more enjoyably?) reading things that I've never read, or rereading some of the books that I have both enjoyed as much as the Karla novels, and been able to get more out of. (See my favs-read-more-than-once shelf.) This is, after all, a spy novel, not War and Peace (never read now read!) or Anna Karenina or Crime and Punishment (both read at least twice). . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Previous review: The Roman Empire VSI Random review: Nietzsche: Philosopher, Psychologist, Antichrist Next review: The Black Swan Previous library review: The Pebble Chance Marius Kociejowski Next library review: Cloud Atlas

  15. 5 out of 5

    Derrick

    Oft billed as the "anti-Ian Flemming," John Le Carre inverts all the typical trappings of the spy-thriller: in place of the handsome, gadget-happy g-man we're given a sacked, middle-aged cuckold whose attention to detail and intellectual virtuosity quietly derail Moscow Central's invisible vise-grip on the Circus. Note that "quietly," as the tension here is all cerebral, the violence and spectacle off-stage, and the stakes themselves, though no less dire than the fate of the world, are entirely i Oft billed as the "anti-Ian Flemming," John Le Carre inverts all the typical trappings of the spy-thriller: in place of the handsome, gadget-happy g-man we're given a sacked, middle-aged cuckold whose attention to detail and intellectual virtuosity quietly derail Moscow Central's invisible vise-grip on the Circus. Note that "quietly," as the tension here is all cerebral, the violence and spectacle off-stage, and the stakes themselves, though no less dire than the fate of the world, are entirely ideological. The Cold War assurance of mutual destruction provides the British imagination with a field of conflict perfectly tailored to the restriction of overt or "hot" action (Smiley's also impotent), which is then carefully sublimated through elaborately mannered, gentlemanly games of intelligence and subterfuge. Himself a former blown secret agent for MI6, Le Carre writes with all the authority and flare one would expect from a once genuine article, though without all the lurid technical gun-fetishism of a Tom Clancy or Ian Flemming. A great deal of the prose is composed of contextually self-evident turns of phrase that seems to have bucked a number of readers at this site--while not jargon, this writing style suggests a world behind the world more interested in demonstrating, rather than explaining, itself.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Sara

    ”I like you to have doubts,” he said. “It tells me where you stand. But don’t make a cult of them or you’ll be a bore.” Impossible to think how anyone could live the life of one of John le Carre’s cold war spies and not be assaulted by doubt day and night. Still, they must all be entertaining just the right amount, because none of these characters is a bore. Nobody does spy thriller quite as well as John le Carre, and Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy is John le Carre at his best. Of course, there a ”I like you to have doubts,” he said. “It tells me where you stand. But don’t make a cult of them or you’ll be a bore.” Impossible to think how anyone could live the life of one of John le Carre’s cold war spies and not be assaulted by doubt day and night. Still, they must all be entertaining just the right amount, because none of these characters is a bore. Nobody does spy thriller quite as well as John le Carre, and Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy is John le Carre at his best. Of course, there are the usual elements of a spy novel. The Russians are pitted against the Western world and, in this particular case, there is a mole within the Circus that is wreaking havoc on the entire system. Although he has been ousted from the service, George Smiley is called in to sort through the detritus and unravel the gordian knot, and the strands seem to run in all directions right up to the end. Ah, but there is so much more than that. George Smiley is such a unique character. Like Sherlock Holmes, he has a personae all his own; unlike Holmes, he is an unassuming, all too human, observer of humanity. While most people, particularly those at the Circus, are scrambling to reach the top and be in control, Smiley seems to accept the role of power thrust upon him rather reluctantly. He was aware of a modest sense of approaching conquest. He had been driven a long way, he had sailed backwards and forwards. Tomorrow, if he was lucky, he might spot land; a peaceful little desert island, for instance. Somewhere Karla had never heard of. Just for him and Ann. I believe it makes him more likeable that his dreams are as unlikely to come true as any we might dream ourselves. He sees into the hearts of other people, a deft listener who understands what is going on beneath the surface; but he is often blind to himself, and aren’t we all. This is a novel about spies, but it is also a novel about intrigue, friendship, deception, idol worship, and betrayal. Betrayal in all its forms, betrayal of country, of friendship, of love, of innocence, and of trust. Perhaps men in this line of work should not expect better, but we come to understand that these men are the “lovely boys” who came into this darkness after fighting a war on the side of morality and when still charged with the ideals of that war and their youth. The men they become bear almost no resemblance to the boys they were, and the reality of what they have become is heartbreaking. This was not my first reading of this remarkable book, and I find it lost none of its luster during all those years it was collecting dust on my bookshelf.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Laure

    Just one of those perfect books.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Megan Baxter

    It was a great synchronicity that this popped up on one of my reading lists right now, as one of my gaming groups is about to embark on a game of Cold City, set in post-War Berlin, playing representatives of different countries in BPRD-like surroundings. Note: The rest of this review has been withdrawn due to the changes in Goodreads policy and enforcement. You can read why I came to this decision here. In the meantime, you can read the entire review at Smorgasbook

  19. 5 out of 5

    Michael

    How amazing--a spy novel where virtually nothing happens, and yet it's compelling and suspenseful nonetheless. It's really a testament to le Carre's writing that he pulls this off. A wonderfully cerebral work.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Whispering Stories

    Book Reviewed by Stacey on www.whisperingstories.com This is the first John Le Carré book that I have ever read. When I mentioned it to a few people that I would be reading it they all said the same thing, ‘it is a great book to get me introduced to the author’s work’. I will admit that I know of the book and that a few years ago there was a BBC adaptation of it and a recent movie. Alas, I have seen none, so apart from the synopsis and little snippets people were telling me, I knew nothing about Book Reviewed by Stacey on www.whisperingstories.com This is the first John Le Carré book that I have ever read. When I mentioned it to a few people that I would be reading it they all said the same thing, ‘it is a great book to get me introduced to the author’s work’. I will admit that I know of the book and that a few years ago there was a BBC adaptation of it and a recent movie. Alas, I have seen none, so apart from the synopsis and little snippets people were telling me, I knew nothing about the book. My first impressions of Le Carré’s work is how rich in vocabulary it is, you can certainly tell it was written a few decades ago from the carefully chosen descriptive words. Whilst this is a spy story set during the Cold War, there is no James Bond bling to it. George Smiley is a fascinating character. He has been brought back from retirement (this is the fifth George Smiley book), and give the task of searching for a mole high up in the ranks of the MI6. As well as George there is a vast array of characters, too many to mention and at times I did feel a little confused as to who was who. This is most definitely a book you need to concentrate on. It did take me a while to read and at times I re-read pages just to make sure I had the story straight. I feel this is more down to the fact I rarely read older books, so the language and the tone took some getting used to. Overall I found the book absorbing. I was expecting the plot to jump right into the thick of it, so I was a little confused by the opening scenes in a school, but everything came together nicely. I have now been compelled to read more by John Le Carré, including ‘The Little Drummer Girl’, though I might watch the BBC adaptation coming soon first this time.

  21. 5 out of 5

    El

    Apparently I'm turning into a really shitty reader. This is the first Le Carré I've read, and whatever, I think I expected a little more James Bond than, well, George Smiley - a name which every single time was mentioned (which was quite a lot) always made me think of his muppet-brother, Guy Smiley. Picturing George as a human and not a muppet made the reading more difficult than I had intended. (See first note about becoming a really shitty reader.) And in my current mood I wanted some violence. Apparently I'm turning into a really shitty reader. This is the first Le Carré I've read, and whatever, I think I expected a little more James Bond than, well, George Smiley - a name which every single time was mentioned (which was quite a lot) always made me think of his muppet-brother, Guy Smiley. Picturing George as a human and not a muppet made the reading more difficult than I had intended. (See first note about becoming a really shitty reader.) And in my current mood I wanted some violence. And by "violence" I mean some freaking action. Car chases, sword-play, maybe some poison or something. In other words, I wanted a story that went somewhere. This is not that book. What this book has is puzzles! Which is all fine and dandy, but gracious, if I was in the mood for puzzles I'd pull out my crosswords. The one time in my life I'm not in the mood to figure out a puzzle and this is the book I choose to read. Sorry, Mr. Le Carré, don't take it personally. I'm not ashamed to say that I read this primarily because there's a new movie version out with my celebrity sugar-daddy in it, Gary Oldman. He's decidedly not at all a muppet, and I have to say that the previews look pretty exciting. But that's Hollywood for you. This is a worthless review. Whatever, you should read it, I'm sure you'll like it. I for one am still excited to see the movie. If the first half of the movie is as slow as the first half of the book, though, I'll require extra popcorn to make up for it. Note: I'm including this on my Eastern-Central-European-Lit shelf because of all the talky-talk of Prague, the land of my people. Actually that made me just bump this book up to a 3-star read.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Ryan

    Veterans of Britain's secret service refer to MI6 as the Circus, and when Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy opens, our hero George Smiley has been kicked out of the show. So Smiley has not retired with dignity, but rather has been ousted for backing a jaded horse. The head of Circus, a spy so skilled that people only knew him as "Control," went out in a blaze of tragedy, and Smiley's career was one of the casualties. Unknown to most, Control was trying to find a mole. He failed and the Circus has been re Veterans of Britain's secret service refer to MI6 as the Circus, and when Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy opens, our hero George Smiley has been kicked out of the show. So Smiley has not retired with dignity, but rather has been ousted for backing a jaded horse. The head of Circus, a spy so skilled that people only knew him as "Control," went out in a blaze of tragedy, and Smiley's career was one of the casualties. Unknown to most, Control was trying to find a mole. He failed and the Circus has been reorganized. Now, however, one of the Circus's spies surfaces with a suspicious tale of betrayal. In Hong Kong, he has heard rumors of a mole placed right at the top of the Circus. So who watches the watchmen? George Smiley does. As far as spies go, George Smiley is as far removed from James Bond and Jason Bourne as we can imagine. For one thing, George is over the hill. For another, George's wife, Ann, has cheated on him many times. In fact, one character that slept with Ann explains that he just joined the "queue." George Smiley is a man whose most distinguishing feature may well be his glasses. Which is another way of saying that we're invited to consider what's going on inside of Smiley's head -- and he's a master spy, so consider carefully. I quite like the way that le Carre illustrates Smiley's inner world. One early description of Smiley, who is struggling not to rot in his retirement, caught my eye: He would set up as a mild eccentric, discursive, withdrawn, but possessing one or two lovable habits such as muttering to himself while he bumbled along pavements. Out of date, perhaps, but who wasn’t these days? Out of date, but loyal to his own time. At a certain moment, after all, every man chooses: will he go forward, will he go back? There was nothing dishonorable in not being blown about by every little modern wind. Better to have worth, to entrench, to be an oak of one’s own generation Well said, though this is a message that 21st century readers might struggle to understand. "'Not being blown about by every little modern wind?' Huh?" In many ways, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy has the feel of a novel that was written in a past age. Its atmosphere is dominated by the bitter paranoia of the Cold War, spies rely on tapes with tape in them to record incriminating evidence, and files are made out of printed paper that was typed by a human being using a typewriter. This is a world in which the English Empire still exists within the living memory of England's citizens, as opposed to dusty archives of post-colonial libraries. Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy is not a novel for readers seeking the action-adventurer. Instead, this is a book for readers interested in an unusual spy novel. Le Carre discusses aging, betrayal, and resilience, as opposed to coming of age, vengeance, and persistence.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Wanda

    ***2018 Summer of Spies*** Well, you couldn’t get much further away from the playboy-spy image than this, could you? George Smiley, the chubby everyman who’s always polishing his glasses, is the antithesis of James Bond. Rather than Miss Moneypenny, there’s a whole department of women known as “the mothers.” And instead of posh casinos, George spends a lot of time in a run-down hotel, reading swathes of paper files. This is spy work done through the archives, searching for patterns in the paperw ***2018 Summer of Spies*** Well, you couldn’t get much further away from the playboy-spy image than this, could you? George Smiley, the chubby everyman who’s always polishing his glasses, is the antithesis of James Bond. Rather than Miss Moneypenny, there’s a whole department of women known as “the mothers.” And instead of posh casinos, George spends a lot of time in a run-down hotel, reading swathes of paper files. This is spy work done through the archives, searching for patterns in the paperwork, and through careful interviews with those who have been betrayed and/or let go. We have hints that Smiley had his daring days when he was younger, but he’s now a middle-aged man using his intellect instead of his muscles, carefully piecing together the story. Sometimes he learns as much from what’s not said as from what is said. Plus, he’s reinvigorating his career—sacked because he sided with the wrong person (Control), he is getting his place in the biz back by figuring out which high-level Intelligence man is their Russian mole. Double agents, backstabbing, and betrayal. What more can you ask for in a novel?

  24. 5 out of 5

    Kate

    First off, I understand that Tinker Tailor is a spy novel, and that Le Carre obviously wanted to achieve a certain effect appropriate to the genre, and to keep everything "realistic." But it was jargon-y to a fault, and in keeping its audience as in the dark as its protagonist, it succeeded too well. Furthermore, its characters never spoke the way they were described - it was always "'could you pass the tea please, that's a boy,' he shouted furiously." And about 95% of the book is written in past First off, I understand that Tinker Tailor is a spy novel, and that Le Carre obviously wanted to achieve a certain effect appropriate to the genre, and to keep everything "realistic." But it was jargon-y to a fault, and in keeping its audience as in the dark as its protagonist, it succeeded too well. Furthermore, its characters never spoke the way they were described - it was always "'could you pass the tea please, that's a boy,' he shouted furiously." And about 95% of the book is written in past perfect tense, which I had had (!) about enough of after two chapters. So someone needs to tell me how the Smiley books got so popular. Are the rest better?

  25. 5 out of 5

    Trevor

    I caught up with a friend a few weeks ago when I had just started this book and he said he had given up on the film and drifted off to sleep as he had completely lost track of what was going on and in the end couldn’t care either way anyway. That was exactly the experience I was having with the book and had thought it was just me. But then, all of a sudden, at about the middle of this one (I imagine just as George was dozing off in the film), the pieces of the jigsaw start dropping into place an I caught up with a friend a few weeks ago when I had just started this book and he said he had given up on the film and drifted off to sleep as he had completely lost track of what was going on and in the end couldn’t care either way anyway. That was exactly the experience I was having with the book and had thought it was just me. But then, all of a sudden, at about the middle of this one (I imagine just as George was dozing off in the film), the pieces of the jigsaw start dropping into place and it all starts making sense. This still isn’t my favourite of his novels (I think maybe The Constant Gardner, Mission Song or Absolute Friends would have to fight it out for that honour – I envisage a three way arm-wrestle), but this was good enough to keep me interested, even though I knew, more or less, how it was going to turn out from about as soon as it started making sense. This is less of a mystery and more of a psychological drama, so knowing who did it doesn’t really matter too much. Not that I’m going to tell you, like. You need to keep your wits about you with this one - and no dozing.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Luca

    I do not think I fully understood this novel. Hence it is not really fair to write about all the things I did not like. On a more positive note, I will be discussing this book in university over the next few weeks, so who knows, perhaps my attitude towards it will change!

  27. 5 out of 5

    Feliks

    For quite some time, this was one of the most amazing successes in the genre of espionage fiction. It reined supreme. The reading public had never seen anything quite like it. Everyone knew John LeCarre was a spy writer and that he was 'rather good'. Everyone--absolutely everyone--was aware of the landmark, the juggernaut which he had already achieved some years previously: 'The Spy Who Came in From the Cold'. But no one --I think--expected him to equal that triumph; no one expected him to follo For quite some time, this was one of the most amazing successes in the genre of espionage fiction. It reined supreme. The reading public had never seen anything quite like it. Everyone knew John LeCarre was a spy writer and that he was 'rather good'. Everyone--absolutely everyone--was aware of the landmark, the juggernaut which he had already achieved some years previously: 'The Spy Who Came in From the Cold'. But no one --I think--expected him to equal that triumph; no one expected him to follow that book with anything else as noteworthy. 'Cold' had made the spy genre newly-impeccable; it brought espionage fiction up to the caliber of any fiction being written anywhere in the British-speaking world. It was a tremendous feat. And then there were a few years which went by... and then LeCarre comes up with this amazing book. Most people were probably only vaguely aware that his books were a continuing series; with an established set of re-appearing characters. But they really didn't know what this meant; they really didn't know what LeCarre was truly capable of until this title hit the market; and then everyone got it. It suddenly became clear really, what a spy novel could do; what a spy novel could encompass. LeCarre--in really a masterful, quiet, devoted manner--really crafted something special here. For the first time (I believe) readers were treated to something quite new. 'Tinker, Tailor' continues the dramatic arc of a narrative premise which LeCarre started writing more than 10 years prior; when he created the 'George Smiley' hero; when he created some of the other figures in his fictional world of British espionage services. The plot of 'Tinker' reaches backwards in time and brings those characters forward...and really, this is the heart of LeCarre's technique. For, LeCarre's characters are 'just-like-us'; in that their lives span out across events and histories. Each 'Tinker' character has a rich interior life, extending backwards into the past, fanning out behind them. The novel wends its way among a jumble of poignant little mnemonic fragments which is tied to each figure drawn by LeCarre; fragments maybe mentioned only briefly in a completely previous LeCarre work, from years ago. Half-remembered allusions; scraps of near-forgotten admissions or confessions, confidences: this is how the Smiley-book plots must always resolve themselves. Never with a daring escape or assassination; always by 'reflection'. Ultimately, all LeCarre books are based on a trail of breadcrumbs dropped from the previous sequence of ...all his previous books. LeCarre makes new use of these crusts with every new outing. They become the caked, muddy foreground for each new mystery which Smiley must solve, as he must do here in 'Tinker'. So--for the reader--there's this wonderful redolence from seeing faintly-familiar names re-mentioned; hearing characters discuss their old history with each other. This is just as it happens in real life, and in real relationships. LeCarre-characters have palpable memories; they are always 'reaching back'; re-tracing their steps; re-playing past decisions and accidents and turning-points and gestures from LeCarre books which you last read perhaps five years earlier . Really, by the time 'Tinker' was released, reading leCarre novels had become a kind of 'collaborative pursuit' that each reader participated in alongside LeCarre and Smiley--a sort of investment on a personal level--purely from having read all those previous LeCarre romps. No other genre-author had the creativity to provide this sense of 'shared history' for readers; the built-up residuum of life which leCarre's introspective hero--George Smiley--must sift through as he goes about his discouraging investigatory task. Smiley must research the history of his friendships in this yarn; all his colleagues; his marriage; his friends. Basically, there is a Soviet mole in his department--the most devious mole ever--and it must be discovered whom--and the only way to do it, is with Smiley's particular brand of soul-searching. The materiele for that introspection is what we know well and care about fondly (if we've been reading Le Carre at all). George Smiley is an old friend, almost 'family'. We join in Smiley's urgent, private hunt for that suspected, hidden figure, the alleged burrower who--if he exists--has manipulated Smiley's life and his career for years. As Smiley burns; we burn. So, we enter into the 'Tinker' plot with an eagerness such as few stories of any kind in modern British lit, can invoke. For--when Smiley catches his enemy--he will solve in one stroke both a national problem and a personal problem. Smiley has been wounded on two levels by this mystery-figure (both 'officially' and 'inwardly'). ['Tinker' thus reminds us of one reason why espionage-fiction is the most literary of any genre. It reflects our concerns for our outward, external, social institutions and also treats the needs of our inward self; the psychology of the isolated citizen. In this way, LeCarre's writing is somewhat heir to fiction like that of Dostoevsky: he deals with 'man vs man' and also, 'man vs state'.] Back to my discourse: the 'inward' character-mining technique of LeCarre's came out previously in "Cold". The trial of poor Alec Leamas in East Germany hinged on a scrap of circumstance mentioned one installment earlier in 'Call for the Dead'--the cryptic 'business trip' by Hans-Dieter Mundt. But here, in 'Tinker' this 'back-pedaling of memory' is exercised even more vigorously. Why are leCarre plots always recounted via retrospect? Because the elusive quarry is never 'one of them'. Smiley realizes (to his grief) that the man is 'one of us'. He's not some wily, slippery, dirty foreigner in some distant land which our agents must go out and destroy in 'James Bond'-fashion. Indeed not. The evildoer, the enemy, the culprit in 'Tinker' is ..one of the members of our own establishment. And in order to unmask that infiltrator, Smiley has to ruminate upon whole swathes of British culture and society. [In a sense, this is why any 'agency mole' story is so rewarding. It forces (as no other genre trope does) a session of self-study; forces you to gaze at your own society to spot all the covered-up falsehoods.] Perhaps only in Dickens' novels do impassioned characters and their schemes cross lengthy intervals and lifetimes--do such 'feeling' agendas appear. LeCarre's semi-Dickensian technique radiated a new depth to the traditional spy story in a way that pays faith entirely to itself--to LeCarre himself (as an author, a citizen, and a man) and to his genre of choice. The resulting novel is a savory reading experience which satisfies fully well on its own, but--as a further laurel to the career of the man who had just written, 'In from the Cold'--well, its really just astounding. In two swift strokes, John LeCarre gave us the definitive 'defector' novel and the definitive 'mole' novel. Think about how singular that is; and understand why no one can touch LeCarre in his chosen genre.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Nigeyb

    I've wanted to read the George Smiley books since watching the BBC adaptation of 'Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy' back in the 1970s. I subsequently loved the 2011 film adaptation directed by Tomas Alfredson, which I saw in the cinema, and rewatched a few weeks ago. Everything I had heard about the source material suggested joy and wonder would await and, so far, I’m pleased to report, that’s exactly what I have found. I have read the series, up until 'Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy', in quick success I've wanted to read the George Smiley books since watching the BBC adaptation of 'Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy' back in the 1970s. I subsequently loved the 2011 film adaptation directed by Tomas Alfredson, which I saw in the cinema, and rewatched a few weeks ago. Everything I had heard about the source material suggested joy and wonder would await and, so far, I’m pleased to report, that’s exactly what I have found. I have read the series, up until 'Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy', in quick succession… 'Call for the Dead' (1961) A really intelligent, beautifully written novel, and a great introduction to the Smiley books. 'A Murder of Quality' (1962) Beautifully written and expertly plotted, it also takes a razor sharp scalpel to snobbery and the British class system, and has a pleasingly authentic and complex psychological dimension. 'The Spy Who Came In from the Cold' (1963) Treats the reader as sharp witted and bright enough to keep up. It is magnificent. Beautifully and economically written, and dealing in politics, intrigue and what it is to be human. A bold claim, but all life is here. It’s dark, very dark, but quite brilliant too. 'The Looking Glass War' (1965) John le Carré lays bare snobbery, vanity, a sense of denial and delusion, repressed emotions, faded dreams, and incompetence. It's often hard to read, but remains grimly compelling throughout. It’s exactly what John le Carré set out to write: a more truthful novel that captured the internal politics, the little Englander mentality, and the complacency of the mid-1960s UK intelligence service. And thus to 'Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy' (1974)…. Smiley has a habit of being dragged out of retirement, and so it is here, where the possibility of a long term Russian spy has emerged once more, and the list of suspects has been narrowed down to four wise men, each with a code name culled from a nursery rhyme: Percy Alleline (Tinker); Bill Haydon (Tailor); Roy Bland (Soldier); and Toby Esterhase (Poorman). Being John le Carré, the hunt is ponderous and methodical, frequently conducted via old files and archives, with Smiley’s most energetic act being to polish his spectacles on his tie, but - as with the other books - this is the essence of the book’s appeal. This early description can only be our man... "Small, podgy and at best middle-aged, he was by appearance one of London’s meek who do not inherit the earth. His legs were short, his gait anything but agile, his dress costly, ill-fitting and extremely wet." Smiley's careful, thorough, cerebral, unrelenting methods and finely honed powers of deduction, cut through a complex and intriguing plot to skewer the traitor. And all this despite personal humiliations involving his feckless but beloved wife, and that his employers have, as so often before, shunted him out because of their failure to see his true worth. Needless to say Karla, his nemesis in the East German intelligence service, is only too aware of Smiley’s unique qualities. This book is a joy from start to finish. A complete masterpiece and my favourite in the series to far. It is also the first of the Karla Trilogy. I cannot wait to read the rest of the series. 5/5 Next up, 'The Honourable Schoolboy' (1977)

  29. 4 out of 5

    Bob Mayer

    A master at work. This isn't Jason Bourne and super-human (and impossible) feats of daring-do and shooting, chasing, etc. This is the way the real covert world plays out. A chess game years in the making and playing. One of the first things we did in Isolation, after the briefing team left, was ask: what if they're lying to us? What if the mission is really something they're not telling us? Perhaps we're a diversion? Who knows? The movie was also superb. I like where the writer doesn't stop to exp A master at work. This isn't Jason Bourne and super-human (and impossible) feats of daring-do and shooting, chasing, etc. This is the way the real covert world plays out. A chess game years in the making and playing. One of the first things we did in Isolation, after the briefing team left, was ask: what if they're lying to us? What if the mission is really something they're not telling us? Perhaps we're a diversion? Who knows? The movie was also superb. I like where the writer doesn't stop to explain things for people who don't understand the historical framework. This was the real world and now we have our own version of it. Highly recommended!

  30. 5 out of 5

    gaby

    And thus began what would be a year and a half-long obsession with George Smiley and his British Circus. Having now read every last book in which Smiley is even cursorily mentioned, I can say steadfast that this is Le Carre's masterwork. It is a warm, immersive book. It draws you in like a warm sweater, and keeps you suspended weightless and happy in its alternate world. I literally read this book three times in a row before moving on to the next in the trilogy (The Honourable Schoolboy). It is And thus began what would be a year and a half-long obsession with George Smiley and his British Circus. Having now read every last book in which Smiley is even cursorily mentioned, I can say steadfast that this is Le Carre's masterwork. It is a warm, immersive book. It draws you in like a warm sweater, and keeps you suspended weightless and happy in its alternate world. I literally read this book three times in a row before moving on to the next in the trilogy (The Honourable Schoolboy). It is one of the very few books I know I'll re-read, over and over, for the rest of my life.

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.