Saturday, 18 August 2012

Review: Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy - John le Carré


It’s been three months since I read this book and I’m no wiser today than I was then. I don’t know what to say about a book I loved. I don’t know how to convey… the it factor. 

If you haven’t heard of John le Carré, you’ve been living under a rock, much like I was before May of this year. Well, let’s say before May of last year, because the film was coming out and the actors… well. I have thing.

You’ve read the blurb, seen the film, or the previous adaptation, and you have an idea of the plot. You know there are spies and there are moles. You know that a veteran spy is given the task to find a mole amongst friends and possibly clear himself as a suspect. And you know that the veteran spy is George Smiley.

What you don’t know is that this is a slow book. This is all about paperwork, talking to other people, collecting data, and piecing the clues together. There aren’t any explosions or high speed car chases. There are guns, bullets, and gun fights but they’re not glamorous. 

This book is about mind games.

What you realise as soon as you pick up the book, whether it be a translation or not, is that le Carré’s writing style either speaks to you or it doesn’t. It’s simple, it’s precise. It focuses on the actions rather than descriptions, but there is description too. 

Since finishing Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, I’ve read several other le Carré’s novels and I’ve enjoyed them all. None as much as this one, but the writing, it speaks to me. Even through the translations, it speaks to me. 



Translation: Finnish
     Suom: Eero Mänttäri
            Series: George Smiley #5
           Pages: 308 (paperback) 
Publisher:         Tammi
           ISBN: 9789513163525
               Published: 2012 (orig. 1974) 
Source: Bought

A modern classic in which John le Carré expertly creates a total vision of a secret world, Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy begins George Smiley's chess match of wills and wits with Karla, his Soviet counterpart.
It is now beyond a doubt that a mole, implanted decades ago by Moscow Centre, has burrowed his way into the highest echelons of British Intelligence. His treachery has already blown some of its most vital operations and its best networks. It is clear that the double agent is one of its own kind. But which one? George Smiley is assigned to identify him. And once identified, the traitor must be destroyed.

26 comments:

  1. It sounds like this book lives up to its hype.

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    1. It's definitely the best le Carré novel I've read and I've read several this summer. I think Anachronist reviewed the book too and though she liked it less than I did, she liked it too:

      http://booksasportablepiecesofthought.blogspot.fi/2012/06/review-tinker-tailor-soldier-spy-by.html

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  2. I live under a rock, I really do. Haven't heard of this book, author or movie before. Oops. :) But, now I know! :)

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    1. Don't feel too bad. I remember watching The Tailor of Panama and completely blacking out on the fact that it was based on a le Carré novel. Also, it's way too easy to walk past a man who has his own shelf for his books in my local library.

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  3. I don't think I know this one but I'm curious about the movie, I think I'll try this one before.

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    1. I liked the new film too, just not as much as the book.

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  4. peeking out from my rock..LOL Sounds like a good read :)

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    1. It is. I'm thinking of this one as my palate cleanser now.

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  5. Sometimes a books is is so good you just can't put your finger on all the great stuff. Sounds like one I need to read!

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    1. Or I simply suck at oohing and aahing and wouldn't recognise a proper squee review if I walked into one.

      For me, the fascination with le Carré's work is less about what he writes than about than how he writes it. He focuses on the action--by which I mean how someone reacts to the news or behaves under interrogation rather than chasing down a runner on the street or shooting at everything until the birds fall from the trees. He uses descriptions sparsely and doesn't feel the need to underline + highlight + hit the reader on the head with a sledgehammer to get the point across.

      I love it when an author doesn't underestimate their readers.

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  6. SOunds intriguing the mind games. Love it when I connect with a book and feel like it speaks to me.
    Brandi from Blkosiner’s Book Blog

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    1. It was wit and boring paperwork that won the day here, and I loved every moment of it.

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  7. Sounds very good, I had no idea this was a book, I saw the film previews.

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    1. I've started to pay attention to the credits more just to pick up books to read, though, I don't really need to do that anymore. I have more than enough books on my list already.

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  8. eh, I may have to pass this one up. I will probably not even watch the movie. lol. great review though!

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    1. Thanks. It's not for everyone.

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  9. it's so difficult to write a review so long after you've read a book!

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    1. It's difficult to write a review for a book I loved at any time, full stop. When I fall head over heels in love with a book I tend to forget or ignore their quirks and faults and completely forget to properly critique the thing.

      The review above, is a prime example of that.

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  10. I can see why it's difficult for you to review a book you loved - I often have the same trouble. I am so glad that you did enjoy this one though! I do want to read this, but it's not my usual type of book. I will have to check it out soon, though. :)

    Steph @ SteppingOutOfThePage.co.uk

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    1. It's definitely the best le Carré novel I've read and old enough to be in the library, I should hope. Should make your experimenting a little easier.

      I hope you like it.

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  11. I am curious about this one, because I had heard of the author, but not read any of his work. Thanks for the tip about the writing. Good to know. Excellent review.

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    1. Thank you.

      The writing is so different from what I've been reading lately that in a way it jumped out at me more than anything else. I realise it's not for everyone but I do like it.

      When I'm done with the George Smiley books, I might try The Constant Gardner and The Tailor of Panama, both of which I've seen as films but have not read the books, yet.

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  12. I haven't seen the movie or read the book. I have heard great things about the movie, though, and I'm glad to see you enjoyed this book as well - I should look into it!

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    1. I actually enjoyed the book more than the film, though I did think that the 2011 film adaptation improved on some elements. In any case, I hope you enjoy it.

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