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Paperback Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy: A George Smiley Novel Book

ISBN: 0143119788

ISBN13: 9780143119784

Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy: A George Smiley Novel

(Part of the The Karla Trilogy (#1) Series and George Smiley Series)

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Book Overview

From the New York Times bestselling author of A Legacy of Spies . John le Carr 's new novel, Agent Running in the Field , is coming October 2019. The man he knew as "Control" is dead, and the young Turks who forced him out now run the Circus. But George Smiley isn't quite ready for retirement--especially when a pretty, would-be defector surfaces with a shocking accusation: a Soviet mole has penetrated the highest level of British Intelligence. Relying...

Customer Reviews

5 ratings

"I still believe the secret services are the only real expression of a nation's character."

Following in the tradition of Graham Greene, who wrote spy novels contemporaneous with his own, John LeCarre uses his experience in the foreign service and MI6 to add realism to his tales of espionage. Green, however, remained a friend of traitor Kim Philby and continued to send his novels to Philby after Philby defected to Russia. LeCarre was betrayed by Philby to Russian agents, and his career was ended. This betrayal gives added realism to his novels, which show real disillusionment with the system and, sometimes, with its agents and officials. Written in 1974, this novel draws on the real life of "LeCarre" (real name David Cornwell) and many of his associates who were unmasked by Philby and the "Cambridge Five." Here LeCarre creates a vivid and morally probing story in which his hero, George Smiley, is called out of his enforced retirement to unmask a Soviet "mole" high in the British secret service, referred to as "the circus." Five men (as in the real betrayal) have been suspected of aiding the Soviets. Drawing on his friendships with some of the agents who were dismissed when he was, Smiley investigates the security leaks which have led to humiliation for British intelligence and real danger for some of its agents. As he tries to identify the mole, he receives peripheral help from Sir Oliver Lacon of the British Foreign Office. Written in formal and polished prose, the novel is full of Cold War complexities. Karla, the legendary head of Soviet intelligence, continues to control a small group of Soviet "defectors" and "disillusioned" Communists, whom the British mistakenly regard as double agents providing them with secret information. At the same time, British Control (who is never identified by name) is trying to uncover the Soviet mole (nicknamed "Gerald") within their own agency. Jim Prideaux, who appears in several Smiley novels, is working on this operation in Czechoslovakia when he is betrayed and almost killed, his entire operation shut down, and many of his agents executed by the Russians. Smiley's investigations are decidedly prosaic, not the exciting shoot-'em-ups of James Bond novels. Slogging through mountains of paperwork, interviewing reluctant former agents, and doing his own legwork, Smiley works at unmasking Gerald the hard way. The complexity of his character (and of the other characters here) make up for the relative lack of dramatic action and highlight LeCarre's skill at creating intriguing characters who see the "grays" in an otherwise black-and-white world. His dialogue is quick-paced, often witty, and revelatory of subtle character traits, adding to the depth of the portraits and to the intricacies of the world of spy/counterspy. Mary Whipple

Not Free SF Reader

George Smiley is an old spy that is called back to duty to look into a situation at the 'Circus'. The situation is the penetration of double agents into his former employer. A situation obviously reminiscent of, and raking over the coals the Philby, Burgess, MacLean and Blunt years as the highly intelligent Smiley goes after these men.

One of the best realistic spy novels ever

The best aspect of this book is that it is realistic and thrilling at the same time. If you read nonfiction cold war espionage stories, you find that stuff like this actually did happen. Le Carre gives you a look at the actual workings of spycraft and the techniques that were used during the cold war. The book is written from the perspective of several different people in turns, but never from the perspective of the antagonists, so the author doesn't give away what the other side is doing until the protagonists themselves find out. Even though it is a third-person narrative approach, it mainly sticks with a couple characters (Guillam and Smiley), and the author doesn't actually reveal the thoughts of any characters except Guillam and Smiley. Even though I also gave Absolute Friends 5 stars, this book is a little bit better, mainly because in Tinker Tailor the solutions to all the puzzles (or most of them anyway) are satisfactorily revealed in the end, and the ending is not excessivley clever, which is a weakness of many thriller novels (including Absolute Friends and The Spy Who Came in From the Cold). Be warned, however: the story is complicated, and Le Carre does not explain everything for you. You are expected to make a lot of inferences. It can be fun to have to work at understanding what is going on, but if you are the type of person who doesn't like to have to turn back the pages frequently to try to make sense of the story, this may not be for you. It is the kind of book you have to read slowly. There are so many characters to keep track of that you might even need to take some notes, especially if you are going to put the book down for a while before coming back to it. Never fear, however: your hard work will not be in vain. The puzzles are actually worth the effort. One thing that was sometimes unnecessarily frustrating was Le Carre's use of terminology that would be familiar to spies (and to devoted fans of espionage literature) but which is not known to most lay-people--especially those who are not British. For the most part, you can figure out what these terms mean from the context, but it would have been nice to have a glossary of British spy jargon or something. Suggestions for other books: If you want a more modern espionage/mystery novel, try The Prisoner of Guantanamo by Fesperman, which has the same high quality and realism as le Carre's books. Barry Eisler is good if you are looking for an author who leans slightly more towards action and thrills, but not so much that it is unbelievable. (although they may be slightly less realistic, his books are still quite plausible).

Best ever

I had to read this book for a class I took called Espionage Folklore. Plus I had to do a 25 minute oral presentation on the moral and ethical implications of it on the actual spy world. You would think after this I would never want to see this book again. But, all I wanted to do was read this book again to see what I missed or overlooked. Great book.

Excellent low-key spy novel - quite different from James Bon

Here's one attempt at a book review of Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, which I consider is a classic in its own way.The arrival of a schoolmaster at a remote English boarding school is the unlikely beginning of a master spy-story. If the reader has perused the dust jacket, he is left wondering where the connection is. A bit boring in the beginning, the start of the novel is far from spectacular. Characters unfold almost as an aside. Connections are not evident. When the hero of the novel, George Smiley makes his entrance it is almost as an afterthought.Far unlike Ian Flemming with his techno-laden James Bond licensed to kill, Le Carre's George Smiley is a prosaic, pedantic, lugubrious, painstaking, ordinary mortal with an orderly mind. He is a hero like no other. Not for him the flashy glamour of the spy world popularized by Alistair McLean, Ian Flemming, and others of their ilk. Smiley's heroism lies in this mediocre methodic brilliance. And in his prodigious memory.Cast away from the "circus", he is called in from retirement to trap a mole high up in the secret service. His fall from grace is more a reflection of the times than his inherent worth. As the bureaucratic battles yield new order in the ranks of service, Smiley, of the old order, is viewed with suspicion and forced into retirement. But much as the irrepressible James Bond could not be done away by his numerous enemies, Smiley's brilliance cannot be dispensed with by the Service. At a time when no one in the service can be trusted, when it is painfully obvious that one amongst the trusted four is a mole, Smiley is called in for his analysis. Nowhere is it stated that Smiley is brilliant. Nor does he appear to have any special skills. It is almost as an apology that he is called in to clean up the mess in the circus. He is given no special powers to search and detain. His character is an epitome of the British understatement.Yet, as the story unfolds, it is evident that Smiley is far from ordinary. Even more extraordinary than his subtly demonstrated analytical skills, is his reluctant human skills. He reaches out into his past. He cajoles his colleagues to share information. Without overt official sanction, his interrogative style is almost an apology. This queries are excruciatingly painstaking and pedantic. His tone is lugubrious and half-sleepy. His attention to detail is phenomenal. His inferences from interrogation is unexplained. The character of Smiley is an exquisite painting. Smiley appears to be more of an academic than a spy - more at home in the musty libraries than trysting with elite's from the Whitehall. His demeanor suggests a frumpy civil-servant rather than a spy-master. He can be readily pictured as a short, cherubic, owlish, diffident man with a marked disdain for the finer things in life. As he shuffles along the morose London streets, there is nothing to distinguish him from the multitude of middle-aged men beaten by Life. His

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