Wednesday, 9 May 2012

A Year in Books 2012 - Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy



Forever cemented in my mind as the kind of BBC drama that had my parents hooked and I wasn't allowed to stay up to watch, I'd never read a John Le Carre until a couple of years ago with the Constant Gardener.

With the film on my lovefilm list and a  recent set of re publications in moodily stylish covers I thought maybe it was time to give the Smiley novels a go.

For anyone who hasn't been on the planet last year, the plot sees George Smiley called back out of retirement to try and figure out who is a double agent in the upper echelons of the secret service, being controlled by his nemesis, his Russian equivalent Karla

This is not the brightly coloured glamorous spy world of James Bond. This is a grubby,grey, rain washed world where a false boys club atmosphere hides a life of loneliness and obsession.

The contrast is never more stark than in the fact that rather than spending his time bedding beautiful women, Smiley has to cope not only with his wife's serial unfaithfulness, but also the fact that everyone knows he has been cuckolded by a colleague.

In Smiley, Carre has created a character of quiet dignity and strength and as he gradually moves closer to exposing the mole his core of steel comes to the forefront. The plot is tightly woven although the final exposure is no great shock. However that was never the point. The fact that it could have been any one of the prime suspects says more about the world of misplaced loyalties  and skewed moral compasses than a hundred power hungry super villains.

The novel moves at a leisurely pace which gives each character time to develop, the complex plot time to weave its twists and plenty of time for you to get sucked in.

 I enjoyed it enough to go out and get the other 2 books in the Smiley / Karla trilogy. It is so of a time and a place that in its own way it is as much a historical novel as say recent Booker winner Wolf Hall.

You can buy Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy here

Off to watch the film now 

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