Cold war capers

29 09 2011

The Spy Who Came in from the Cold by John le Carré

Leamas is tired. It’s the 1960s, he’s been out in the cold for years, spying in Berlin for his British masters, and has seen too many good agents murdered for their troubles. Now Control wants to bring him in at last – but only after one final assignment. He must travel deep into the heart of Communist Germany and betray his country, a job that he will do with his usual cynical professionalism. But when George Smiley tries to help a young woman Leamas has befriended, Leamas’s mission may prove to be the worst thing he could ever have done. In le Carré’s breakthrough work of 1963, the spy story is reborn as a gritty and terrible tale of men who are caught up in politics beyond their imagining.

Very good indeed. Spare, grim and quite compelling. Having never read any le Carré and completely missed the TV adaptations, I thought I’d better try something before going to see the new Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy movie. The only book I can recall coming close to this is the huge and sprawling Harlot’s Ghost by Norman Mailer (which I read around 15 years ago now).

Anyway, highly recommended (although appreciate everyone else has got there before and there aren’t many to recommend it to). Really do want to catch up with the other ones now.

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