To calculate the overall star rating and percentage breakdown by star, we don’t use a simple average. Instead, our system considers things like how recent a review is and if the reviewer bought the item on Amazon. It also analyses reviews to verify trustworthiness.
Five stars of course, who would give less. The slow build up is masterful. If you are a Smiley fan, then I'm preaching to the choir, if you are a Le Carre fan I'm preaching to the curate. So only espionage fans who have never read any need my advice. My advice is read it, but read Tink, tailor first.
In the final part of leCarré's Karla trilogy, George Smiley is recalled from his unhappy retirement when one of his former agents suddenly reactivates. The now toothless and politically driven intelligence service wants a quick, clean closure to the case to which they attach little value. Smiley, however, begins an independent investigation; at first out of respect for his old agent but increasingly because he begins to scent his nemesis, the Russian intelligence chief, Karla.
Smiley's People is more similar to Tinker, Tailor than the middle novel, The Honourable Schoolboy. Like the first part of the trilogy, Smiley is firmly in the operational heart of the plot. He travels across Europe following the trail and with his unique, detached insight reconstructs the puzzle.
The `people' of the title are the many returning characters -Connie Sachs, Peter Guillam, Toby Esterhouse- who join Smiley's private army, operating at the very greyest edges of the intelligence community. It is a genuine pleasure to again spend time with all of them, such is leCarré's mastery of their characterisation. If anything elevates leCarré above other thriller writers, it is the literary precision with which he constructs his characters and environments in addition to the byzantine plots. His style is lean, precise but never skimping on detail or humanity.
The novel explores the toll of living in the clandestine world of espionage on the participants. Karla, once a faceless, shadowy bogeyman who lived only for the soviet mission, is humanised but it is that chink in his armour that Smiley pursues. Smiley, meanwhile, casts aside not only the remnants of his `civilian life' but also many of the ideals by which he lived to pursue his one chance to strike directly at his opponent. The reader is left wondering, after all the death and damage, is it worth it for the individuals or the nations they represent?
It can be no accident that the imagery of chess continually appears in this novel. The intelligence chiefs of leCarré's world construct operations like grand masters, thinking a dozen moves ahead, analysing their opponents' strategy and willing to make any sacrifice to preserve their long game. The difference in this novel is that Smiley and Karla are no longer playing at a distance: they are both on the board.
Of course, the ultimate game player is leCarré, who confidently moves his character around a complex and mesmerising plot. He is clearly at home in the western European theatre and revels in bringing the contest between Smiley and Karla to a conclusion in a way that resonates across all of the Smiley novels, not just this trilogy. If there is any criticism at all, it is that perhaps Smiley's people is a little less disciplined and compact than Tinker, Tailor but the result is no less satisfying.
Holiday plans behind the former Iron Curtain sparked my interest in spy-novels, and so I left for Leipzig with
Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy
The Honourable Schoolboy
, and 'Smiley's people' in my luggage. The first two pleased my so immensely I couldn't wait to start reading this one, the final part in the trilogy of George Smiley's battle with the Soviet spymaster Karla. And I'm glad to say the (very) high hopes I had were not disappointed! I even think that 'Smiley's people' is - admittedly by a small margin - perhaps the best of the three in my personal opinion.
First of all, it has, just like the earlier parts in the trilogy, simply everything I've come to expect in a Le Carré novel: brimming with intrigues, ploys and counter-ploys, loads of suspense, a very tight plot that keeps you wandering what'll happen next, brilliant dialogues and characterization, ... But what makes 'Smiley's people' stand out for me is George Smiley himself and how powerfully he is portrayed by Le Carré as perhaps the very opposite of the kind of man we often think of when we think of spies. Smiley's old, slightly overweight, retired, divorced, and in doubt if all he's ever done in his Secret Service career was actually worthwhile. But when a former agent is murdered and the trail leads to Karla, Smiley cannot help but give chase once again, and devote all his experience and intelligence to this final duel. Le Carré describes Smiley's painful private life in such a powerful way that to me this novel is much more a poignant portrait of a man who happens to be a spy, rather than a spy who happens to have personal problems.
Whoever said spy-novels aren't Literature with a capital 'L'?
This is the eighth of the recent BBC radio productions of al John Le Carre's stories featuring master spy George Smiley.
Following the events of `The Honourable Schoolboy', Smiley is now retired. But an old contact is brutally slain, and Smiley is asked by the powers that be to make sure there are no loose ends that could embarrass either the Circus or the British Government. As he trawls through the General's last days and slowly comes to realise just why he was killed, he finds an old adversary at the heart of things, and the opportunity to lay many old ghosts to rest.
Once again this is an admirable bit of writing form Le Carre. Intricately plotted,. With a very real and believable feel. Lacking the glamour of, say, Bond stories, not shing away from the grim and murky realities of life. Smiley lives in a grim and paranoid world, where he cannot trust even those notionally on his own side. The atmosphere is tense and gripping.
As well as the writing, there are a series of fine performances. Simon Russell Beale once again excels as Smiley. His performance is reminiscent of Alec Guinness's, but he manages to put his own stamp quite thoroughly on the role. He shows the ruthlessness of Smiley, along with his regret at doing what has to be done, very convincingly.
The BBC have done a good job at trimming the story down to fit three hours, but without losing too much of the fine detail. I can only compare this to the Guinness TV adaptation, not having read the book, and some detail has been lost but the story is clear and flows well. There is, in addition, a very professional production, with unobtrusive sound effects that nicely help the story and set the scene, but do not detract from the actors performances.
This is an all round excellent production, one which kept m riveted for the duration.
There are three hour long episodes, on three discs in a double size jewel case. There is a limited set of liner notes with cast details and some notes about John Le Carre's career.
Five stars, no hesitation. I also highly recommend all the others in the series to date.
George Smiley is called out of retirement when an old operative called the General is murdered on Hampstead Heath. Initially requested to make sure that there is nothing that could tie the death to the Circus (which now finds itself prone to government whims), Smiley discovers that the General had claimed to have intelligence that could change the game between the west and the Soviet Union and enable him to finally defeat his old enemy, Karla. What follows is Smiley's delicate unravelling of the information that the General had obtained, a journey that will take him from Britain to West Germany, France and Switzerland and which will see him reunite with old colleagues, including Toby Esterhase, Peter Guillam and Saul Enderby.
One of the all-time great spy thrillers, Le Carre effortlessly weaves his storylines together, switching between Smiley's investigations and Madame Ostrakova's innocent trigger of the unfolding events. Smiley is a brilliant character - devoted to the Circus and loyal to the people who worked for him and yet not blind to their faults - a man in control of his emotions and yet unable to control his feelings about his wife Anne and her innumerable affairs. Indeed, Anne's affair with Bill Haydon lingers like a spectre over the events of the book with Smiley remaining unable to forgive her and seeking revenge for Karla's instigation of it.
Written in 1980 and set in the same period, it's fascinating to read of a time before mobile phones and computer technology were prevalent. The spies here rely on their memories and their instincts and luck plays as much a part as hard work.
There are some wonderful scenes in the book as Smiley follows up on old colleagues. His scene with the broken Connie is poignant and touching but there is also room for dark humour, such as his first encounter with the fearful Madame Ostrakova and moments of humanity, such as Smiley's scenes with Tatiana. The tension never eases up for a moment and its given such authenticity that you never question whether this could have happened.
This is a must-read book written by an author in complete control of his subject matter and ability.
Smiley's People is the third story in the John Le Carre George Smiley/Karla trilogy. I've now read the first and third books.
In this book George Smiley (the retired temporary head of MI6) is asked to investigate the death of General Vladimir (a former spy). Vladimir was a former Russian officer who spied for the British year ago, and lived to retire. The problem was that the General was trying to make contact with MI6, after he is contacted by a Russian emigree in France. The question is, why's he calling? Smiley tries to find out.
As the investigation continues, the death of a "stringer spy" (Otto Leipzig) sees Smiley's concerns confirmed, and he and Karla (the head of the Russian "service") do battle to see if Smiley can come out on top in the third stage of their personal duel.
It's not a bad book, but it feels... old. I can see it's well written, but I think it drags a little (and not just because it's set in a time that doesn't exist any more). The book was written in 1978/79, and in the intervening years I think people have got more used to pace in their books.
Smiley's People, was a treat to read. Confusing in places (as you would expect of the author) and devious but engrossing so that I wanted to savour each page. Some books I want to race through but this was one I just wanted to enjoy as a slow read, with a glass of brandy in hand, in front of a log fire (if only).
A good read but a little disappointing when compared to Tinker, Tailor,etc. Almost as if Le Carre has tried to find a slot for all of his characters. This is understandable but they do not all work in the conrext of his story.
WELL, I was motivated to read this after I saw the recent film 'Tinker, tailor, soldier, spy'. It was my first Le Carre, and I enjoyed it immensely. Chock full of spycraft, and though I'm not sure that spies REALLY WERE like this in the Cold War (I suspect they were even more inscrutable), the narrative reflects a world where there are layers upon layers of interpretation, allegiance, and subterfuge. Le Carre is highly skilled at embedding implication in the narrative - we are guessing what's going on in the same way as Smiley et al, and there's a wonderfully dark world-weariness permeating the whole story.
It certainly isn't James Bond; this is an entirely different take on what was (for oldies like me who REMEMBER the Cold War) a time when our 'enemies' were more obvious, their activities more subtle, but who were in many ways just like us.
Le Carre always struck me as old -fashioned, fuddy duddy stuff that my parents would read...but having now read 'the trilogy', wow, how wrong I was...superb. 'Honourable Schoolboy', was a bit dull, not enough Smiley in it, but Smiley's People is awesome.