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John leCarré had the perfect sequel going to Tinker Tailor, but this book fails in keeping the reader riveted thru to the end with way too many intricate details to keep track of, and is about two chapters too long with the amount of sheer world building that he effortlessly does.
'The Honourable Schoolboy' is another brilliant Cold War spy thriller from the great John le Carré. The previous instalments in the George Smiley series were based in Europe, but in this story le Carré goes global, with most of the action being based in the Far East. It is the mid-1970s and the region is in turmoil following the American withdrawal from Vietnam. The central character - the 'honourable schoolboy' of the title - is Jerry Westerby, a locally based journalist who has previously worked as a field operative for the Circus. Although this novel is technically superb, in my opinion it is a little too long and lacks some of the drive and tension of the other books in this series. But it's still a marvellous read.
In my humble opinion this is the best of Le Carre's books. In contrast to one reviewer's comments, I find too much of Smiley can be a bit dreary and therefore as a fair chunk of the book is devoted to Jerry, a fascinating character in his own right, who is operating in a more colourful location than the usually grey European theatre, it appealed to me more than others. A cracking story to boot.
Often with books the plot is confused and the characters are left at a summary level. Le Carre is excellent at drawing you on as the reader, a little twist here and there, slowly winding the tension. There are no clear portraits of good or evil, all the characters are shadowed with their inherent strengths and weaknesses. Your sympathies are halted, you are made to walk the same precarious path of thinking and watch the action, caught in the moment. I for one am grateful as I rarely can read a book without skimming parts....I couldn't with this.
Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy
with me on holidays to Leipzig, and as it blew my socks of I eagerly began 'The Honourable Schoolboy', part 2 of Smiley vs. Karla. Same opponents, lots of characters from 'Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy' reappear, but the setting's different: this time the action shuttles back and forth between London and the Far East, where British Intelligence has unearthed evidence that Moscow Centre has been paying very large amounts into an anonymous bank account.
Smiley is as formidable as in 'Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy': physically unprepossessing (the kind of man you might cross every day of your life and never once notice) but with all his impressive mental faculties focused day and night on being one step ahead of Karla and his agents. And though it's more than 260 pages longer than 'Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy', there isn't a page or word too much in this splendid spy novel. It's spooky also how Le Carré succeeds in writing an entire novel where Karla's presence is constantly felt although he doesn't make a single appearance or utter a single word.
So why only 4 stars instead of the 5 I gave 'Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy'? Well, for one thing: Smiley's less present in this novel, roughly half of the action being set in the Far East where Smiley has sent his agent Jerry Westerby, and though he is a very likeable character and there's plenty of suspense in those chapters as well, I somehow missed Smiley being there. Also, and I guess that is different for people unlike me who were born and bred in England: to me Hong Kong is just one of many cities in the Far East, and since there never was (thankfully) a 'Belgian empire' I can well imagine the action being largely set in the Far East resonates more with British people than it did with me. However, those are just minor quips, and they will not stop me from eagerly diving into
As the 2nd book in a trilogy, it is well written, but with some episodes somewhat protracted- the tracking down of CM and of R. Bearing in mind the feelings/beliefs of Peter Guillemot, the ending was sad but unavoidable. The answer is never to trust your allies. Overall, an essential read in the Karla books, but roll on number 3
...is my experience when reading LeCarre. Wonder in the sense of "ffs! What going on here?", and wonder in its aesthetic, metaphysical sense, "What beautiful writing."
Re the first I've learned what it means to 'trust' a writer. Passages, pages even, have me scratching my head with confusion and...wondering. I know, however, that he'll alleviate the itch a few pages further on and, which I suppose adds 'patience' to some of the requirements necessary when reading masters.
As to the second, my inept knowledge of grammatical terms inhibits any attempt to explain how the beauty contained in his sentences are formed. The ones that stand out are those long 'convoluted' ones where he's walking a tightrope: will he make it? will it be one where I have to re-read to understand, Pauline almost, or to marvel at how he's managed to pull it off with such an extended elegance so-much-so it's re-read just for the pure indulgence of sustaining the wonder.