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I think I have now bought and read every novel by John Le Carre. My overall view is that he is an outstandingly good author and I have looked forward to all of his novels, including this one. I cannot quite put my finger on it but I found this novel very difficult to get into. It seemed to wander around aimlessly for some considerable time before coming to an extremely sharp ending very quickly. I found that I had to read the ending twice because I thought I had missed a bit. I cannot fault the nature of the storyline but the whole story seemed to lack grip. So, for me, it was not one of his best novels. Maybe others would think differently but I struggled with it.
This is a great book. I've read it myself, and bought a copy for my brother-in-law for Christmas. However, if you are doing something similar, buy the Penguin edition (which I managed not to spot while placing my order). On the front of this copy - colour red - there's a thing that looks like a sticker, but isn't, which says Special Price. Furthermore, this copy has rather rough yellow looking pages, and doesn't match the current Penguin uniform Le Carre style. I have re-ordered having this time having managed to find the Penguin. But you probably don't want to give a present which says Special Price on the front. It looks as though someone has photographed a hardback front cover which happened to have that sticker on the front.
Friends come and go in your life but on rare occasions there is a special bond between two people, a friendship that lasts over decades. That was how it was with Ted Mundy and Sasah. Mundy I felt was a man who didn’t seem to belong anywhere, like he had no roots that he felt at home with, so when he met Sasah it seemed like he had an anchor, somewhere he could keep returning to and knew who he was. The friendship began in student days where they took part in the normal radical demos in the 1960’s. It was a few years later that the two would meet again. Sasah had discovered about his father’s past that tainted his own life and Ted had married, got a son and was teaching. Sasah was eager to recruit Ted into the world of cold war antics of spying. Sasah was playing both sides as a double agent himself. Quite a chunk of the story is set in Germany, where information is passed back and forth from East to West but even the Berlin Wall can’t keep the pair apart. Sasah in the East and Ted in the West. These are the days of thriving spies, that seemed to be in sheer abundance, at a time not too long after the great war and yet long enough to have built this divide in Germany. It seems that Ted Mundy isn’t always a lucky man to be a round for people who know him. When the wall comes down it leaves Ted and Sasah in a kind of no-man’s land as far as spying goes. With the wall gone Germany had once again united leaving them sort of out of the loop. The story really does make you feel like you are back in time as John le Carré brings it all to life. There is rather a lot of characters in the story, with leaps in time and changing attitudes created by Governments and politicians. I know that the end of the story is a little divided by the how the readers feel. I really liked how it all came together at the end. This is my first book, by this author, but a couple of other titles have piqued my interest. A fascinating story of espionage, friendship and loyalty.
One of the very few books that, as I reached the end, just turned over and started from the beginning. In my opinion, a wonderfully engaged and compassionate novel. Providing essential (and sometimes scolding) information regarding prevailing socio-political attitudes in the last half of the 20th century Europe. Highly recommended!
le Carre was at his best when writing about the Cold War in Europe, his early Smiley novels and the two genuine Carla novels are amongst the best spy novels written, but when he strays into other territory his work is average to mediocre, the abysmal 'The Honourable Schoolboy' being a good example. The two thirds of this novel told in flashback about the Cold War are excellent but the rest of the novel borders on the ludicrous. As usual le Carre's female characters are poorly written, either sluts or harridans, and in Dimitri he creates a deranged Bond villain to match that of 'The Night Manager'.
I have read many of the authors books and this is definitely not one of the best. it brings to mind "the little drummer girl" and could benefit from some serious editing. both books drone on and on without going anywhere. I think this is partly due to the way the author writes, with little research and basically makes this plot up as it goes along. definitely not recommended. "agent running in the field" was much better and is recommended over "absolute friends"
This book came in for a degree of criticism for being the work of a grumpy old man - not quite what the critics said, but that was the drift Speaking as a proud grumpy old man I can see where le carre is coming from - it's really a oh not again perspective I don't entirely agree with his new labour perspective, but that doesn't alter the fact that this is a very well written book and : when was the last time a book made you angry?
Classic Le Carre - superlative writing, wonderful characterisation, engaging plot - so much to read & enjoy. Don’t believe the doom-mongers who say “Boring” - it isn’t. There are no fireworks or even firearms, come to that, but the book builds slowly but surely, fashioning & filling-out the characters as you read & empathise with them, increasing the tension as it heads towards its denouement. Loved it.
In Absolute Friends Le Carré returns to the same formula that has worked in so many of his books, with one distinctive above all - a perfect spy. In this excellent spy thriller, we learn about the relationship between Ted and Sasha (operator-agent as well as friends) through their years old relationship as students, through their cordial correspondence, and at the end through current events. Le Carré is demonstrating the American monopoly over the war on terror, with a blunt disregard to human rights, while he is weaving the long lasting relationship between the two individuals, which survived through the cold war, the iron curtain and the new espionage world. an enjoyable Le Carré that will get a grip over you, until you reach the (somewhat) disappointing conclusion (that prevented me from awarding the book 5 stars)
One of the two friends of the title is Ted Munday, son of a hilariously portrayed major in the ex-Indian, ex-Pakistani army. The Major's disgrace means they have to leave Pakistan; Ted will feel an uncomfortable and vaguely rebellious outsider in England. At school, a teacher of German gives Ted a love for that language. He studies it at Oxford. Sexual attraction draws him, as a politically innocent bourgeois, into a circle of left-wingers in the late 1960s. He decides to do some Germanistic studies in West Berlin, and has an introduction to Sasha, the leader of a radical student commune, who becomes the other friend of the book's title. There are many pages of sardonic but quite affectionate descriptions of the ferocious ideological commitment of these young people. Ted is involved and badly hurt in a student riot, after which the British authorities repatriate him to England.
For the next ten years or so, Ted drifts from country to country, from one unsuccessful employment to another, with memories of the Berlin commune floating in the background. Then at last fortune smiles on him: he gets a job at the British Council; gets promotion; marries; takes a troupe of actors to Eastern Europe - and then at last, about a third into the book, he meets Sasha again, and the hapless and still rather naive Mundy suddenly finds himself in le Carré country of Cold War agents and double agents. He takes to it surprisingly well and effectively.
And then it's 1989 and the end of the Cold War. End of story? By no means: there are another 130-odd pages to go. True, Mundy's services and talents are no longer needed. For about a dozen years he runs an English-language school in Heidelberg which goes bankrupt; he then sinks so low as to become a jocular tour guide in one of King Ludwig's crazy Bavarian castles. There, in 2003, he meets Sasha once again, and a new adventure starts. 1989 has not, after all, been The End of History: wars that are far from cold have been instigated by unchecked, brainwashing international corporate capitalism. Munday feels passionately about that. So does Sasha. (So, obviously, does le Carré.)
I fear what follows lacks all credibility, but is for a while as satirically and rivetingly told as the earlier parts of the book, until we come to the grim but confusing climax and to le Carré's savage indictment of how shadowy powers smother their corrupt interests and foul deeds with the black arts of disinformation.