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A Perfect Spy (BBC Audio) Audio CD – Abridged, Audiobook

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Product details

  • Audio CD: 4 pages
  • Publisher: BBC Audiobooks Ltd; abridged edition edition (7 April 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 140841063X
  • ISBN-13: 978-1408410639
  • Product Dimensions: 14.2 x 12.4 x 2.5 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (103 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 600,405 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

John le Carré was born in 1931. His third novel, THE SPY WHO CAME IN FROM THE COLD, secured him a wide reputation which was consolidated by the acclaim for his trilogy TINKER TAILOR SOLDIER SPY, THE HONOURABLE SCHOOLBOY and SMILEY'S PEOPLE. His other novels include THE CONSTANT GARDENER, A MOST WANTED MAN and OUR KIND OF TRAITOR.

Product Description


'Without doubt his masterpiece . . . a perfect work of fiction' (Sunday Times)

'The best English novel since the war' (Philip Roth) --This text refers to the Paperback edition.


'Without doubt his masterpiece ... a perfect work of fiction.' (The Sunday Times)

'Le Carré’s best book, one of the enduring peaks of imaginative literature in our time.' (Los Angeles Times)

'Le Carré’s best book, and one of the finest English novels of the twentieth century.' (Phillip Pullman) --This text refers to an alternate Audio CD edition.

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Customer Reviews

4.0 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

14 of 15 people found the following review helpful By Fly Me to the Moon on 11 Jan. 2007
Format: Paperback
Spying it seems, although an exciting occupation in some ways, is bad for the soul. If you're hoping to read a gripping, very plotty spy story you're likely to be disappointed with this book. This is a deeply personal but fascinating, philosophical book on the nature of identity, loylaty and love. For me this book is about belonging some where: to a country, to a class, to other people. Pym it seems has been searching all his life for somewhere to live where he feels he belongs. His father, a crook and professional liar is a constant disappointment but probably worst of all a deeply destablising influence in Pym's life so much so that Pym's desperation to please propels him into all sorts of trouble and betrayal.

Gripping, thought-provoking intelligent, semi-autobiographical but not for lightweights.
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47 of 52 people found the following review helpful By Nullius on 9 Mar. 2004
Format: Paperback
"Love is whatever you can still betray... Betrayal is a repititious trade." (from: A Perfect Spy)
Concentrating on his signature themes of love and deceit, Le Carre gives us what is perhaps the definitive account of the psychology of betrayal. Following the death of his father, the disturbed and grieving spy Magnus Pym withdraws from the world and begins a series of reflections on his life while his wife and spymasters frantically try to find him. The 'public' action of this search, and the personalities of those conducting it not only provide an effective foil for the intensely personal and sometimes dark nature of Pym's inner search, it also amplifies the moral theme of the book--that there is no clear line between good and bad, and that our best intentions are no guarantee of goodness--especially when there are secrets involved.
Le Carre spent a long time honing his voice for this powerful novel. His writing in the decade or so before this book was published (in 1986) displays the trademark qualities of detail and subtlety that a cold war spy needed, and Le Carre's spare prose mirrors the Machiavellian cold war game his stories centre around. In this work--strongly influenced by the real-life death of his father--he reached the height of his powers. On top of his renowned ability to make highly technical plots gripping, Le Carre adds a new quality--the wistful--and it works as well as in anything by Graham Greene--another gimlet-eyed writer who had connections with the spying trade. Le Carre packs more feeling into this work than in all his other novels put together and the effect is both disturbing and intensely moving. Pym is sententious and elegant in his reveries, and his Hamlet-like angst stays with us, provoking difficult questions, long after the book is closed.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Wynne Kelly TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on 14 Nov. 2012
Format: Paperback
Magnus Pym's father was a charismatic con-man who lies and cheats his way through life. So Magnus has been given the perfect background for a position in the intelligence service. All his life Magnus has attempted to distance himself from his father but his efforts have been doomed to failure. The book begins with the death of his father. Magnus leaves Vienna very suddenly and disappears. Immediately a search for him begins as suspicions arise that he may be a double agent.

But Magnus has not gone to the Eastern Bloc, he is holed up in a Devon flat and is writing his memoirs for his schoolboy son, Tom. There are many reflections throughout on love, betrayal, loyalty and deceit. Pym deceives and is deceived in turn throughout his life. The meetings he has with agents are long and painstaking - very reminiscent of Smiley's techniques. Much of the writing is terrific as we are drawn into his shady world.

It is a brilliant book, but quite hard going. I listened to it as an audiobook - this was beautifully read by Michael Jayston but could be quite confusing at times. Where were we? When is this happening? Who is narrating? Nonetheless it was worth hanging on in to the very moving climax.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Dr. Michael Rowlands on 12 Aug. 2007
Format: Paperback
This is a whopper of a book! A great story - the piercingly honest account of a man both reacting to, and living in, the shadow of a powerful con-man father - with a vivid decription of betrayal and spycraft, and fantastic entertainment as well. But I am thoughly biased, as his prievious work, particlarly early in his writing career, has given me so many hours of pleasure. You can pick holes in it, but I'm not going to. Take it for what it is - a master of fiction treating us to the anatomy of deceit from the inside. He should know - he lived it. A jewel in the crown of Le Carre acheivement and a masterpiece of autobiography.
Dr Michael Rowlands
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Jeremy Walton TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on 19 May 2008
Format: Hardcover
I bought this when it first appeared in 1986 (and have been first in line for every Le Carre since then), read it a couple of times, and have dipped into it occasionally over the years. I re-read it last week and was reminded all over again of Le Carre's great gift for description and dialogue. With just a few words, he can give you the voice (and a lot about the character, nationality and background) of the person speaking so exactly that they become instantly familiar. This rich vein runs throughout his writing, but it's particularly noticable when he describes a meeting - as here, when representatives from the Americans and British secret services are discussing the whereabouts of Magnus Pym, the perfect spy of the title.

The story is a kind of autobiography, as Pym sets out to describe his life's journey for his son, aiming - for once - to avoid any duplicity in the telling; in addition, as others have pointed out, it contains many elements from Le Carre's own life - his crooked father, his education in Berne and Oxford, and his career in MI6. If, at the end of this memorable book, we feel we don't understand Pym as well we do the other characters we've met - his wife, his father, his handlers (British and Czech) and his American colleagues, that could be the greatest tribute to Le Carre's powers: to have given such a detailed account of every aspect of his life, and yet to have retained an air of mystery around him.

Rereading this book, I had a mild sense of nostalgia for the era it describes. I was fortunate enough to visit Czechoslovakia not long after it was published, and a couple of years before the Velvet Revolution, after which the country became (amongst other more worthy things) yet another location for Planet Hollywood, Borders and cheap stag weekends.
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