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A Perfect Spy [Unknown Binding]

4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (90 customer reviews)

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Product details

  • Unknown Binding
  • Publisher: Bantam Books
  • ISBN-10: 0553173030
  • ISBN-13: 978-0553173031
  • Product Dimensions: 17.8 x 10.4 x 3.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (90 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 2,198,335 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.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
44 of 49 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Le Carre's Masterpiece 9 Mar 2004
By Nullius
"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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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Loyalty to who & what? 11 Jan 2007
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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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
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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31 of 36 people found the following review helpful
The first and most important thing to remember about this book is that it is a semi-autobiography. The background, schooling and parents of the main character of this book are all Le Carre's own, with just the slightest veneer placed over them, and I do mean the slightest. Like Magnus Pym, the main character in this book, Le Carre, for example did have a father who was a crook; his father did fight a by-election in Norfolk under the Liberal colours and was, during it, exposed by an elderly Irishwoman; he did have to leave Eton when his father could no longer afford the fees.

And like Magnus Pym, Le Carre was recruited into MI6 and probably, like Pym, was recruited while studying in Bern, although unlike Pym he left after five years to write novels. However, for anyone who knows a little of Le Carre's life story, an added frisson is added by the questions that inevitably provokes - did Le Carre get up to anything naughty with Eastern Bloc intelligence services? Unlikely, but amusing to ponder.

However, the spy stuff, as beautifully crafted as it always is, is only a backdrop for the real theme of the book - Le Carre's relationship with himself, his father and his country.

Yes, his country; this is as much an elegy for the English upper-middle class as anything else. A melancholy, fatalistic patriotism seeps through every page of the book, as Le Carre writes an elegy for his people - perhaps patriotism isn't quite the write word; he has no feeling for nor interest in the St. George's flag waving, football supporting masses.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Came late to this 18 Sep 2009
I bought this book about a week ago, and hadn't realised it had been in the public domain since 1986. Neither did I realise it was semi autobiographical until I read the comments above.

Forgetting all of that ignorance, I thought it was, on its own terms a genuinely witty tale and an elegy not just to one lost generation but to two, the tragi-comic con man of the 30's and 40's and the put upon public schoolboy who goes awry. These are characters that don't seem to exist anymore, but Le Carré makes them as real as tommorrow.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Possibly Le Carre's best novel, dealing partly autobiographically
Possibly Le Carre's best novel, dealing partly autobiographically, with the problematic father/son relationship but mixed with the world of spying. Read more
Published 23 hours ago by david gardiner
5.0 out of 5 stars Masterful
Not sure how I missed this when it first came out. Autobiography - via an unreliable narrator - and the cold war mix in a beautifully written story.
Published 3 months ago by Simon Thompson
5.0 out of 5 stars A Stolen Identity
A Perfect Spy is the story of Magnus Pym, a spy employed by the UK secret services, but in fact supplying secret information to the Czechs. Read more
Published 5 months ago by Calypso
2.0 out of 5 stars Tedious
Normally I enjoy JLC novels - got as far as 80% on the kindle and gave up.
Opaque, rambling and dull.
Published 6 months ago by C. Moir
5.0 out of 5 stars Possibly his best
Having read most of his novels, I have to say I enjoyed this one enormously. The wide breadth of history the novel covers along with the rich variety of characters make it very... Read more
Published 6 months ago by mr d
5.0 out of 5 stars It all seems so real
Anyone who likes thrillers and intrigues will know John Le Carre's novels are so believable.He creates strong characters and believable situations and tense atmospheres. Read more
Published 8 months ago by Ken
1.0 out of 5 stars What a struggle
I found this book a struggle to read. I never really believed in any of the characters even after I'd found my way through the maze of deliberate confusion and deception of their... Read more
Published 9 months ago by frances obee
5.0 out of 5 stars Fantastic story
A really gritty story, a far cry from James Bond but brilliantly written and I can see why it is.considered a true 'classic'. Read more
Published 10 months ago by nick mcauliffe
5.0 out of 5 stars Great Read
A really compelling book, beautifully written and constructed with unforgettable characters. This not just a spy book it's a great novel!
Published 10 months ago by Dr. M. J. Laidlaw
5.0 out of 5 stars Great plot, richly written, three stories (at least) in one tale
Informed and intelligent, lovely language, spy 'families', real families, travel and international intrigue - it's got it all, enjoy it!
Published 13 months ago by Ms. Sarah Burkinshaw
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