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The Secret Pilgrim (George Smiley series Book 8) [Kindle Edition]

John le Carré
4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (57 customer reviews)

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Book Description

The last of John Le Carré's espionage novels to feature his most enduring and well-loved character, George Smiley, and a gripping feat of narrative brilliance, The Secret Pilgrim is published in Penguin Modern Classics with an afterword by the author.

The Cold War is over and Ned has been demoted to the training academy. He asks his old mentor, George Smiley, to address his passing-out class. There are no laundered reminiscences; Smiley speaks the truth - perhaps the last the students will ever hear. As they listen, Ned recalls his own painful triumphs and inglorious failures, in a career that took him from the Western Isles of Scotland to Hamburg and from Israel to Cambodia. He asks himself: Did it do any good? What did it do to me? And what will happen to us now? In this final Smiley novel, the great spy gives his own humane and unexpected answers.

John le Carré was born in 1931 and attended the universities of Bern and Oxford. He taught at Eton and served briefly in British Intelligence during the Cold War. For the last 50 years he has lived by his pen. He divides his time between London and Cornwall.

If you enjoyed The Secret Pilgrim, you might like le Carré's The Spy Who Came In From the Cold, also available in Penguin Modern Classics.

'Consummate and enthralling'


Product Description


'Le Carré writing at his exceptional best' (Mail on Sunday)

'John le Carré has created a fictive world which he has made almost as familiar as that of Dickens . . . in terms of scope, skill and ideas, it is streets ahead of most contemporary fiction' (Daily Telegraph)

'This consummate and enthralling mosaic is also Smiley's nunc dimittis' (Observer)


'John le Carré has created a fictive world which he has made almost as familiar as that of Dickens ... in terms of scope, skill and ideas, it is streets ahead of most contemporary fiction.' (The Daily Telegraph)

'Powerful ... remarkable ... a grand summation of all John le Carré’s themes.' (The New York Times)

'Le Carré ... at the top of his form.' (Los Angeles Times)

Product details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 598 KB
  • Print Length: 420 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 0340993790
  • Publisher: Penguin (26 May 2011)
  • Sold by: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B0050N7GKY
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Not Enabled
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (57 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #10,112 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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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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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
27 of 27 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Magisterial Summing Up of the War that Was 17 Feb. 2010
By Stephanie De Pue TOP 1000 REVIEWER
"The Secret Pilgrim," British spymaster John LeCarre's thirteenth book, was published in 1990, a year after the Berlin Wall was torn down, and the 30-year long Cold War was declared at an end. It was his first published post Cold War novel. LeCarre, who penned the Cold War masterpieces The Spy Who Came in from the Cold; and the Karla trilogy,Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy,The Honourable Schoolboy, and Smiley's People, uses this book, several short stories cobbled together, that begin as the looming Berlin Wall has been up only two years, as a magisterial summing-up of the war that was.

The author sets much of it, as is his long-standing custom, in his German-speaking comfort zone, particularly Berlin, "the spy's eternal city," he calls it. The book is narrated by "Ned," a shrewd and loyal long-term employee of LeCarre's fictional intelligence service, modeled on the real one. Here, as elsewhere, LeCarre calls this service the circus, from its London location. Ned is currently teaching new recruits at Sarratt, its spy school, and contemplating retirement. He's thinking about the secret pilgrimage of his life, spent in the service, wondering, as is typical of the author, what it has gained him, or the world. He invites the "eminence grise" of the circus, George Smiley, to speak to the recruits.

The book is episodic; that may annoy some people.
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40 of 41 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Smiley in Small Doses! 4 Sept. 2006
I was given this book as a birthday present, otherwise I probably never would have read it, since I am not a fan of spy fiction (other than the kind that appears in the factual espionage genre). I am very glad, however, that I did read it.

"The Secret Pilgrim" represents the best of both worlds, since it is actually a dozen short stories tied together within the framework of a novel. The latter depicts George Smiley, the Old Cold Warrior, acting as guest lecturer to a group of young "Circus" recruits, who are learning their tradecraft from one of his old pupils, Ned (who is himself about to retire). Each of Smiley's topics during the lecture and the conversation afterwards triggers Ned's memories and, therefore, his reminiscences about old cases.

The short stories serve as an excellent introduction to the author's earlier works, since Ned, in his adventures, has dealt with the likes of Bill Haydon, Toby Esterhaze, and Percy Alleline, as well as George Smiley--all of whom make cameo appearances. The tales are entertaining, witty, and wholly absorbing, as one gradually learns that the narrator is the pilgrim of the title on a quest to discover why he ever entered the secret world in the first place. Once he had imagined himself as a dragon slayer, who would leave the world in a "safer place." Now, however, that rampant Communism has been replaced by rampant Capitalism, the narrator, in the last chapter, wonders whether the right people have won, noting that "the evil was not in the system, but in the man."

"The Secret Pilgrim" is set in a very different world from the original Smiley books. George Smiley is now presiding over the "Fishing Rights Committee," a joint effort between the intelligence services of London and Moscow.

How Kim Philby would have approved!.
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31 of 34 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Delight 19 Oct. 2002
This book comprises what, at first sight, seem to be a set of short stories. In fact, the stories are linked, in part by a narrative structure and in part by the presence of George Smiley, brought out of retirement to make an after-dinner speech to a bunch of new spooks.
Much of Circus history is revisited, including the mole-hunting era of Tinker, Tailor etc. New angles and insights are revealed and old motivations seen in new lights.
It goes without saying that the writing style is fluid, intelligent and engaging. [If anything, too engaging-it is all too easy to read just one more story....]
Enthusiasts for the earlier history of Smiley and his associates will delight in this book. I'm not entirely sure that newcomers will find it quite such an accessible read: some background has to be assumed to avoid repetition.
Highly recommended.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Pause For Thought 17 Aug. 2010
Format:Audio CD|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
For anyone who struggles, for whatever reason, with the written
word audiobooks can be a joy and a revelation (for those who just
want to sit back, close our eyes and be just plain lazy once
in a while equally so!)

A radio adaptation of John le Carre's novel 'The Secret Pilgrim'
could have been a tough call for all those involved. Auntie Beeb,
however, is as competent as ever in bringing Mr le Carre's work
to vivid life in the listening world. This is another winner!

Robert Forest's dramatisation of this particularly episodic
narrative is masterfully realised by producer Patrick Rayner
and his very fine cast. Simon Russell Beale seems to have made
Smiley his own in this series (his performance in 'The Honorable
Schoolboy' in another BBC release earlier this year is also splendid).
Patrick Malahide also does a spiffing job as Ned, who finds himself
absorbed by thoughts and reflections triggered by Smiley's lectures
at the school for agents, Sarrat. The World ( and their world with it)
has changed beyond recognition and what was, what might have been and
its impact on the present is poignantly considered and reconsidered
within the echoing halls of memory.

'The Secret Pilgrim' does not quite stand shoulder to shoulder with the
best of Mr le Carre's work. In a way it is a kind of pause for thought;
a punctuation mark. However, its place in the bigger picture of George
Smiley's world is well served by all concerned in this splendid recording.

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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Le Carre at his best
Le carre at his best.
Published 2 months ago by Mr. A. B. Cook
4.0 out of 5 stars Four Stars
Published 5 months ago by Robin Johnson
4.0 out of 5 stars An excellent adaptation of the book and Simon Russell Beale continues...
An excellent adaptation of the book and Simon Russell Beale continues to prove that he is a worthy equal to the masterful performance of Alec Guinness in the BBC TV series. Read more
Published 7 months ago by david donati
5.0 out of 5 stars le Carre at his best
There are always questions and fears that haunt us. Never ask whether what we do - how we live our lives - is valid. Read more
Published 8 months ago by MR DAVID J BINNEY
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Published 9 months ago by christopher middleton
3.0 out of 5 stars Three Stars
John Le Carre at his usual, I prefer more involvement of George Smiley.
Published 9 months ago by Gervaise
4.0 out of 5 stars A great retirement party for George Smiley but probably not the best...
One of the things that elevates John Le Carré above other thriller writers is his willingness to play with the conventions of both the genre and his own back catalogue in... Read more
Published 9 months ago by TWBlount
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Published 9 months ago by Waasley
3.0 out of 5 stars Not the best Le Carre book
Not the best Le Carre book - a bit too rambling. You would need to have read other Le Carre books to know who the (many) characters were who are being reminisced about by the... Read more
Published 10 months ago by catherine
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
well woth hearing
Published 10 months ago by BARNABY
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