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The Secret Pilgrim (Penguin Modern Classics)

The Secret Pilgrim (Penguin Modern Classics) [Kindle Edition]

John le Carré
4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (56 customer reviews)

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Product Description


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


(Observer )

'Le Carré writing at his exceptional best'

(Mail on Sunday )

Daily Telegraph

‘In terms of scope, skill and ideas, it is streets ahead of most contemporary fiction’

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:
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (56 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #47,821 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
26 of 26 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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37 of 38 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Smiley in Small Doses! 4 Sep 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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30 of 33 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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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
The Berlin Wall came down in 1989 and this book was first published a year later. Back then it was believed that as the Cold War was over, the spying espionage novel was finished. Redundant. Passé.

Of course that wasn't the case, the world's second oldest profession was never going to go as quietly as that, and so it proved. Today in 2007, the intelligence services are busier than ever.

The Secret Pilgrim centres on George Smiley's retirement, and the progress of his protégé, Ned. In many ways it is not a single book at all, but a collection of flashback stories set in such varied locations as Estonia, Israel and Lebanon, and Thailand and Cambodia. The individual stories come in varying degrees of intensity, and many of the images it brought to my mind lived with me long after I had set the book down. Some of them I will never forget. Is this the true test of a novel's power?

Dame Stella Rimington, the former head of Britain's intelligence services, the first woman to hold the post, and the first person ever to hold the post whilst known to the public, stated recently that John Le Carré, of all the espionage writers, painted the most accurate pictures of her times in the service. It is not difficult to believe, and The Secret Pilgrim will not disappoint any espionage aficionados, though you don't have to be such a buff, to glean enjoyment from this work.

I have always preferred Mister le Carré's earlier works, of which this just about is. I found it an easy book to read, hard to put down, easy to follow, (not always the case in this genre) and well worth the effort in returning to his back catalogue. I suspect spy books are set for a comeback, something that will suit Mister le Carré admirably. I thoroughly enjoyed it, but then I would. I'm hooked you see. Give it a try. Codebook anyone?
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
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 15 days 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 1 month ago by MR DAVID J BINNEY
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Published 2 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 2 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 2 months ago by Amazon Customer
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Published 2 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 3 months ago by catherine
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
well woth hearing
Published 3 months ago by BARNABY
5.0 out of 5 stars A good introduction to the author's Cold War novels.
The 'Book Description' states 'Published: May 26, 2011'. This is clearly at odds with the postscript written by the author which is dated March 2001. Read more
Published 4 months ago by talmine
4.0 out of 5 stars Enjoy the view
Very well written, as usual with his espionage books. A series of episodes recalled in the life of a Circus employee. Not a gripping page turner. Read more
Published 9 months ago by Sagittarian
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