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The Looking Glass War Paperback – 21 Sep 2006


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Product details

  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Sceptre; New Ed edition (21 Sept. 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0340937580
  • ISBN-13: 978-0340937587
  • Product Dimensions: 12.8 x 19.7 x 1.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (45 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 232,107 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

Review

'A book of rare and great power' (Financial Times)

'A bitter, bleak, superlatively written novel' (Publishers Weekly)

'A devastating and tragic record of human, not glamour, spies' (New York Herald Tribune)

Book Description

The first of le Carré's spellbinding novels now reissued in a stunning new package

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Customer Reviews

4.0 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

24 of 25 people found the following review helpful By Philip Cowhig on 15 May 2004
Format: Paperback
A bleak, unusual and compelling thriller. Fans of le Carre will know not to expect car chases and glamour, but this novel also has little of the complexity, puzzle-solving and intrigue of his better known spy stories.
The plot is fairly simple: a small and out-of-favour military intelligence department in London have a potentially huge discovery on their hands - an unconfirmed and sketchy report of Soviet missiles being stored in East Germany (the period is Cold War, early sixties). In a bid to confirm the discovery - and regain some of their former status and credibility - the department decides to find and train an agent to go over the border, something they have not done for many years.
The majority of the book is taken up with the preparation and training for the mission and the shifting politics and loyalties of those involved. This provides a strange mix of convincing technical detail and le Carre's always excellent character sketches and observations on a certain type of English character.
Without giving too much away of the story, the heart of the book is a study of ambition, resentment, jealousies and fading glories in the intelligence community during this period. The outcome of the mission is almost secondary, but the reader can discern the likely outcome as le Carre carefully reveals the endless possibilities of small details and judgements that can mean the difference between success and failure in this environment.
In conclusion, not your average spy story, not typical le Carre, but still engrossing and worth a read.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Nom Prénom on 19 May 2012
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I haven't read this book in some time but I have read it a number of times in the past, and I've just listened to the BBC's excellent adaptation of it.

Memory of the intricate details of the novel itself fail me: good. Personally I can't bear reviews which simply chart a story's narrative arc almost verbatim. I much prefer a review to give me a sense of the impression of a book, or something like that. The beauty is in discovering for yourself what this is, and one book may mean many things to different people, of course.

One recurring theme of a lot of reviews of The Looking Glass War is how it received a relatively poor reception, how its realism contributed to its failure and the like. I'm tempted to dismiss this as utter nonsense, but being 30 years old I can't quite judge to exactly what degree. Either way, nonsense it is. Its realism is essential to its potency.

To be sure, its immediate predecessor, The Spy Who Came in from the Cold, is one of the finest examples of both plot and literature in the English language, a rare beast.

Nonetheless, as far as a novel can describe the bare ignobility of a most subtle human rationale in both personal and political motivation, it suffers no superior, and I believe it serves as a superb key to Le Carré's work, even as (almost contradictorily) it lays the ground for the reader to be even more enthralled by his more densely plotted works.

But therein lies the attraction of John le Carré: contradiction, and humanity. They go hand in hand, don't you think?
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Mrs. M. A. Padgett on 14 Jun. 2010
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
A brilliant book. Absolutely gripping partly because of the nature of the story - spy fiction - but mainly because of the horrifying stupidity of the Circus higher echelons. It's all portrayed as a bit of a game, Boy's Own heroics, but instead of a grazed knee or a black eye, death and unintentional betrayal are the result. Nobody learns from what has happened, Smiley & Control keep a Godlike distance. There are no heroes, only a grim sort of Valley of Death idea where the only cost is to the poor deluded patriot. This seems more like condemnation than praise but the book is so well written, with such biting mordant humour, that it is a book I shall read again.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 3 April 2001
Format: Paperback
Although perhaps not as rich or as easy to read as later efforts by Le Carré, I found this book more than occupied me for a 6 hour train journey through Germany. A small department of military spies plans an operation in East Germany, despite the fact their best days are long behind them. The attempt to recapture past glories (in this case from the second world war)in a changed world effectively shows the transience of any moral justification for spying. Apart from the story itself, Le Carré's ability to conjure up images of this worn out organisation with its old-fashioned worthiness is one of the joys of this book. The convincing descriptions of Germany were also highly enjoyable. Whilst reading this book, I happened to be sitting in an ageing train, half expecting my papers to be demanded by surly VOPO officer.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Victor HALL OF FAMETOP 100 REVIEWER on 18 Mar. 2010
Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
This is the fourth of a series of BBC adaptations of all John Le Carre's Smiley books, starring Simon Russell Beale as Smiley. Unlike the other reviewers I've never read the book, so cannot comment on textual accuracy.

The story centres around a Military intelligence unit known as `The Department' and its attempts to relive their glory days of the war whilst simultaneously cocking a snook at their upstart rivals in British Intelligence, the Circus.

When some juicy intelligence suggesting Soviet missiles in East Germany falls into the lap of ageing department leader Leclerc, he is blind to all caution as he tries to resurrect his outfit as a live operational unit, and regain the status lost to the Circus during the cold war years. To get things going he does not need to worry about the Soviets or East Germans, it is the Circus, supposedly on the same side that he needs to outmanoeuvre. The Circus is represented by George Smiley, patiently and indulgently watching over the operation. There are several themes of trust and obedience running through the story, which leads to a tense, if ultimately demoralising, ending.

As with the other dramas in this series, this is a gripping listen. This is due in no small part to the actors - Ian McDiarmid as Leclerc, Philip Jackson as old hand Haldane and Simon Russell Beale as Smiley. Patrick Kennedy shines in the pivotal role of Avery. Ian McDiarmid is especially good as the ambitious Leclerc, remembering the glory days and wanting just another taste. The audio production is excellent, and generally manages to really set the scene, especially in the final tense few minutes with the operative being hunted in East Germany and his handlers waiting anxiously just over the border for any news.
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