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The Secret Pilgrim Paperback – 4 Nov 1999

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Product details

  • Paperback: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Sceptre; New edition edition (4 Nov. 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0340750375
  • ISBN-13: 978-0340750377
  • Product Dimensions: 12.9 x 19.8 x 2.2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (60 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 609,284 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

'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) --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Review

'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) --This text refers to the Audio CD edition.

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Customer Reviews

4.2 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

40 of 41 people found the following review helpful By F. S. L'hoir TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on 4 Sept. 2006
Format: Paperback
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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27 of 28 people found the following review helpful By Stephanie De Pue TOP 1000 REVIEWER on 17 Feb. 2010
Format: Paperback
"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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31 of 34 people found the following review helpful By "kendalian" on 19 Oct. 2002
Format: Paperback
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.
Bill
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By The Wolf TOP 50 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on 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.

Recommended.
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