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The Spy Who Came in from the Cold Paperback – 4 Feb 1999


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Product details

  • Paperback: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Sceptre; New edition edition (4 Feb 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0340739649
  • ISBN-13: 978-0340739648
  • Product Dimensions: 12.9 x 19.7 x 1.5 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (173 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 238,879 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Review

"The Sunday Times" (U.K.)A topical and terrible story...he can communicate emotion, from sweating fear to despairing love, with terse and compassionate conviction. Above all, he can tell a tale. Formidable equipment for a rare and disturbing writer. --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

Review

'A topical and terrible story ... he can communicate emotion, from sweating fear to despairing love, with terse and compassionate conviction. Above all, he can tell a tale. Formidable equipment for a rare and disturbing writer.' (The Sunday Times)

'Written ... with a pitiless, elegant clarity. The Spy who Came in from the Cold is a first-rate thriller and more.' (Time)

'Le Carré is one of the best novelists – of any kind – we have.' (Vanity Fair) --This text refers to the Audio CD edition.

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The American handed Leamas another cup of coffee and said, "Why don't you go back and sleep? Read the first page
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Customer Reviews

4.4 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

58 of 58 people found the following review helpful By Jan Heart on 20 Feb 2014
Format: Paperback
There are two great British spy fiction novels I count as the best: Ian Fleming's From Russia with Love and Desmond Cory's Dead Man Falling. Each are classics in their own right, and one more I would add to the list is John Le Carre's The Spy Who Came in From the Cold.

It's my favourite espionage thriller from John le Carre and also a fine example of how to pull off a multitude of double crosses, keeping the reader often quite perplexed. Unlike Fleming's novels there is no pretence of glamour, and like Cory, there is little righteousness in the spying game.

Le Carre writes very starkly at times in this novel, adding a certain harshness that mirrors the ethical ambiguity at the heart of the book.

This is a world away from the girls, gadgets, and gorgeous locations of Flemings books, yet it is better off for it. It is extremely well thought out and the story works well. I found it a very satisfying read.
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57 of 60 people found the following review helpful By Matthew Culley on 18 Sep 2009
Format: Paperback
The Spy who Came in from the Cold is the story of Alec Leamas, a fictional British spy, set towards the end of his career. The setting is the early 1960s, largely in London, Berlin and East Germany (the GDR).

The writing is of high standard, almost Homeric in nature. It has a sparse, exact quality that seems far from the style of creative writing courses. The evocation of the 1960s Cold War world is well done. Le Carre's focus has always been on the human aspects of the spy game, so fans of James Bond and Jason Bourne may be disappointed. The emotions and travails that spies must suffer are represented here: the difficulties of forming and maintaining relationships and of having to live multiple realities are described in this work.

Those who like moral certainties and absolute good and bad guys in their spy stories may also be disappointed. This was the nature of the Cold War and thus of the spy games that NATO and the Warsaw Pact played. Elizabeth is something of an idealistic member of the Communist party in Britain, who then confronts the reality of Communism in East Germany, and then to great tragedy. The main protagonist, Leamas, will eventually realise the horrific, amoral nature of the game he is in.

This is not a book about heroic spies with a happy, world-saving end, but it is a brilliant read, and signalled the beginning of Le Carre's very successful career. I greatly recommend it.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Lady Fancifull TOP 500 REVIEWER on 1 Sep 2009
Format: Audio CD Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Whilst i respect those reviewers who have read the original book, and therefore can meaningfully talk about the adaptation's faithfulness, I can only review this audio adaptation as a piece of stand-alone radio drama, with no idea of how accurate the mood or characterisations are.

As a dark, bleak drama set in the period of the Cold War, it is infinitely more compelling than the utterly unreal seeming James Bond version of espionage.

Production values are great, there is brilliant use of sound effects and music to set scenes and indicate the passage of time and place.

Brian Cox as Alex Leamas, the world-weary, bruised and complex intelligence officer and Ruth Gemmell as Liz, the young British CP member and Leamas' girlfriend are both superb. Cox particularly holds the whole piece together.

Like another reviewer however, I'm a little surprised that the wonderful Simon Russell Beale, as Smiley, received star billing. Maybe Smiley has a more central role in the other le Carre radio adaptations, but in The Spy Who Came In from the Cold he occupies about 2 minutes of 3 hours air time. So I'm also a little surprised at reviews which single him out for praise! as you have to listen very very hard to identify he has appeared in a scene or 3! He's talked ABOUT all the time, but isn't really in the action of this one at all!!! The real star is Cox; without his weighty performance this could garner no real accolades.

I couldn't go the whole 5 stars as there are some pretty wincing attempts as German accents, with the accent playing the actors, rather than the actors playing the characters.

Afraid without Cox I'd have had to stop listening once the action shifted to Berlin, as the cod accents had me gritting my teeth and wincing!!!

Cox, Gemmell, a classy script, excellent music and the fine skills of the producer/director and recording engineers make this a tight and absorbing piece
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28 of 30 people found the following review helpful By Geoff Chilton on 19 Mar 2004
Format: Paperback
This book has a ring of authenticity about it. The seedier side of London and Berlin is beautifully described. There are no Bond-like gadgets, car chases or roof-top pursuits, yet I found this to be one of the best novels of the genre I have ever read; more gripping, and in some places faster-paced, than a lot of action-based thrillers. The plot is revealed rather like an onion - sections of skin peeled back to reveal another and yet another. The character of Alec Leamas remains elusive throughout and at the end I felt I still didn't know him; he is secretive, like the Service he works for. Despite this I never felt cheated or disappointed. This is a great read, indeed nothing less than a modern classic.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Paul Lessingham VINE VOICE on 3 Sep 2009
Format: Audio CD Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
I've always enjoyed the BBC's crime and thriller dramas, but this was my first introduction to le Carre. This is a new dramatisation, first broadcast early this year.

Not being previously familiar with the novel, I found this a little hard to get on with at first. The narrative is quite complex, and there isn't a lot of voiceover narration to help out. It doesn't help that some of the voices are quite similar, so following the switches between characters is tricky at first. Also, of course, this is a cold-war drama that begins around the time of the building of the Berlin Wall. The dramatisation seems to assume a reasonable level of familiarity with the political context of the time.

These reservations aside, the CD is well worth persevering with. As the narrative unfolds, it becomes interesting and engaging. The acting is generally good - though, as with many BBC dramas, some of the accents are somewhat less than convincing. Ruth Gemmell as Liz Gold is particularly good.

Overall, this is a good dramatisation that repays perseverance. I suspect that people who are already familiar with the story might find it easier to engage with on first listening.
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