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15 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Strange portrait of Bonn in the 1960s
Le Carré's fifth book is situated in and around the British embassy in Bonn, the post-WW II capital of West Germany during the second half of the 1960s. The political context of the book is rather contrived: the UK lost its empire, and is bankrupt and unpopular in West Germany. Anti-British feeling is running high with violent demonstrations. A populist politician...
Published on 19 July 2010 by Amazon Customer

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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A slow burn introduction to le Carre's world
One of le Carre's first works, this novel sets the scene of a Europe bubbling with dissent. Unfortunately for my tastes it takes rather too long building the feeling of tension in the small town of the title (Bonn), although the hair trigger atmosphere of the times is well recreated. The inevitable twists to the plot are welcome when they arrive, as they go some way to...
Published on 3 April 2001


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15 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Strange portrait of Bonn in the 1960s, 19 July 2010
Le Carré's fifth book is situated in and around the British embassy in Bonn, the post-WW II capital of West Germany during the second half of the 1960s. The political context of the book is rather contrived: the UK lost its empire, and is bankrupt and unpopular in West Germany. Anti-British feeling is running high with violent demonstrations. A populist politician urges people to turn their backs on the three former occupying powers and chart a new course for the nation, i.e. block UK-entry into the Common Market (precursor to the EU: the UK acceeded only in 1973), and support a trade alliance with Moscow instead...
While the Bonn embassy is preparing for the worst (mass demonstrations and a possible attack on its premises), a lowly diplomat, who is a temp and a former refugee with 20 years of service, fails to turn up for work. The embassy's most secret file is gone too, along with sundry other items, ranging from cups and saucers to an entire trolley loaded with files. Has he defected, run off to Moscow?
London sends one of its security hard men, Alan Turner, to sort out the mess. He confronts and offends everybody he speaks with in his search for truth, and he moves on and on, uncovering small and big secrets. Meanwhile, he is furious about his wife's infidelity with an upper-class type, the class tending to staff foreign embassies.
The book is memorable for several reasons: how large embassies went about their business operationally and socially during the Cold War; the memorable cast of diplomats and support staff; the significance of class in a British context, and the alleged shiftiness of German high-level contacts.
Finally, this complicated book is an experiment of not sending George Smiley (he is not mentioned at all), but Alan Turner to do battle. Unfaithful wives is what the two have in common, and passion for truth and justice in an environment full of hypocrisy, indifference and lethargy. Highly recommended.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Most under-rated Le Carre ?, 11 Mar 2012
This review is from: A Small Town in Germany (Penguin Modern Classics) (Paperback)
People often divide Le Carre's books into his Cold War classics (Tinker Tailor, Smiley's People) and his more recent, dominated by romantic causes and characters (Mission Song, Absolute Friends). This, one of his first, has elements of both. The 'Small Town' is Bonn, then capital of Western Germany, and the plot centres on the hunt for missing documents in the British Embassy amidst a political crisis. Le Carre's ability to evoke a sense of time, place and character is extraordinary, and the plot is beautifully fashioned, with twists and turns driven by people and history. The Cold War is more setting than subject (don't expect a Karla like baddie), but the sense of how on the verge of crisis now stable western Europe felt in the 60s adds tension other thriller writers would die (or kill) for. Whichever style of Le Carre you prefer, going back to this will show its roots, while highlighting the style that makes Le Carre such a stand out as a thriller writer.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A slow burn introduction to le Carre's world, 3 April 2001
By A Customer
One of le Carre's first works, this novel sets the scene of a Europe bubbling with dissent. Unfortunately for my tastes it takes rather too long building the feeling of tension in the small town of the title (Bonn), although the hair trigger atmosphere of the times is well recreated. The inevitable twists to the plot are welcome when they arrive, as they go some way to relieving the tension. Not my favourite le Carre, but highly atmospheric, and worth reading for that alone.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Highly relevant but also entertaining, 1 Feb 2013
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The Spanish-American philosopher George Santayana observed that "Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it." This is a wonderful reminder of how some things have changed, and some haven't, in Europe; in office life; in sexual politics. What is Britain's role in Europe? And what is Germany's? And what does little Leo Harting have to do with it all? Yes perhaps a little slow to get going compared with other Le Carre but well worth sticking with. I would never have thought a thriller set in Bonn would be of much interest - and that's the point. Excellent!
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Author Reads His Own Early Work, 25 July 2010
By 
Stephanie De Pue (Wilmington, NC USA) - See all my reviews
(TOP 1000 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: A Small Town in Germany (Audio CD)
John LeCarre's "A Small Town in Germany,"first published in 1969,is one of the British author's earlier works, and one of his stand alone cold war spy thrillers. He is, of course, one of the greatest authors of spy thrillers, and he's still publishing. His masterworks include The Spy Who Came in from the Cold;Smiley's People; and Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy. We here find the author doing his own reading, which, historically, many authors have loved to do. He once confessed that he so loved doing the voices of certain of his characters that he found it necessary to stop himself from writing them excessive parts. And, when you hear the author read his work, with various intonations, rhythms, and accents you realise how consistent a fictional world he has created.

LeCarre certainly has ample first hand experience of the business, as he was an actual British spy, for five years, under his birth name, David Cornwell. According to internet biographers, he was, in fact, embedded in Soviet territory when he was blown by Kim Philby, most famous post-war British secret service traitor; Philby's treachery might have been fatal to him.

But the entertainment at hand concerns doings in the British Embassy in Bonn, the capital of West Germany at the time, and takes place in the "recent future." Britain faces interlocking problems: it's struggling to get into the Common Market, which Germany can prevent; and a new anti-British demagogue, Karfeld, is arising in Germany to further torment the Brits. At that fraught moment, an Embassy quasi-staffer--Second Secretary Leo Harting, ethnic German-- goes missing, taking along damaging files, a document trolley, somebody's fan, somebody else's tea maker. So an un-Smiley, Alan Turner, is sent from London to search him out. We know Turner is an un-Smiley because he's from the Midlands, meaning he's rude, loses his temper, and dresses badly.

This book makes an extremely long, slow start, although it opens with a brief cameo of where LeCarre intends to go. But if you are not interested -- were never that interested--in internal German politics back then, or in Britain's gaining admission to the Common Market, you will have a very long slog indeed to get to the good part: approximately 300 of approximately 380 pages. Furthermore, this book shares some of the problems of its author's post cold war writing: LeCarre labors to make mountains from molehills, and to interest his readers in the dull. However, his writing is always witty and concise, and he does finally manage to generate some heat in the end: some readers may come to care a bit about Harting and Turner. And finally, LeCarre has always had that knack for bang-up set piece beginnings and endings.
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3.0 out of 5 stars Bonn chance, 8 Oct 2014
This review is from: A Small Town in Germany (Penguin Modern Classics) (Paperback)
John Le Carre’s fifth novel is a rather staid affair in truth – contextually it concerns fears of the time that former Nazis were gradually insinuating their way back into positions of power in the German government, and the paranoia and fear this engendered is reflected in the apparent defection of a British Secret Service agent Leo Harting; the government promptly dispatching taciturn Yorkshireman Alan Turner to get to the bottom of Harting’s mysterious disappearance. Turner immediately encounters aggravation from the British embassy in Bonn, personified by its chief Rawley Bradfield, and has to dig his way into the close-knit espionage community in order to achieve his aims.
Something of a departure from the previous two spy stories with which Le Carre cemented his reputation, A Small Town in Germany is somewhat stolid in my opinion – more of a study of the vagaries and petty prejudices of a service that thought itself whiter than white but which was in reality peopled by self-centred, judgemental individuals, more concerned with their own reputations than those of others.
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17 of 21 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Not the Book to Begin Reading LeCarre, 14 Feb 2010
By 
Stephanie De Pue (Wilmington, NC USA) - See all my reviews
(TOP 1000 REVIEWER)   
John LeCarre's "A Small Town in Germany,"first published in 1969,is one of the British author's earlier works, and one of his stand alone cold war spy thrillers. He is, of course, one of the greatest authors of spy thrillers, and he's still publishing. His masterworks include The Spy Who Came in from the Cold;Smiley's People; and Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy. He certainly has ample first hand experience of the business, as he was an actual British spy, for five years, under his birth name, David Cornwell. According to internet biographers, he was, in fact, embedded in Soviet territory when he was blown by Kim Philby, most famous post-war British secret service traitor; Philby's treachery might have been fatal to him.

But the book at hand concerns doings in the British Embassy in Bonn, the capital of West Germany at the time, and takes place in the "recent future." Britain faces interlocking problems: it's struggling to get into the Common Market, which Germany can prevent; and a new anti-British demagogue, Karfeld, is arising in Germany to further torment the Brits. At that fraught moment, an Embassy quasi-staffer--Second Secretary Leo Harting, ethnic German-- goes missing, taking along damaging files, a document trolley, somebody's fan, somebody else's tea maker. So an un-Smiley, Alan Turner, is sent from London to search him out. We know Turner is an un-Smiley because he's from the Midlands, meaning he's rude, loses his temper, and dresses badly.

This book makes an extremely long, slow start, although it opens with a brief cameo of where LeCarre intends to go. But if you are not interested -- were never that interested--in internal German politics back then, or in Britain's gaining admission to the Common Market, you will have a very long slog indeed to get to the good part: approximately 300 of approximately 380 pages. Furthermore, this book shares some of the problems of its author's post cold war writing: LeCarre labors to make mountains from molehills, and to interest his readers in the dull. However, his writing is always witty and concise, and he does finally manage to generate some heat in the end: some readers may come to care a bit about Harting and Turner. And finally, LeCarre has always had that knack for bang-up set piece beginnings and endings.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Not a classic for nothing..., 8 Nov 2012
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Re-reading this after some years I'm still struck by le Carre's accurate sense of time and place. The atmosphere of the period seeps from every page...even from a Kindle!

The prose is scalpel perfect...the dialogue succinct and totally credible as are all the characters we meet.

If you've never read this timeless novel(or haven't for some time)you won't be disappointed.....
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17 of 23 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A Tale from the Cold War, 2 Dec 2003
By 
Joseph Haschka (Glendale, CA USA) - See all my reviews
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I first picked up A SMALL TOWN IN GERMANY in the late 60s, but, finding it too slow, couldn't finish. My appreciation of John le Carre having increased over the years, I recently gave it another go.
The book is set in the then West German capital of Bonn during the heyday of the Cold War. The British Embassy is beset with a number of mysterious disappearances: a document trolley, a tea machine, an electric fan, and some cups from the Caf. Oh, and a twenty-plus year employee named Otto Harting and a Top Secret "Green File". Meanwhile, on the other side of the embassy fence, a West German industrialist, Karfeld, is inflaming the populace with nationalist speeches, advocating stronger ties with Moscow, and undermining Bundesrepublik support for Britain's entry into the Common Market.
Has Harting bolted to Moscow? The Foreign Office in London dispatches its troubleshooter, Alan Turner, to Bonn to ferret out some answers.
Like le Carre's other books, A SMALL TOWN IN GERMANY is short on action and long on character and plot development. For these very reasons, my appreciation of his later books, especially TINKER, TAILOR, SOLDIER, SPY and SMILEY'S PEOPLE, both featuring the author's most famous hero, George Smiley, lead me to think that my literary tastes have matured over the years, at least when it comes to trashy novels. If the reader of this book squints, he may perhaps see in Turner's dogged pursuit of the puzzle pieces a forerunner of the Smiley character, though the latter is infinitely more subtle and imperturbable. And Turner is not above slapping a lady in his quest for the Truth. Such conduct would be anathema to George, always the gentleman.
That Turner never endears himself to the reader is perhaps the novel's greatest shortcoming. More than that, however, is the fact that the plot is dated. Germany is now re-united, and the capital moved back to Berlin. Bonn is once more a relative backwater. Powerful Germans with an unsavory Nazi past are practically extinct. Moscow is no longer homebase to the pesky KGB and center of the Evil Empire. But the Brits, God love 'em, having told the rest of Europe to take their euros and stuff it, are still stolidly aloof in their island fortress (despite the Chunnel).
A SMALL TOWN IN GERMANY, a must read for all le Carre fans, isn't one of his best efforts when compared to later works. But, I did finish it the second time around!
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5.0 out of 5 stars One of Le Carre's dark novels, 17 Oct 2010
This review is from: A Small Town in Germany (Audio CD)
This is a brilliant story - one of my favourite John Le Carre's. This version of the CD was interesting as it included an introduction from John Le Carre explaining how this story was far from his favourite. I am pleased it made print.
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A Small Town in Germany (Penguin Modern Classics)
A Small Town in Germany (Penguin Modern Classics) by John le Carré (Paperback - 3 Nov 2011)
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