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4.1 out of 5 stars41
4.1 out of 5 stars
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on 20 March 2016
I am an avid Le Carre' reader having read all of his books over a thirty year period. I have recently started to re-read his books. Oddly I could not remember much about this book apart from the certain knowledge that I had definitely read it years ago. I now know why I couldn't remember. Pains me to say it about John LeCarre' - but it's confusing due to the author's lack in maintaining clarity and continuity throughout.
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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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on 23 July 2015
After the highs of Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy, this book seemed disappointingly dense and hard to get into. Perhaps it was the sheer number of secondary characters who were less than memorable? However, it did gradually pick up momentum and become more interesting and by the end it was quite gripping.
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on 6 May 2015
I'm afraid this is no classic. I'm a Le Carre fan and read this twenty years ago and recently came back to it as I couldn't really remember it. I now know why I can't remember it, it is because it isn't worth remembering. A poor story, tedious characters, weak ending. Avoid unless you are a real fan.
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on 17 October 2010
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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on 3 May 2015
As I expected, Le carre did not disappoint. A brilliant read . Just found the concluding chapters rather protracted as though Le Carre himself was a bit confused!!
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on 13 April 2016
The stage is set and all pieces are in place from the master storyteller as he takes you through the espionage underworld. I loved it.
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on 16 April 2016
missed reading this years ago so really enjoyed the last of Le Carre's that I hadn't read. I remember what a divided Germany was like.
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on 8 November 2014
A more slowly paced book, but eventually rewarding. Gives a great idea of what it must have been like in post-war Bonn.
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on 26 December 2015
Gripping from start to finish I wish I had bought it years ago. One that will be re read in the not to distant future
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