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4.3 out of 5 stars51
4.3 out of 5 stars
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VINE VOICEon 2 November 2007
This is the dramatic, incredibly intense story of terrorist methods being used to find, trap and kill a very successful terrorist. It explores the motivation and behaviour of Arabs displaced from their country into refugee camps for decades; and of those who fight for Israel's survival - with much the same methods their Arab opponents use.

It's told mainly from the Israeli point of view. Their agents literally seduce Charlie, the Little Drummer Girl, into being their goat tethered as bait to attract the tiger. But after the long training she is tethered on the tiger's territory, ie in the Palestinian camps, and she finds herself coming to empathise with their point of view. This develops to the point that she nearly drives herself mad being dragged by wild horses in two opposite directions.

The plot is developed with Le Carré's usually attention to detail which makes it live and be real; but the more Le Carré I read, the more convinced I am that he doesn't really write good endings. If you've seen the film of this book it ends in a shoot out which always strikes me as just like any private dick TV story. That was about the only way the film was true to the book. Otherwise the book is to my mind just about Le Carré's best. In achieving balance in a story about Palestine he achieves the near impossible; but he also manages to make it a powerful story about seduction in more ways than one. (And I suppose the real ending of the book is when Charlie staggers off into the sunset with....but I wouldn't want to spoil the plot!)

I found another review of this book so far from what I experienced of it myself, that I felt compelled to say what I thought of it. I have strong partisan feelings about terrorism, the Middle East, and Palestine. However, I found Le Carré's book achieved a balance between the Israeli and Arab sides which I would not have thought possible. Both sides are shown warts and all; neither side is portrayed as pure, neither side demonized; both sides are made "human, all too human"; you can (please excuse the cliché) feel both sides' pain. This is achieved through the closeness with which the main characters are drawn and followed.

It is not a light read, though: it deals with tough issues and demands concentration. But I felt it much more than worth the effort.

Added August 2014: the British press has recently carried reports of undercover policemen not merely seducing, but marrying, and even having children with, female members of the (non-terrorist) organisations they, the policemen, were investigating. They, the policemen, vanished, abandoning their spouses and children. I must say I find this obnoxious. Is it life imitating art or the other way round? At least Charlie's seducer has the excuse he was fighting violence.
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on 3 February 2013
The author is in a very sensitive area here,the relationships between Arab and Jew, Palestine and Israel,all worked out on a terrorist playing field. Hardly a reader exists who does not have an emotional involvement with the dispute.... and yet, Le Carre creates sympathy and understanding for both sides. A dispassionate tour-de-force.

The prose is sometimes dense and the book requires great concentration- it is definately too long and probably too slow, although the passing of time is essential to the story-line.

Despite these flaws, this is arguably Le Carre's best book, as he handles a highly-contentious issue with great sensitivity.
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on 13 December 2000
This book was my most favourite read ever! An actress is recruited by the Israelies to honey-trap an arab terrorist. The story line would, on the surface seem one-sided but le Carre very skilfully incorporates a very sympathetic undertone for Palestinian liberation. It is a very pertinent story that is prosey and thrilling all at once. The heroine is neither super brave or brash but somehow all the more loveable for her failings rather than her triumphs. The ending is a blockbuster that keeps you turning the pages well into the night.
Well done le Carre
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on 23 March 2010
I love all the John Le Carre books I've read and this is one of my favourites. It's well written, exciting and I really engaged with the characters. The relationship between Joseph and Charlie is well drawn and compelling and I liked the subject matter. A great read.
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on 19 December 2008
One of le Carre's best I think. Although a little dated perhaps now, but still a current topic and he balances the perspectives very well. It's an insightful read that successfully empathises with the two opposite sides of a tragic war.
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on 29 January 2013
Lacking some of the twists and turns of classic le Carre but nevertheless a decent read with a clever storlyline.
A worthwhile investment and great company for comfort food and drink on any wintry or rainy day.
probably re-visit to read again in around twelve months.
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on 6 September 2013
You read it once, and it's a gripping story. Read it twice, and you understand every little detail, every little nuance. Fabulous.
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on 23 April 2011
In this age of terrorism, it's amazing how well LeCarre analysied the creation of the terrorist. LeCarre puts forth a reasoned exercise of why terrorists believe that they have to act, and how they achieve their goals. He addresses the issues from both sides, the terrorist and the authority fighting the terrorism.

The Little Drummer Girl, is a cracking good read...written with great pace, interesting characters, and believable dialogue. You sympathise with the main characters, follow the action, the inertia, more action, waiting on the edge of your seat for the inevitable outcome...and then the twist.

The novel is well written, a topic addressed well ahead of its time(1993)and long before 911, predicting the rise of terrorism and read by LeCarre. What more could you ask for?
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on 31 October 2009
This was an engaging read throughout as Le Carre in typical style gradual wound up the tension.

The hook that keeps me reading is often his style of writing as much as the content. The observation of detail in peoples behaviour and the way the story is alluded to rather than simply read out. As if you have to fill in the gaps. Sometimes a puzzle in itself.

Quite topical really and certainly thought provoking in so far as it opens ones eyes to the other side of a long standing source of misery in the Middle East from which we get a probably quite distorted media coverage.
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on 14 February 2015
This 1983 thriller deals with deadly attacks on Jewish targets in Europe with primitive bombs. Its builder leaves his signature, an extra loop of wiring. Who is he? He is surely European-based and highly mobile. Not a loner, but supported and protected by highly professional, local teams.
JLC describes how Israel's military usually responds and overrules its spies in case of a terrorist attack from across the border by simply targeting Palestinian refugee camps and buildings shielding suspects or their leaders from the air or sea.
But these new bomb attacks happen in Europe, beyond the military's reach. Thus, a seasoned spy master and WW II survivor named Kurtz, is reluctantly given the nod to start a search on European soil for the bomb maker and his helpers. One of them is suspected to be his student kid brother. How to catch a lion? By baiting him with a goat. Enters British activist actress Charlie (26). Observed and studied long before being recruited during a Greek holiday. But is recruitment the right word? How she is being prepared for her new role in the theater of the real is for readers to discover...
This remains JLC's longest, most densely-plotted, difficult and morally-challenging novel, requiring great concentration from readers, with his beautiful prose reaching lyrical levels when Charlie or Kurtz hold centre stage. It is also a passionate account of the deep mutual hatred and anger of Jews and Palestinians and their histories of persecution and enforced displacement.
Finally, very rich re ideas and spy trade craft, perfectly plotted with many minor characters (Helga, Picton, Long Al, etc.) deftly portrayed, whereas the more central and truly complicated characters are drawn with great compassion. Thrilling to the last page. Relevant to the present day. Truly awesome.
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