Top positive review
36 people found this helpful
Intensity, balance and empathy
on 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.