Most helpful positive review
14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
on 18 September 2009
An excellent book which transcends the spy genre and dissects brilliantly the moral condition of human beings in the iciest days of the cold war: an atmosphere of ethical and political confusion/ambivalence, petty ambition and careless treachery pervades the whole work and provides a convincing backdrop for the examination of the nature of patriotism and the defence of a limited and faulty but ultimately worthy western liberalism.
And yet it is a book in which very little happens - it feels like a collection of dusty papers, assiduously compiled reports found in a filing cabinet in the corner of a room in Whitehall two decades after the fact... The ponderously procedural and bureaucratic nature of intelligence work, and the consequent difficulty of accessing "truth" are very well manipulated by LeCarre who develops the plot as a series of episodic vignettes, hazily recollected by some unseen witness.
The characters, their conversations and innermost thoughts, the themes and the all-too real denouement are utterly convincing, precisely because Le Carre is able to portray the mundane, humdrum nature of intelligence work and, above all, the plain, bitter-sweet patriotism of his hero, George Smiley.