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20 of 21 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A delicious read
I don't normally feel I have time to write reviews but for this I'm making an exception. Once I got over the fact that this was not a Smiley novel (this took about a decade) I was able to accept it for what it is. Which is a beautifully crafted book about manners, like a modern Jane Austen, with a backdrop of cold war tension. Here is an author who seems to see more than...
Published on 23 Dec. 2003 by Bill Ford

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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars strong suspense, let down by ending.
I always enjoyed leCarre's espionage books. The plot and suspense was carefully cultivated, the characters were believable for their strengths and flaws, the endings usually understated in terms of reality, but the major principals usually bearing a heavy price. Unfortunately with the end of the Cold War, le Carre seemed to suffer, leading to dabblings in other areas-...
Published on 22 Aug. 2011 by Jack Chakotay


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20 of 21 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A delicious read, 23 Dec. 2003
This review is from: The Russia House (Paperback)
I don't normally feel I have time to write reviews but for this I'm making an exception. Once I got over the fact that this was not a Smiley novel (this took about a decade) I was able to accept it for what it is. Which is a beautifully crafted book about manners, like a modern Jane Austen, with a backdrop of cold war tension. Here is an author who seems to see more than most and is able to articulate it economically. Despite a slightly world-weary tone, or perhaps because of it, it is a ripping good read.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Excellent dramatisation of Le Carre's novel, 5 Aug. 2011
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Amazon Customer "m_farncombe" (Guildford UK) - See all my reviews
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Although this was trotted out as part of BBC Radio's 2010 'Complete Smiley' season, this was actually recorded in 1994. This four-disc/five-hour version of Le Carre's 1989 book stars Tom Baker (better known from Dr Who) as Bartholomew Blair, reluctant spy. Barley Blair is a loudmouthed womanising drunk who has pretty much destroyed his family's publishing house through feckless behaviour. However, he is sent a manuscript from a person who is obviously privy to the the Russian nuclear programme. The manuscript is dynamite - it reveals that the Russian missiles don't work all that well. If this is true, then it means that America's Star Wars programme is unnecessary. Of course, if the manuscript is false, then the Americans could be making a fatal mistake.

The only way of finding out is to train Barley Blair as a spy, and send him into Russia to contact the author. The Americans prepare a 'shopping list' containing everything they don't know about the Russian programme, and want the questions answered. Naturally, Barley bungles it by falling in love with the beautiful Katya, the author's intermediary. But what is really going on? Is the author genuine and the information dynamite? Or is it a KGB plot to mislead the Americans into dropping Star Wars and revealing the shopping list? Or is something else going on? The drama unfolds, with the answer only becoming apparent in the last five minutes.

The recording quality is excellent, and although I found it hard to get over 'The Doctor' playing a spy, it's a very enjoyable and accurate presentation, excellently directed and well acted throughout.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Beautifully crafted, 15 Aug. 2009
This review is from: The Russia House (Paperback)
This really is very good. I have not previously read anything by Le Carre and had no preconceived ideas about his style or substance. What I found was that the book very quickly drew me in to its tale of cold war spying. `Spying is waiting' we are told and reminded constantly by our narrator, Harry (de)Palfrey, Legal Advisor to `the Service', and the book is beautifully paced with all of its action found in superbly crafted dialogue. This is not a book of macho actions, shootouts, car chases and fist fights but one of the development of relationships between people and the tensions created by the circumstances in which they find themselves. Nothing is spared in this process; there are no heroes but just solid (mainly) people doing their job under difficult circumstances. In the middle of it all lies a publisher for whom the unexpected environment and events in which he finds himself leads to a tender love affair in Moscow and ultimately a strength of purpose and ability for decisive action not foreseen by those who had prepared him, even if there is clear recognition that they may not be controlling him. If you are looking for an intelligent spy story this one is highly recommended.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An exciting story., 28 Nov. 2011
By 
Mike J (London) - See all my reviews
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I really enjoyed this CD, it's just the kind of story that grabs me, spies, suspense and mystery.

The essence of the plot is, and I won't give too much away, in the opening scene, someone is given a `book' at a publishing show in Russia, to take back to London as a sample. The `book' actually turns out to be a collection of Russian military defence and weapon secrets, which, if authentic, could be world changing.

The rest of the story unfolds with London publisher Barley Blair (Tom Baker) trying to verify the authenticity of the `book' so the British Government can take action, action which would be disastrous if the `book' was a fake. The tale ends with a not unforeseen twist, but still very enjoyable.

As fantastic an actor as Tom Baker is, his voice is so recognisable, I found it detracted from the story a little. One of the great things about books is deciding in your own mind who looks like what, and so on, I couldn't picture Barley Blair as looking like anything other than Tom Baker as Dr. Who.
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17 of 19 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Splendid, 10 Dec. 1998
By A Customer
This review is from: The Russia House (Paperback)
'Spying is waiting'. So believable. Unlike the breakneck speed of events of popular espionage fiction, John Le Carre takes us into the REAL world of spying where you do your bit and wait for reactions. Things don't happen at the speed at which we wish them to.
His characters don't speak from high moral grounds, so typical to Tom Clancy's characters. Nor they are reluctant heroes of Robert Ludlum. They are real people, afraid, greedy, selfish, people who you can relate with, people who don't have the power to eliminate the evils of the world single-handedly. These are the people who know that the evil is here to stay, and in some sense they are also part of it. Elimination of evil will mean self-destruction. They just play the part in the manner they are told to and wait to get out of the evil-machine of espionage. 'Spying IS waiting'
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent production, Tom Baker is perfect, 22 Feb. 2012
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Tom Baker reads this book in his normal deadpan manner which is perfect for this John LeCarre book. I did not recognize any of the other 'actors' but they were all good.

Set in the cold war era, it is quite a complicated plot, but on a long car journey, we were all gripped from the start. When it finished, we all wanted more! It has also made my son a LeCarre fan and he is now reading the Smiley books.

Sound quality is typical of the BBC Audio books, very good.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Powerful drama, 6 Aug. 2011
By 
Mrs. V. Bradley "bookaholic" (Kidderminster, Worcs., England) - See all my reviews
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This BBC Radio 4 full cast dramatisation of 'The Russia House' makes for excellent and exciting listening. I was not familiar with John le Carre's work having previously dismissed his writings as being beyond my understanding; rather too deep and complicated. This wonderful adaptation by Rene Basilico has proved me wrong. The storyline was gripping and, at times, poignant. A spy drama first and foremost set in the third year of perestroika, but a tender love story as well: both perfectly balanced. Tom Baker made a wonderful Barley Blair - an often drunk book publisher, and the central character in the story. Without exception all the cast were excellent, as were the sound effects. In fact, I enjoyed listening to this so much I am very tempted to go and buy a John le Carre novel as a result.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars "If ever you manage to be a hero, I'll manage to be a decent human being.", 14 Aug. 2011
By 
Trevor Willsmer (London, England) - See all my reviews
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NB: Although Amazon, in their infinite wisdom, have lumped together reviws of both the novel and the BBC radio adaptation together, this is a review of the BBC Radio release.

With the fall of communism many thought that Le Carre would be suddenly short of material, but with The Russia House he showed that while there may have been a change of management but the old suspicions and betrayals remained - and since betrayals, both personal and political, had been his territory since the 60s, it opened a rich new vein. It's a strong story with a memorable anti-hero - boozy Barley Blair, a publisher whose one 30-year old `first contact' form with the secret service marked `No further action - ever,' suddenly finds himself thrust into the game when a mystery woman tries to send him a tell-all manuscript from a prominent Russian scientist only for it to eventually fall into Whitehall's hands. The only problem is that they don't know if they've got a goldmine or a mountain of disinformation so they decide to send Barley to check out the author's bona fides only for him to fall in love with the intermediary and develop a bad case of romantic idealism...

While it's not as bleak as his 60s classics, in Le Carre's world Glasnost has simply led to a change in the public face while the same old machinations and broken promises go on in the background ensuring that, if not as final for all the major players, it still ends badly for all concerned, with hope perhaps the cruellest fate of all. Yet this BBC radio adaptation from 1994 is disappointing compared both to the BBC's George Smiley adaptations and the film version, taking a somewhat unadventurous straightforward chronology rather than the elaborate doubling back between past and present that Tom Stoppard used in his screenplay and which Le Carre used to considerably less effect in Our Kind of Traitor. This does allow some absurdist satire at the ridiculous lengths you have to go to to get someone in Whitehall to actually look at documents smuggled out of Russia and it's excellent on the mundane mechanics of both publishing and spycraft. Unfortunately the performances are variable. Tom Baker's first big break was playing Rasputin in Nicholas and Alexandra, so there's a kind of symmetry in his casting as the reluctant spy, but while he's rather splendid in his marinated bravado, his romantic scenes with a less than convincing Valentina Yakunina are less convincing. Other performances are distinctly variable - not enough to derail the adaptation, but enough to keep you from buying into it entirely. Yet the story still exerts its grip and, in this 4-CD release, it's hard not to enjoy the irony of a talking book about a publisher who can't sell talking books!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Cold War Action- Warmly depicted., 1 Aug. 2011
By 
Glenn Cook (South Cave, near Hull UK) - See all my reviews
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NOTE THIS IS A REVIEW FOR THE BBC AUDIO PLAY AND NOT THE BOOK.
(Amazon have a habit of linking them all together)

This is a recording of a BBC play from 1994. It has been dramatised really well by the excellent René Basilico. He has done an excellent job to convey the British Spy service at that time.

This is no CIA action Jason Bourne type explosive action drama.
The lead character is played by that excellent character Tom Baker.

He has done an excellent job of really bringing his character to life for us.
Listening to these CDs I cannot imagine another actor in this role who would be as good.
The same goes for Valentina Yakunina's Katya.
Both actors bring the real conflict of decency and doing the right thing to the fore. I do agree that a real favourite was the character of `Goethe'. I won't give a plot spoiler away but he has a pivotal role in this story of the cold war.

The cast, as you'd expect from the BBC, are excellent. The Russsians sound Russian, the Americans American.
The cast have done themselves, the BBC and the author proud in bringing this excellt book to life as a really satisfying `movie for your ears' to borrow a phrase from Frank Zappa.

Recommended?

Yes!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars If you like Tom Baker, buy this. If you like John le Carre, buy this. Buy it, listen to it, love it and repeat!, 6 Nov. 2011
By 
G. Wake "gregwake" (Newcastle, UK) - See all my reviews
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Having seen the film version (with Sean Connery) of this some years ago I was not entirely sure this was going to be worth listening to as I remembered the essence of the story so I thought I knew what to expect when I started listen to this in the car. I was pleasantly surprised by quality of this radio version and it's differences from the film.

Tom Baker does a truly wonderful job as Barley Blair; his portrayal of this unorthodox and unreliable character is spot on, entirely convincing and, in my view, better than Sean Connery. Though I am not familiar with the other members of the cast they all played their parts very well indeed, even down to the Russian accents.

The writing matches Le Carre's usual high standard, revealing enough to let the listener know what is going on while not burying them in dull details, evoking images in the listeners mind; while listening I could almost feel the grime and smell of Moscow and feel the slight madness and fear that inhabit Barley Blair.

I therefore heartily recommend this radio play to all. The only thing I'd take real issue with it that it is so good 'The Russia House' ends with the listener wanting to hear more.
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The Russia House
The Russia House by Le Carre John (Hardcover - 1 July 1989)
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