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17 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Splendid
'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...
Published on 10 Dec 1998

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5 of 5 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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17 of 18 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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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars strong suspense, let down by ending., 22 Aug 2011
By 
Jack Chakotay "Ender Brazil" (Northern Ireland) - See all my reviews
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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- usually with poor returns. (The strong exception of course is "The Constant Gardener")

So I held high hopes for this spy thriller set against the background years of glastnost and perestroika. The smooth anti-hero is Barley Blair, a British publisher who gets caught up with a manuscript detailing flaws in the Soviet military industry, MI5 and CIA; and a strikingly attractive Soviet female publisher with an idealistic streak.

I wanted to like my first audiobook from this author. The scenes are all the more immersive for the reading, with Barley and Katya being played very well. There is a terseness to most of the set scenes, very impressive because it is only dialogue and scene-setting sound effects. I found Barley's MI5 interrogation and induction as well as his spycraft efforts in the field in the Soviet Union gripping to the point of claustrophobia.

Yet there is a bit of flakiness to nearly all the characters. Barley Blair, a man who almost has no ethics, develops them by the start of CD2. He has multiple female conquests and comes across as a middle aged Rover, suddenly falls completely for Katya who he has never met but only has heard being decribed as striking.

And not to give the ending away, but the subsequent arrangement that Barley effects with the "Sovs" is completely unbelievable in the context of the story presented by the audiobook (Soviet authorities allow Barley to dictate terms)

I am not certain if this is the fault of the original text or the adaptation. I was willingly swept away by the excellent performances until the lightweight ending.

However, I would recommend this set for the strong efforts of the cast and the perfect capture of the relevant mood in all its scenes.
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2 of 2 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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17 of 19 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
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent production, Tom Baker is perfect, 22 Feb 2012
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
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
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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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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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Excellent dramatisation of Le Carre's novel, 5 Aug 2011
By 
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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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars BBC Radio drama at its best..., 29 July 2011
By 
C. FULLER (Brixham, United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
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I selected this item because I have always enjoyed radio drama and still do in fact. This production dates from 1994 and features a top cast including Tom Baker; Danny Webb; John Rowe; Bruce Boa; David Healy and Ed Bishop to name but a few. A great atmosphere and a dramatisation of John le Carre's "The Russia House" does make for the perfect subject. Clarity and presentation are excellent. Spread across 4 CDs this is a perfect set to listen to across a weekend. Of course, there is the freedom of being able to do other things whilst listening to radio drama. Good value. This comes from AudioGo and I hope that they will release more vintage productions such as this...
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Even better than the movie!, 19 Feb 2003
By 
DARBY KERN (Green Bay, WI United States) - See all my reviews
John Le Carre's THE RUSSIA HOUSE is a far less Byzantine tale than his SMILEY'S PEOPLE or even THE SPY WHO CAME IN FROM THE COLD, but it is an engaging tale of love preceding the collapse of the Soviet Union.
Very simply, a beautiful Russian woman passes a book to an English publisher at a Moscow trade show and asks him to give it to Barley Blair. The publisher can't find Barley so he gives it to the government. The British Secret Service then "recruit" reluctant joe, Barley Blair to make contact with the author. Along the way he falls in love with the beautiful Katya and his allegiances are tested.
This audio dramatization is a great way to experience the story if you don't have time to sit and read the book. It's even better for road trips or long walks. I first found it in a bookstore in Vienna (great city for walking) and listened to it several times before leaving.
The acting is great. Tom Baker is wonderful as Barley Blair, expressing all the qualities of this multidimensional character clearly.
The adaptation is deftly handled, keeping the story moving forward despite the lack of "action." Le Carre tells personal, human stories. Stories that don't require loads of gunfire and military attacks. This story still speeds along well.
Strangely, I even prefer the audio version to the movie. The movie had a great writer, director and two (actually several more) great actors- but I return to the audio version more often than not.
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The Russia House
The Russia House by Le Carre John (Hardcover - 1 July 1989)
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