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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A New Lawrence
As usual Le Carre has produced a sublimely beautiful book using language as only he can. Like many of Le Carre's work in the post Cold War era it is also deeply disturbing, dealing with another of those "loose ends" left by the demise of the Soviet Union. Yet it also manages to be a heart-wrenching romance, poor Crammer pining for a girl who threw him off like an old pair...
Published on 25 May 2011 by Iphidaimos

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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Few of His Post Cold War Books Measure Up to His Masterworks
The 1991 "Our Game" is a standalone post cold war spy story by the British spymeister, John LeCarre, whose works include The Spy Who Came in from the Cold; Smiley's People; and Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy. Le Carre, of course, has ample first hand experience of the business, as he was an actual British spy, for five years, under his birth name, David Cornwell. (And,...
Published on 2 Mar. 2010 by Stephanie De Pue


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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A New Lawrence, 25 May 2011
This review is from: Our Game (Paperback)
As usual Le Carre has produced a sublimely beautiful book using language as only he can. Like many of Le Carre's work in the post Cold War era it is also deeply disturbing, dealing with another of those "loose ends" left by the demise of the Soviet Union. Yet it also manages to be a heart-wrenching romance, poor Crammer pining for a girl who threw him off like an old pair of shoes when they became unfashionable. You can't help but sympathise with the character for his sense of loss. But it is the character of Larry who dominates the book as he dominates all the other characters in it. I can't help but think that his name - Larry - was no arbitrary choice. He is far too much like T.E.Lawrence, Lawrence of Arabia, for that to be so. But this is not just a rehash of an old story, Le Carre is far too subtle for that. No, this is an exploration of that peculiar British character that pops up from time to time - the man who turns his back on Britain and embraces the cause of an oppreseed minority. The man, slightly mad, who falls in love with the desert or, in this case, the mountains of central Asia. Brilliant as usual - but what else would you expect?
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15 of 16 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The Master At His Best, 28 Sept. 2002
This review is from: Our Game (Paperback)
OK, I'm a Le Carre fan and have been for years. Even so, I think this is a brilliant book.
Written in a first-person-mixed-tense style which keeps you on your toes until you get used to it, this is a spare, taught story of love, deceit and-in the end-a kind of integrity.
The plot is closely-woven and not always explicitly narrated-there is thinking to do when reading this book.
Much of the story is set in or deals with the small states in the Northern Caucasus. There is a map in the book, but it helps a lot to have a decent [and up to date] atlas at hand for occasional reference. Like me, you may find that you start doing some research about the area and its tensions after reading the book.
I read this book in two sittings, then started to read it again. I recommend it to you.
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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Few of His Post Cold War Books Measure Up to His Masterworks, 2 Mar. 2010
By 
Stephanie De Pue (Wilmington, NC USA) - See all my reviews
(TOP 1000 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: Our Game (Paperback)
The 1991 "Our Game" is a standalone post cold war spy story by the British spymeister, John LeCarre, whose works include The Spy Who Came in from the Cold; Smiley's People; and Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy. Le Carre, of course, has ample first hand experience of the business, as he was an actual British spy, for five years, under his birth name, David Cornwell. (And, according to internet biographers, he was, in fact, embedded in Soviet territory when he was blown by Kim Philby, most famous post-war British secret service traitor; Philby's treachery might have been fatal to him.) "Our Game" exhibits some of his virtues as a writer: unsurpassed spycraft, strong set piece openings, and closings; plots that have been known to keep a reader up way past bedtime; sharply drawn characters given snappy dialogue, and engrossing narrative and descriptive writing.

The book opens on Tim Cranmer, forcibly retired British cold war spy; luckily for him, he seems to have had more than his share of wealthy relatives, enabling a comfortable retirement as a landed winemaker. He has acquired a beautiful, much younger mistress - Le Carre's characters so often do, in his later writings-- whom he keeps in luxury. And he's been able to place his oldest friend, Larry Pettifer, a friendly rival since the elite school Winchester, and the elite university, Oxford, in a job nearby. Mind you, Pettifer was also one of the deskbound Cranmer's spies, or joes, as Le Carre calls them; he was also a double agent, secretly working for the Russians. Yet Cranmer, whom people consider cold and distant, has never been closer to anyone else.

Suddenly, Pettifer disappears, taking with him Cranmer's young mistress Emma. (He tells Cranmer:" You stole my life, I stole your girl.") Cranmer soon discovers that Pettifer has committed himself to a new cause, for which he's taken with him, from their former employer, the spy agency, $37 million Russian to which he wasn't entitled. Cranmer also soon realizes his former employers at the spy shop suspect him of complicity in the theft; and, what's worse, a ruthless Russian mafia does, too. So Cranmer goes on the run, to Paris and Russia, remembering his helpful spy-craft all the way, as he looks for Pettifer and Emma, while trying to avoid the parties looking for him.

At one point Cranmer muses: "He /Pettifer/ has been goading me about my indifference to the world's agonies....I have said that I never considered myself responsible for the world's ills, not for causing them, not for curing them. The world was in my view a jungle overrun with savages, just as it had always been. Most of its problems were insoluble....I have said that I have always been, and would continue to be, prepared to make sacrifices for my neighbours, compatriots, and friends. But when it came to saving barbarians from one another in countries no bigger than a letter on the map, I failed to see why I should throw myself into a burning house to rescue a dog I had never cared for in the first place."

Now, unfortunately, readers who find that speech resonant, who perhaps are even now saying some variation of: "Right on, brother, couldn't say it better myself," will suddenly have a problem. Because, for reasons never made entirely clear, Cranmer will soon start behaving in ways totally discordant with his stated beliefs. For such readers, I must say, this book might not be the best place to start reading Le Carre. Few of his post cold war novels measure up to his great cold war repertory (he tends to let his political beliefs run away with his stories); and this isn't one of them.
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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Rather haunting, 16 July 2009
This review is from: Our Game (Paperback)
I was an avid Le Carre fan when I first read this in the 90s and I was very disappointed.

Cramer, the hero, seemed a rehash of all other Le Carre heroes. His nemesis Larry seemed unconvincing - perhaps even irritating. The girl Emma just got to moon around soulfully - and even more irritatingly.

And the plot... such a marvellous drive towards the inevitable confrontation between Tim and the man who wronged him... yet the confrontation we got was so different to what we had been promised.

I assumed I'd never go back to it, but in the intervening years it has become the Le Carre I have reread most. Not necessarily my favourite (that would be TSWCIFTC) but the one in which I continue to find subtle delights.

Highly recommended, and worth a second look, even if, like me, your first impressions are unfavourable.
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9 of 11 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A great, thought-provoking read, 23 Oct. 2001
This review is from: Our Game (Paperback)
In this book the Russians are still "the enemy", but not in the way one might expect of a Le Carre novel. Very definitely a post Cold-war perspective on the world, and one which made me see things in a new light, just as Cranmer comes to do so also in the book. Gripping and brilliant.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars I gave up .. heavy and opaque, 20 Sept. 2013
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This review is from: Our Game (Kindle Edition)
Turgid, impenetrable .. a real disappointment.... characters implausible and pedestrian, dull, repetative and out of date.. tedious heavy and opaque no pace
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17 of 22 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars been there, done that, 31 July 2004
By 
Norman Housley (Leicester United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Our Game (Paperback)
John le Carre is such a brilliant stylist and narrator that there are times in this book when you almost think he still has what it takes. But the fact is that the end of the Cold War robbed him of his Great Theme and since then he has been all style and no substance. Worse, as he's got older he's simply lost touch with the way young and middle-aged people talk, so his characters are now stuck in a weird 60s/70s time warp. The same applies to Ruth Rendell.
The rabbits coming out of the hat are now looking very predictable. Here is the gorgeous Emma, latest in the line of brilliant, sensitive, talented but oh-so vulnerable le Carre heroins,
'You see, Tim, Larry is life continued. He will never let me down. He is life made real again, and just to be with him is to be travelling and taking part, because where Tim avoids, Larry engages.'
Here is the cri de coeur of commitment that marks out the critical and catastrophic dash for freedom of the le Carre hero:
'because I've seen them, in their little valley towns and in their mountains ... In life it's the luck of the draw who you meet and when and how much you have left to give, and the point at which to say, to hell with everything, this is where I go the distance, this is where I stick'
And here is the upper-middle-class FO wife wheeled out for plot purposes:
'Oh marvellous, Tim ... Simon will be over the moon. He hasn't had any buddy-buddy talk for weeks. Come nice and early and we can have a drink and you can help me put the children to bed, just like the old days'
This is awful stuff from an author who at his best was one of the greats. He's written out: why continue?
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5.0 out of 5 stars A tale of innocence and experience, 6 July 2013
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This review is from: Our Game (Paperback)
Le Carré as always gives us finely drawn characters you imagine are drawn from real life. The breaking down of the Soviet Union brought with it the problems of secession and ancient feuds between peoples they had subjugated. He presents this world in terms of ideology and altruism with characters in search of personal integrity in a hellish backdrop of racial and extremist religious identity in which freedom fighters collude with mafia groups and arms salesmen. What brave new/old world can come of it all?
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Spy Classic, 30 Jan. 2009
This review is from: Our Game (Paperback)
This book is still a classic of the genre. None of the painful English/American common to so many spy novels/thrillers these days. This story has subtle plot building which is able to keep the reader engaged and still delivers mood and surprise.
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16 of 21 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The bill for stability, 18 July 2005
By 
Stephen A. Haines (Ottawa, Ontario Canada) - See all my reviews
(HALL OF FAME REVIEWER)    (REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Our Game (Paperback)
In Britain, retired civil servants are typified by life in rural cottages, pottering about in a rose garden and Sundays with The Times. Tim Cranmer doesn't quite fulfill the picture. His "rural cottage" is an inherited spot of land containing a chapel. His rose garden is a struggling vineyard. And Sundays are occupied by visits from his former protege. Instead of a demure wife to complete the picture, Tim's resident lady is half his age and a composer. Hardly the picture of a staid bureaucrat out to pasture. Perhaps all these variations are due to Cranmer being other than a "retired civil servant" - he's a retired spook.
Spies never truly retire. They may distance themselves somewhat from the sharp end, but there are always loose ends left over and old cases that resurrect themselves. The dissolution of the Soviet Union was supposed to put ranks of spies from the West [and John Le Carre] out of work. They were considered poorly adapted to the new conditions. Le Carre and his literary creations have refuted that notion. His "retired" spy becomes enmeshed in a conspiracy of stupendous scope. It seems his protege, who was a double pretending to spy for the Soviets, is involved in an embezzlement - 37 billion BP, to be exact. The money is to finance a war of "national liberation" - a little item of ethnic minorities having faith in their identity. Their location is in the ramparts of the Caucasus Mountains, where loyalties are fierce, but the population scattered. Lacking resources, they seem to have convinced Cranmer's double to help finance weapons' purchases.
Larry Pettifer, Cranmer's long-term protege, is an intellectual. He changes ideologies like his socks. A consummate wheeler-dealer, he duped his Soviet minders for many years. What effect did his most recent case officer have to change him? And where does Tim's resident consort, who disappears mysteriously, fit in to the picture? Emma finds Larry charming, but his flighty personality and behaviour seem inconsistent for a woman yearning for stability. Has she fled from security to embrace adventure? What price will Tim pay to recover her?
The Western powers seek stability as well. Le Carre imparts the view that once the Soviet Empire dissolved, capitalism sought but fresh opportunities for investment. Justice and enterprise are often at odds, the more so when resources like oil or minerals are involved. Le Carre has taken up the cause of justice in all his writings, but his more recent ones speak with a more strident voice. Cranmer is portrayed as a voice of an older generation, quietly pleased that the Soviet Union is moribund. The issues of the post-Soviet East seem remote. Le Carre, with his usual skill, portrays a man drawn in by events beyond his control or his ken. It is easy to sympathise with him. But it is Pettifer's idealism that speaks for Le Carre. Never an ideologue, Le Carre's finely wrought narrative confronts us with our own uncaring self-interest. Capitalism may have triumphed, but the victory isn't without flaws. An excellent read and a tribute to Le Carre's skills in plot and characterisation. [stephen a. haines - Ottawa, Canada]
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Our Game by John Le Carré
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