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26 of 27 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A prophetic novel
For some reason, I'd left this book on the shelf for around a year before I got around to reading it, but in some ways actually improves its reading. There are parallels here with some of Le Carre's other novels (The spy who came in from the cold; The perfect spy; Our game) and is a fine thriller by any standards. However what differentiates it from these and makes it a...
Published on 27 Jun. 2005 by I. D. Miller

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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Struggles to gain momentum, and only does so within the last breath
Based on the reviews on the back cover of this book, I expected a fast paced and intelligently written spy novel.

The book definitely meets the intellectual expectation, but severely struggles to gain any sort of momentum. I would happily trade some of the in-depth narrative for some quicker plot development.

To paint a better picture - I am not...
Published on 29 July 2008 by D. J. Burton


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26 of 27 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A prophetic novel, 27 Jun. 2005
By 
I. D. Miller "ian_miller6" (Solihull) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Absolute Friends (Paperback)
For some reason, I'd left this book on the shelf for around a year before I got around to reading it, but in some ways actually improves its reading. There are parallels here with some of Le Carre's other novels (The spy who came in from the cold; The perfect spy; Our game) and is a fine thriller by any standards. However what differentiates it from these and makes it a very important work is the obvious anger running throughout the book that the author feels regarding the current politics of fear eminating from the US and UK administrations.
Le Carre emphasises the climate of propaganda, lies and illegality of governmental decisions throughout the book. It was finished shortly after the Iraq war; a time in which one by one, the reasons given for the war in the first place have crumbled and its bloody aftermath lingers on and on.
A prophetic and very important book.
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19 of 20 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Gem, 16 Jan. 2004
By 
Mme Roslyn Mor "rosmor3" (Fontainebleau, France) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Absolute Friends (Hardcover)
Is it still possible that a writer can create a so historically aware novel which is fiction and fabulation, but speaks directly to those who have experienced first hand the events and socio-political climates he weaves into his story? Le Carré is foremost a storyteller and his protagonists are fictious, albeit symbols. But to a person who demonstrated against the Vietnam war as a student, was there when Aldo Moro was kidnapped, lived through the Baader Meinhof era in Germany, and is proud of being a resident in a country where a stand was made about the intervention in Iraq, his book makes lots of sense.I disagree with other reviews about the end. Mundy and Sasha are two sides of the one coin united in a hopeless battle. Their demise is as symbolic as the rest of their very existence. They are incidental to the overall message. I revel in the clarity of the writing and the erudition which is a hallmark of le Carré's later writing. The Constant Gardner was his best book to date for me. This comes a close second. And I've read them all.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Struggles to gain momentum, and only does so within the last breath, 29 July 2008
By 
D. J. Burton (UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Absolute Friends (Paperback)
Based on the reviews on the back cover of this book, I expected a fast paced and intelligently written spy novel.

The book definitely meets the intellectual expectation, but severely struggles to gain any sort of momentum. I would happily trade some of the in-depth narrative for some quicker plot development.

To paint a better picture - I am not expecting a plot development on every page, and I have to stress the point that it is incredibly slow to develop. Halfway through the book you are left wondering if there was much point to what's already been read, it's almost like reading treacle.

The book does not suit slow readers. In order to make the most of it you need to get through it in large sittings so as to keep the interest flowing. For this reason, and the fact that it does not meet my expectations, I am giving the book 2 out of 5.

I hope this rating will deter anyone who has similar interests to mine. However, I am sure that fans of the author will enjoy the book and might consider a higher rating of 3 or 4 out of 5, but I strongly advise anyone who wants a casual novel to look elsewhere.
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26 of 28 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A splendid return to form., 29 Dec. 2003
By 
Peter Fenelon - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Absolute Friends (Hardcover)
Smiley and Karla, Magnus and Rick Pym, now Ted and Sasha - Le Carre is at his best when he creates pairs of characters who lead each other to their fates, and in Absolute Friends he comes up with two true immortals.
Ted, in earlier Le Carre books, would've been a perfectly normal member of the espiocracy, the kind of dependable, solid agent who would've discharged his Circus duties without conscience or controversy. But contemporary le Carre characters have even more tangled depths - Ted's concern for justice and equality is rooted in a loathing of the mess that Britain left behind in India and Pakistan; this obviously leads him into anti-imperialism and the shadowy world of espionage. It is in Germany that he encounters the brilliant, disabled Sasha - firebrand politician and also committed to his own brand of liberty.
Absolute Friends shows two figures bound up into their systems striving to find their own individual justice, their own places in the world. States, systems, organisations are not to be trusted in the new Le Carre - loyalty is individual, morality is absolute. There are probably more overt attacks on Western liberalism and capitalism in this book than in the rest of his work put together; what was formerly presented as the "right" way is now merely the less repulsive of a set of fairly unpleasant alternatives.
Yet how can men like Sasha and Ted build a better world?
This is possibly Le Carre's finest book yet. It lacks the immediacy and some of the intimacy of "A Perfect Spy", although rivals it in scope. It lacks the intense intrigue and 'tradecraft' of "Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy" though matches it for density and depth of tone.
It is a fine, mature and humane novel by a superb writer with an clear yet idiosyncratic view of honour, morality and duty. Wonderfully readable.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Excellent (mostly), 2 Jan. 2004
By A Customer
This review is from: Absolute Friends (Hardcover)
This book strengthen's my admiration for Le Carre, though its ending is somewhat trite and disappointing.
All the usual elements are there: the contempt for the socialist paradise of the communist states, the cold-eyed cynicism of its western enemies, this time with the added spice of a quick tour of the Berlin anarchist milleu of the late-60s. All of this makes excellent reading.
The book, though, is already famous for its commentary on the "war on terror" - I won't spoil the ending, but frankly it is fatuous, the sort of nonsense one would expect from a born-again disciple of Noam Chomsky.
Having said that, I really do have to recommend it!
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Absolute Friends Hard cover, 12 Jan. 2004
This review is from: Absolute Friends (Audio Cassette)
Good new for le Carre fans - the master is back to his brilliant form!!!!! His best novel since Smiley's People. He manages to write a topical and accurate reflection of today's international political climate (and political thoughts), whilst retaining the mastery of depicting humanity at its most fundamental, well, human level that is the trademark of le Carre. Life in this big bad world is bearable again when one can read le Carre! Yes it does show his political leanings towards the Noam Chomsky school of thought, but he is far more persuasive (and engrossing) than Chomsky! Must read!!!!!!!
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Spies, Lies, Politics and Tragedy in John le Carre's Best, 7 Jan. 2008
By 
Laurel Whitehead (Seattle, WA) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Absolute Friends (Paperback)
Ted Mundy was born in India, in what later became Pakistan. His father was a British soldier who drank too much. His mother died in childbirth. Father and son return to England where Ted goes to school till he drops out of Oxford. He goes to Berlin, falls in with leftist anarchists and meets his absolute friend Sasha.

He saves Sasha's life during a student demonstration and is beaten for his trouble, then whisked out of Germany by British diplomats. He eventually gets a job leading goodwill tours of British artists behind the Iron Curtain and he seems to be a happily married member of the British middle class. Then he gets in trouble because a bunch of clueless British drama students try to smuggle a Polish actor from Poland through East Germany and into the West.

Sasha, now an agent of the East German secret police, steps in and saves Ted from the Stasi and now Ted is pulled into a double spy game in which both he and Sasha pretend to spy on England, when their real goal is to pull down the East German regime they both despise.

They remain double agents throughout the Cold War, but after the fall of the Berlin Wall, Ted is out of the spy game and they drift apart. They don't see each other often, but the bond between them is strong and apparently eternal.

Ted divorces, drifts to Germany, gets a job as a tour guide in Germany, moves in with a Turkish prostitute, becomes sort of a surrogate father for her son Mustafa, gets a dog and appears to finally be happy. Than Sasha returns to his life. Pulling Ted into a scheme of founding an open university that will liberate Western thought from the corporate imperialists.

This scheme is funded by a mysterious character named Dimitri, a renegade billionaire who denounces the recent invasion of Iraq by the Americans as "a criminal and moral conspiracy." He goes on to claim that the war has been, "dressed up as a crusade for Western life and liberty...launched by a clique of war-hungry Judeo-Christian geopolitical fantasists who hijacked the media and exploited America's post-9/11 psychopathy.

Yes, the book is a bit political, le Carre seems to feel that he has to get his views about Bush, Blair and the Iraqi War into popular print. Still it's a heck of a story with an fatalistic ending that reminded me of "The Spy Who Came in from the Cold." This is a character driven book, excellently written and it swept me away, but I suspect that if you are a strong supporter of the current administration in Washington, that your political views will cloud your judgement of this fine story which is, in my opinion, one of John le Carre's best.

Reviewed by Captain Katie Osborne
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The quintessential dupe, 13 Jan. 2006
By 
Mr. Joe (Glendale, CA USA) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Absolute Friends (Hardcover)
ABSOLUTE FRIENDS is perhaps John le Carré's most elegant construct in some time. By its conclusion, it also reflects the author's anger against America's and Britain's overt justification for their current involvement in Iraq, i.e. as the front line in the war against Muslim terrorism. I doubt if it will be preferred bedtime reading for George Dubya or Tony Blair, just as CONSTANT GARDENER wouldn't find favor with pharmaceutical company CEOs. Mundy's largely directionless life is characterized by a lack of entrenched commitment to anything political, and, like a leaf, is blown from cause to cause by girlfriends, wife, mistress, intelligence handler, circumstance, and, above all, his "absolute friend" Sasha, a stateless, radical visionary/philosopher/anarchist, whom Ted originally meets during his youthful anti-establishment period in West Berlin.
As with any le Carré offering, all of which compulsively stress character and plot development, the reader seeking action and thrills need not open the cover. To my mind, the author's greatest triumphs were the two George Smiley novels, TINKER, TAILOR, SOLDIER, SPY and SMILEY'S PEOPLE, both of which were made into superb television miniseries by the BBC and starring Alec Guinness in the title role. Here, Mundy, in his own way, is as engaging a protagonist as Smiley. However, I must ultimately knock-off a star because I, while no uncritical supporter of George Dubya and his Iraqi venture, somewhat resent being presented with an entertainment opportunity that becomes, in the end, simply a vehicle for the author to grind an ax, albeit cleverly done.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Your Resume Is Your Fate, 4 Jun. 2004
By 
Donald Mitchell "Jesus Loves You!" (Thanks for Providing My Reviews over 127,000 Helpful Votes Globally) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Absolute Friends (Hardcover)
In the beginning of Absolute Friends, I found myself wondering why Mr. Le Carre had put together such an unusual resume for his main character, Ted Mundy. Be patient with those details because Mr. Le Carre uses every one of them to develop his most intricate plot ever. This book will continue to surprise you with its plot twists and will reward careful reading. Those who have a very cynical view of the motives behind the invasion of Iraq in 2003 will love this book.
Brought up without a mother and with a distant father whose life was on the skids, Ted Mundy found himself looking for emotional connection. With a strong sympathy for the underdog and the oppressed, he finds himself some unusual friends among the radical community of his youth. Made of stern stuff, he willingly engages in helping them and becomes closely involved with antiauthoritarian Sasha in West Berlin. That unexpected connection becomes the central pivot of his life from then on. Try as he might to avoid it, he and Sasha are permanently linked through that youthful friendship. In essence, Ted Mundy's life becomes a resume that others are willing to interpret as supporting their views . . . and he finds himself unexpectedly draw into the espionage battles of the Cold War. Even after the fall of the Berlin Wall, Mundy's past becomes valuable to those who want to create new perceptions today. In the process, Mundy finds his good intentions and friendship unintentionally subverted.
The jacket copy for this book is misleading. It suggests that the story is mostly about the mysterious Dimitri, the idealistic billionaire who wants to recruit Ted Mundy. Except for a brief introduction, that section of the book comes only at the end. Most of the book deals with a flashback into Mundy's life before meeting Sasha and his involvement with Cold War spying. A lot of the action occurs behind the Iron Curtain, and pieces of the book will remind you of Mr. Le Carre's marvelous stories about espionage into East Germany.
The book has an Achilles heel though in that Mr. Le Carre needs such an unusual combination of characters that the plot builds on what seemed to me to often be dense, unrealistic details. I kept wondering why he was making up such preposterous backgrounds for his characters. In the end, all became clear . . . but the story's eventual ending could have been told without all the background. The book feels like two books, loosely bound together by a limited tether three-quarters of the way through. Without the last section, this could have been a five-star Cold War book. With a simpler development of the last section, this could have been a four-star book about political chicanery. I found the way they were bound together was just too big a stretch for me. I found myself focusing on the author's plotting, rather than just accepting the story. I do, however, admire the mind that could put all these pieces together.
If you are like me, the ending will leave you stunned and feeling queasy. Mr. Le Carre has a powerful message for us about the dangers of believing that everything is what we are told. Be skeptical!
As I finished the book, I wondered again about the proper balance among our responsibility to ourselves, our loved ones and our loyalties to greater causes. Mr. Le Carre seems to suggest that we shouldn't be so idealistic . . . the price is too high. But isn't our idealism what makes us noble and admirable? Perhaps he means nothing more than that we shouldn't abandon all else for our idealism.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars I Spy a Damn Good Book, 7 Jan. 2004
This review is from: Absolute Friends (Hardcover)
From the inside cover's blurb, plus the pre-release press it had received, I was expecting a rather dour diatribe against the UK and USA governments' taste in international relations. Whilst Le Carre does indeed mount his soapbox occasionally, he nevertheless builds a highly successful relationship between two opposing, yet essentially congruous spies - Mundy and Sasha.
The plot itself is quite basic, though it succinctly spans six decades in less than 400 pages: the lives and times of two spies. All the while intertwining their lives, the story charts their respective careers through the day-to-day double-dealing and clandestine chinwags of the spying fraternity. However, the descriptive power, richness of character, all-round knowledge and the insightful wit Le Carre brings to the book is huge. Whilst a book probably not for those averse to international politics, it is still a book well worth reading simply for the artistic talent on display.
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Absolute Friends
Absolute Friends by John le Carré
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