The Looking Glass War (Penguin Modern Classics) Paperback – 3 Nov 2011
|New from||Used from|
- Choose from over 13,000 locations across the UK
- Prime members get unlimited deliveries at no additional cost
- Find your preferred location and add it to your address book
- Dispatch to this address when you check out
Frequently Bought Together
Customers Who Bought This Item Also Bought
Enter your mobile number below and we'll send you a link to download the free Kindle App. Then you can start reading Kindle books on your smartphone, tablet, or computer - no Kindle device required.
Getting the download link through email is temporarily not available. Please check back later.
To get the free app, enter your mobile phone number.
A book of rare and great power (Financial Times)
A devastating and tragic record of human, not glamour, spies (New York Herald Tribune)
Bestselling Master of Espionage, John le Carré reads John le Carré.
'A book of rare and great power'
What Other Items Do Customers Buy After Viewing This Item?
Top Customer Reviews
The plot is fairly simple: a small and out-of-favour military intelligence department in London have a potentially huge discovery on their hands - an unconfirmed and sketchy report of Soviet missiles being stored in East Germany (the period is Cold War, early sixties). In a bid to confirm the discovery - and regain some of their former status and credibility - the department decides to find and train an agent to go over the border, something they have not done for many years.
The majority of the book is taken up with the preparation and training for the mission and the shifting politics and loyalties of those involved. This provides a strange mix of convincing technical detail and le Carre's always excellent character sketches and observations on a certain type of English character.
Without giving too much away of the story, the heart of the book is a study of ambition, resentment, jealousies and fading glories in the intelligence community during this period. The outcome of the mission is almost secondary, but the reader can discern the likely outcome as le Carre carefully reveals the endless possibilities of small details and judgements that can mean the difference between success and failure in this environment.
In conclusion, not your average spy story, not typical le Carre, but still engrossing and worth a read.
The technique Smiley referring to is spy craft, but I could not help feeling that it might also be an oblique comment on the way that a reader can be hypnotised by the technique of a writer. There were several moments midway through this book when I thought seriously about putting it down and not picking it back up again, and it was only my faith in Le Carré's technique that kept me turning the pages.
This is not because it's a bad book. On the contrary, it's acutely observed, beautifully written, alternately moving and gripping. But it is deeply and pervasively bleak.
I read somewhere that the secret to creating a successful best-seller was to focus on characters who were supremely good at what they did. "The Looking Glass War" turns this premise on its head. George Smiley, Le Carré's ultimate master spy, makes only fleeting visits to these pages, and The Circus (Le Carré's term for the Secret Service) acts as a distant, if not always disinterested, by-stander. Most of the book's attention is focused on "The Department", a clandestine, and not very clearly identifed, adjunct of the British Government which enjoyed some years of glory during WWII, but clings on without any real purpose in the Cold War Europe of the 1960s.
The employees of The Department are not wicked. They believe (or try to believe) that the work they do, collating military intelligence from beyond the Iron Curtain, is important and right. But they are weak, self-serving, more concerned with office politics at home than with the mortal consequences of the work they do abroad. Worst of all they are hopelessly outclassed.Read more ›
Memory of the intricate details of the novel itself fail me: good. Personally I can't bear reviews which simply chart a story's narrative arc almost verbatim. I much prefer a review to give me a sense of the impression of a book, or something like that. The beauty is in discovering for yourself what this is, and one book may mean many things to different people, of course.
One recurring theme of a lot of reviews of The Looking Glass War is how it received a relatively poor reception, how its realism contributed to its failure and the like. I'm tempted to dismiss this as utter nonsense, but being 30 years old I can't quite judge to exactly what degree. Either way, nonsense it is. Its realism is essential to its potency.
To be sure, its immediate predecessor, The Spy Who Came in from the Cold, is one of the finest examples of both plot and literature in the English language, a rare beast.
Nonetheless, as far as a novel can describe the bare ignobility of a most subtle human rationale in both personal and political motivation, it suffers no superior, and I believe it serves as a superb key to Le Carré's work, even as (almost contradictorily) it lays the ground for the reader to be even more enthralled by his more densely plotted works.
But therein lies the attraction of John le Carré: contradiction, and humanity. They go hand in hand, don't you think?
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Book was definitely not as described. It was received in poor condition.Published 9 days ago by Amazon Customer
Great read - over fifty years after the book is set, it's fascinating to remember the way class dominated British society. Read morePublished 1 month ago by Nitram
A bit different from the other George Smiley series, in fact George has only a bit part....... in the fiction at least, but who knows what he is up to behind the scenes.....??Published 2 months ago by Bob Richards
Like everything John le Carre writes it is always well worth the read, and re-read and re-read. Can't wait to start re-reading it.Published 3 months ago by rocket291054
Le Carré is a genius almost unrivalled in his chosen genre.Published 3 months ago by Simon Harrison
A bit slow in places, but interesting in that all the civil servants seem to be totally mad.Published 3 months ago by Tony