- Hardcover: 339 pages
- Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton; 1st edition (21 Sept. 2006)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 034092196X
- ISBN-13: 978-0340921968
- Product Dimensions: 16.4 x 3 x 24 cm
- Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars See all reviews (74 customer reviews)
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 367,937 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
The Mission Song Hardcover – 21 Sep 2006
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'Le Carre's eye is undimmed, his passion for his craft as strong as it ever was. He delivers a tale that few could equal and none will surpass.' (Observer)
'This thriller exhibits his familiar strengths: superbly realised characters; a succession of knockout scenes nobody else could produce; and a distinctive ability to fuse social comedy and moral anger. Admirable too, is THE MISSION SONG's sense of adventure, as it sees the author switching, perhaps for the first time, from his usual third-person to first person narration. Mesmerising.' (John Dugdale, Sunday Times)
'THE MISSION SONG, like his last but one novel, THE CONSTANT GARDENER, is partly set in Africa and is equally as prescient about African current affairs. You always sense, indeed, that le Carre knows something we, the readers, don't - a useful conceit for an author. It is partly to do with his attention to detail. It is also to do with the ambiguous moral centre his work often has, that and his contemporary resonance. I imagine this is the first time that le Carre has been mentioned in the same breath at Updike and Roth. They, after all, are Literary Novelists with a capital L and N, whereas Le Carre is .... well. what is he? Actually he is sui generis. Or, rather, he is his own genre. Quite an achievement that.' (Nigel Farndale, Sunday Telegraph )
'THE MISSION SONG is meticulously researched, and the tricks and tactics of being a top interpreter are convincingly rendered. You're left with the uncomfortable feeling that perhaps politicians, journalists, civil servants and the businessmen really are the lying, amoral bastards portrayed here. Perhaps it isn't only in le Carre's world, but in the real world too, that we're unwise to believe what we are told.' (Independent on Sunday)
'Most of us believe what we are told most of the time; that's normal. And most of the time, we are right to do so. But not in John le Carre's world. There, to be normal is to be hopelessly naive, for everything you are told could be, and probably is, a lie. THE MISSION SONG is meticulously researched, and the tricks and tactics of being a top interpreter are convincingly rendered. You're left with the uncomfortable feeling that perhaps politicians, journalists, civil servants and the businessmen really are the lying, amoral bastards portrayed here. Perhaps it isn't only in le Carre's world, but in the real world too, that we're unwise to believe what we are told.' (Brandon Robshaw, Independent on Sunday)
'It is a fast-paced and entertaining book. Le Carre has constructed another one of his meticulous plots that satisfies in terms of theme, suspense and style. One is delighted by its satire, and moved by its insistence on the importance of doubt and the necessity of choosing responsibly at every moment.' (Times Literary Supplement)
'le Carre shows no sign of slowing up or losing touch.' (Spectator on THE MISSION SONG)
'Settings may vary and the personnel change, but the moral landscape of John le Carre's novels remains much the same; personal integrity hedged about on all sides by deceit. Bruno Salvador, the hero of le Carre's 20th novel is a 28 year old interpreter. Like many a le Carre hero before him, Bruno is trying to be something he isn't, a character strung between two different sets of loyalties. Bold, vigorous and extremely funny.' (John Preston, Evening Standard)
'I think it's very good. Some of the old le Carre ingredients are in there. It's a very angry book. It seems to be a novel that goes for post-colonialism in the same way he used to go for the Cold War. The epigraph, for instance, from Heart of Darkness (he quotes) he doesn't just, as it were, recycle Conrad, he takes a hero who does have a flatter nose and a different complexion. It's very funny.' (John Sutherland, 'Front Row', BBC Radio 4)
'I imagine this is the first time that le Carre has been mentioned in the same breath at Updike and Roth. They, after all, are Literary Novelists with a capital L and N, whereas Le Carre is . . . well. what is he? Actually he is sui generis. Or, rather, he is his own genre. Quite an achievement that.' (Sunday Telegraph)
'Exquisitely crafted' (Daily Mail)
'A pretty amazing body of work, it struck me, 20 books. You look back, and I don't think he'll ever get the Nobel Prize, but you could make a case for it I suspect, given what he's written about geopolitics over 45 years.' (Mark Lawson, 'Front Row', BBC Radio 4)
A literary master for a generation (Observer on ABSOLUTE FRIENDS)
'The Mission Song, his twentieth novel, is one of his tautest works, harking back to the lean thrillers he wrote in the early l960s. It is a fast-paced and entertaining book. Le Carre has constructed another one of his meticulous plots that satisfies in terms of theme, suspense and style. One is delighted by its satire, and moved by its insistence on the importance of doubt and the necessity of choosing responsibly at every moment. These were Kierkegaard's themes, and John le Carre's fiction has always aimed at Fear and Trembling.' (Times Literary Supplement)
Complex, often sardonically funny, always galvanically written. In fact his best book in years (Daily Express on ABSOLUTE FRIENDS)
Richly detailed, full of righteous fire to offset its desperate prognosis, THE CONSTANT GARDENER is a very impressive piece of work. (The Times Literary Supplement)
'The connection between Western consumption and African death lies at the heart of this novel. It is a thriller with the potential to educate readers not otherwise interested in global politics.' (David Dabydeen, Independent)
'This, his 20th novel, is certainly not in the same vein as its immedate predecessors, the magnificent ABSOLUTE FRIENDS or the equally impressive THE CONSTANT GARDENER, though there are echoes of both those novels in the frailties his characters display. Exquisitely crafted, with Salvo's agonised grappling with his troubled conscience working as the spine to the story, and the details of the conversations among the plotters about how to divide up the Congo are positively chilling.' (Geoffrey Wansell, Daily Mail)
A page-turner which reminds us that the master storyteller of the Smiley books has lost none of his cunning (Daily Mail on THE CONSTANT GARDENER)
Another classic narrative. Nobody writing today manipulates suspense better. Nobody constructs a more tantalisingly complex plot. A powerful, moving novel that stands with le Carré's best. It is, in other words, essential reading (Sunday Telegraph on THE CONSTANT GARDENER)
'Le Carre is an exceptional writer who knows exactly how to balance a thriller with a political missive. This is entertainment of the highest order.' (Henry Sutton, Daily Mirror )
Part of the intention of this ambitious novel is to marry suspense with a quasi-comic allegory about intelligence in the age of the Internet, but still, to an exceptional degree, THE MISSION SONG is as angry about the exploitation of Africa as THE CONSTANT GARDENER, as polemical about multinational greed, as prescient about Congo's blood-crazed militias, and as passionate as any of his recent novels about Western duplicity. The exposure of Salvo's innocence drives the plot with remorseless energy to a haunting resolution. Le Carre's eye is undimmed, his passion for his craft as strong as it ever was. He delivers a tale that few could equal and none will surpass. In THE MISSION SONG , he has made the heart of darkness his own. If Salvo is not Marlow, the good news is that his master's voice is as strong and compelling as ever. (Robert McCrum, The Observer)
'This thriller exhibits his familiar strengths: superbly realised characters; a succession of knockout scenes nobody else could produce; and a distinctive ability to fuse social comedy and moral anger . . . Mesmerising.' (Sunday Times)
'A formidably sophisticated work of fiction, full of energy, rage and great humour. All the qualities for which le Carre's fiction has been admired - his descriptive powers, his electrifying dialogue, his cynicism in the presence of coporate greed and government power - are visible in THE MISSION SONG. That this great English novelist continues to produce work of this calibre with such frequency is simply astonishing.' (Charles Cumming, Mail on Sunday)
'Bold, vigorous and extremely funny.' (Evening Standard)
'I think it's very good' (John Sutherland, 'Front Row', BBC Radio 4)
'It's terrifically fierce and pacy stuff by the 74-year-old, still cynical after all these years' (Evening Standard)
'With the end of the cold war, le Carré has had to broaden his horizons, and Africa, in its turmoil, has given him exactly the landscape he needs to continue writing superior thrillers.' (The Times)
'le Carré shows no sign of letting up. In his latest novel, narrated in the first person, he returns to Africa, the continent whose plight he dramatised so brilliantly in THE CONSTANT GARDENER. There is real anger lurking beneath the surface of the story. As always with le Carré, the personal and the political are effortlessly intertwined.' (Daily Telegraph)
'THE MISSION SONG grips from the off. This is a thrillingly dynamic read, better than the engaging THE CONSTANT GARDENER, full of rage at the greed of the establishment and sorrow for the people of the Congo, and packed with horribly credible characters.' (Guardian)
'As a tale of conscience gasping for air, THE MISSION SONG is hugely successful. Even in its more reflective moments it bowls you along with efficiency and grace. It is chillingly persuasive.' (Independent on Sunday)
'Le Carre, 75, writes THE MISSION SONG from the standpoint of a 29-year-old - and pulls it off. I believed in Bruno Salvador. I believed in his eagerness to please authority and rail against it at the same time. I believed in his naivety and bravery. I believed him when he said he was in and out of love.
Our society is obsessed with trying to disguise the ageing process, but, when it comes to literature the young are trying to be old. But they are at a disadvantage; writers such as le Carre will wipe the floor with them every time.'(Alyson Rudd, The Times)
'A haunting and inspiring story, full of humour, poetry and a fine sense of the macabre.' **** (Observer)
'An incendiary tale ... le Carré's understanding of how the world ticks is, as always, machete sharp.' (USA Today)
'Le Carré's insight into the dense, dangerous nexus of corporate and government interests is chillingly assured.' (The New York Times Book Review)
'To categorise le Carré, as many do, as a "spy" novelist is to do him a disservice; he uses the world of cloak-and-dagger much as Conrad used the sea – to explore the dark places in human nature.' (Washington Post Book World)
'The Mission Song is a marvelous return to the John le Carré of old, with all the captivating characters, finely rendered landscapes and messy complexities that have always powered his best work. One can easily imagine Bruno Salvador sitting down to lunch with George Smiley and debating the familiar question: Can we truly justify our wicked spies?' (San Francisco Chronicle) --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Top Customer Reviews
But Bruno is much more than a linguist, certainly much more than a translator and, as a result of the application of conscience, considerably more than the interpreter his employers have hired. His perception of language is so acute that it provides him with an extra sense, a means of interpreting the world, no less, not just a method of eliciting meaning. But he also has the intellectual skills to identify consequences, to interpret motives. And it is here where he begs to differ with his paymasters.
The Mission Song is the kind of book where revelation of the plot, beyond this mere starting point, would undermine the experience of reading it. Suffice it to say that Bruno's task is both what is seems to be and also not what it seems.Read more ›
As a loyal British citizen he is proud to be called on by unnamed government departments to assist in sensitive negotiations. But when he is asked to leave at short notice to attend a conference of unnamed people for unknown purposes on an anonymous northern island things go awry for him. As an interpreter he is expected to hold everything in strict confidence but as the conference progresses he sees and hears things that can only be detrimental to peace and progress.
It is very well done how Le Carré portrays Salvo as initially very enthusiastic and naïvely supportive of what is being planned and how he gradually has his innocence ripped away from him.
The Mission Song is well plotted (complex but believable) and whips along at a great pace. An exciting read but without any crazy chases or gun fights. Another great addition to Le Carré's post-Cold War output.
Can businessmen, Civil Servants and politicians be so corrupt and self-serving? Yes, probably.
It is narrated in the first person by Bruno Salvador, an intrepreter who becomes unwillingly dragged into a plotted coup in Central Africa involving tribal warloads, shady businessmen, and British secret services. It's a real slow starter, with the first two thirds taken up with the complex top secret negotiations that set up the more climatic ending.
Although it does give some of the DR Congo's complicated history, I found my limited prior knowledge (from having read Tim Butcher's non-fiction 'Blood River') really helped me to follow the plot. Even given that, it's not an easy read and is one you need to focus on, best read in big chunks rather than small snippets.
The principal character of 'Salvo' I found rather irritating at times, and his convoluted backstory a bit unneccessary. And even accepting that this is a thriller - where the limits of plausibility can be stretched further than I'd normally tolerate to make a good story - a couple of things went too far. The hardest to swallow was the affair that Salvo starts with a politically active nurse the night before he is dragged away on his top secret mission. The fact that only the night before he'd been indulging in pillow talk about the very men he was translating for seemed daft, and wasn't even necessary for plot purposes. I also found the whole instant love thing a bit over the top, and his attitude at times stupidly naive.Read more ›
Bruno, the product of an African mission school, is also the product of an errant priest. He's developed a dual identity - he's trying to become a realistic element of British society, while his knowledge of African culture remains deeply imbued in his thinking. It's the perfect situation for an interpreter properly used. One user, British Intelligence takes him up for his talents in a special task. He's to act almost as a "front" when warring African leaders confer with a newly rising messianic figure. Whisked off to a remote location in the British Isles, he is thrown into a tangle of intrigue. Drawing on a store of knowledge about African conditions, Le Carre weaves threads of personal self-interest and corporate machinations to produce a grim image of how imperialism works in the 21st Century. That the focus of the story is the situation in the ravaged Congo makes the picture immeasurably poignant.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
I have a policy of reviewing every book I read, so I'm catching up on a few that never got reviewed because I never finished reading them. Read morePublished 20 days ago by DubaiReader
I am concerned that this gets too close to the truth about Africa and the 'power brokers'. But as a story it keeps you on the edge of your seat with so many fascinating twists and... Read morePublished 1 month ago by Amazon Customer
Well written and clever plot but not riveting. First le Carrie I've read so perhaps I need to try other titles to compare.Published 1 month ago by Kindle Customer
Not quite the usual type of plot but very current situations and corruption at all levels of governments both here and abroad.Published 5 months ago by Jackie S.
I had already read this book and as an interpreter enjoyed rediscovering the fine portrayal of the professional joys of the main character. An excellent thought-provoking book.Published 7 months ago by Volpeblu
This was an unusual book for Le Carre. It was written from the point of view of a Congolese émigré who had ambitions for his countrymen but was working for the wrong... Read morePublished 8 months ago by Francesca
A very enjoyable read. Carre's depth of knowledge of how the establishment and the security services work in deniable tandem shine through with his usual well placed cynicism. Read morePublished 10 months ago by Billy the Bookworm
Le Carré is a genius almost unrivalled in his chosen genre.Published 10 months ago by Simon Harrison