- Paperback: 384 pages
- Publisher: Sceptre; 1st Paperback Printing edition (9 Aug. 2007)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0340921994
- ISBN-13: 978-0340921999
- Product Dimensions: 13.1 x 3 x 18.8 cm
- Average Customer Review: 92 customer reviews
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 61,171 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
The Mission Song Paperback – 9 Aug 2007
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'I imagine this is the first time that le Carré has been mentioned in the same breath as Updike and Roth. They, after all, are Literary Novelists with a capital L and N, whereas Le Carré is . . . well, what is he? Actually he is sui generis. Or, rather, he is his own genre. Quite an achievement that.' (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 Carré's world, but in the real world too, that we're unwise to believe what we are told.' (Independent on Sunday)
'Fast-paced and entertaining' (Times Literary Supplement)
'Exquisitely crafted' (Daily Mail)
'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)
'le Carre shows no sign of slowing up or losing touch.' (Spectator)
'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)
'Bold, vigorous and extremely funny.' (Evening Standard)
'I think it's very good' (John Sutherland, 'Front Row', BBC Radio 4)
'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 corporate 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)
A wonderful, classic le Carré now reissued in a stunning new package.See all Product description
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Bruno’s naïvity (and how can one so intelligent be so naïve?) is quickly stripped away as the relations between the Congolese delegates and the representatives of the Syndicate become clearer, and he becomes privy to an entirely different agenda. He is torn between his ethical principles and his professional duty as an impartial interpreter. When he chooses the former, and returns to London at the close of the conference he carries with him evidence of the coup. But remarkably he is still naïve enough to trust people in authority and so more betrayals occur. He is forced to go into hiding with a politically active Congolese nurse with whom he formed an instant romantic attachment after earlier having met her by chance while interpreting for a dying man in a London hospital. This part of the plot stretches credulity too far for me. In the end morality wins, but with serious consequences for him and his new girlfriend. At least they are alive; in real life I suspect they would have ‘disappeared’.
Overall the book is well-written and most of the characters are believable in terms of their dialogue and speech patterns, but the plot, which bears some resemblance to the notorious botched 2004 attempt to organize a coup in Equatorial Guinea that involved Mark Thatcher, is rather turgid and little more than a polemic against the wickedness of Western influence in Africa, even though most of the Congolese characters are just as venal. Reviewers have pointed out a number of weak plot features, which I agree with. For example: how is it that one of the Congolese ‘war lords’ is brutally tortured by agents of the Syndicate, but within a few hours appears at the conference table full of life and none the worse for his ordeal; why doesn’t Bruno copy his stolen material while on the run; and why was he not searched when he left the island at the end of the conference?
Le Carré has written many marvellous spy novels and some of his later efforts after the Cold War era are almost as good, but this is not one of them.
The first six or so chapters describe how one Bruno Salvador, a multi-lingual African-born interpreter specialising in East African languages, who does occasional translation work for British Inteligence, is selected by said agency to go undercover. Given a cover and flown out to an unidentified island he is supposed to act as innocent interpreter at a high level meeting of Congolese tribal leaders, but who is also told he is to eavesdrop on their private conversations via bugged rooms etc. So far so Le Carre, but the narrative gets bogged down in the middle and it is not until chapter thirteen that the plot becomes interesting again and appears to be getting somewhere.
The ending is unexpected and quite clever, but appeared rushed, almost as though the author himself had got bored and decided he'd better finish.
In style this book was similar to Our Kind Of Traitor, which also took an inordinate length of time to set the scene before anything approaching action takes place.
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Now is the time for all good men to come to the aid of the party.