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The Secret Pilgrim Hardcover – 2 Aug 2001

4.3 out of 5 stars 91 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton; New Ed edition (2 Aug. 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0340733683
  • ISBN-13: 978-0340733684
  • Product Dimensions: 16.1 x 3.3 x 23.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (91 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,583,832 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

Review

'Le Carré writing at his exceptional best' (Mail on Sunday)

'John le Carré has created a fictive world which he has made almost as familiar as that of Dickens . . . in terms of scope, skill and ideas, it is streets ahead of most contemporary fiction' (Daily Telegraph)

'This consummate and enthralling mosaic is also Smiley's nunc dimittis' (Observer)

Review

'John le Carré has created a fictive world which he has made almost as familiar as that of Dickens ... in terms of scope, skill and ideas, it is streets ahead of most contemporary fiction.' (The Daily Telegraph)

'Powerful ... remarkable ... a grand summation of all John le Carré’s themes.' (The New York Times)

'Le Carré ... at the top of his form.' (Los Angeles Times) --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
I was given this book as a birthday present, otherwise I probably never would have read it, since I am not a fan of spy fiction (other than the kind that appears in the factual espionage genre). I am very glad, however, that I did read it.

"The Secret Pilgrim" represents the best of both worlds, since it is actually a dozen short stories tied together within the framework of a novel. The latter depicts George Smiley, the Old Cold Warrior, acting as guest lecturer to a group of young "Circus" recruits, who are learning their tradecraft from one of his old pupils, Ned (who is himself about to retire). Each of Smiley's topics during the lecture and the conversation afterwards triggers Ned's memories and, therefore, his reminiscences about old cases.

The short stories serve as an excellent introduction to the author's earlier works, since Ned, in his adventures, has dealt with the likes of Bill Haydon, Toby Esterhaze, and Percy Alleline, as well as George Smiley--all of whom make cameo appearances. The tales are entertaining, witty, and wholly absorbing, as one gradually learns that the narrator is the pilgrim of the title on a quest to discover why he ever entered the secret world in the first place. Once he had imagined himself as a dragon slayer, who would leave the world in a "safer place." Now, however, that rampant Communism has been replaced by rampant Capitalism, the narrator, in the last chapter, wonders whether the right people have won, noting that "the evil was not in the system, but in the man."

"The Secret Pilgrim" is set in a very different world from the original Smiley books. George Smiley is now presiding over the "Fishing Rights Committee," a joint effort between the intelligence services of London and Moscow.

How Kim Philby would have approved!.
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Format: Paperback
"The Secret Pilgrim," British spymaster John LeCarre's thirteenth book, was published in 1990, a year after the Berlin Wall was torn down, and the 30-year long Cold War was declared at an end. It was his first published post Cold War novel. LeCarre, who penned the Cold War masterpieces The Spy Who Came in from the Cold; and the Karla trilogy,Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy,The Honourable Schoolboy, and Smiley's People, uses this book, several short stories cobbled together, that begin as the looming Berlin Wall has been up only two years, as a magisterial summing-up of the war that was.

The author sets much of it, as is his long-standing custom, in his German-speaking comfort zone, particularly Berlin, "the spy's eternal city," he calls it. The book is narrated by "Ned," a shrewd and loyal long-term employee of LeCarre's fictional intelligence service, modeled on the real one. Here, as elsewhere, LeCarre calls this service the circus, from its London location. Ned is currently teaching new recruits at Sarratt, its spy school, and contemplating retirement. He's thinking about the secret pilgrimage of his life, spent in the service, wondering, as is typical of the author, what it has gained him, or the world. He invites the "eminence grise" of the circus, George Smiley, to speak to the recruits.

The book is episodic; that may annoy some people.
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By A Customer on 19 Oct. 2002
Format: Paperback
This book comprises what, at first sight, seem to be a set of short stories. In fact, the stories are linked, in part by a narrative structure and in part by the presence of George Smiley, brought out of retirement to make an after-dinner speech to a bunch of new spooks.
Much of Circus history is revisited, including the mole-hunting era of Tinker, Tailor etc. New angles and insights are revealed and old motivations seen in new lights.
It goes without saying that the writing style is fluid, intelligent and engaging. [If anything, too engaging-it is all too easy to read just one more story....]
Enthusiasts for the earlier history of Smiley and his associates will delight in this book. I'm not entirely sure that newcomers will find it quite such an accessible read: some background has to be assumed to avoid repetition.
Highly recommended.
Bill
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Format: Hardcover
The Berlin Wall came down in 1989 and this book was first published a year later. Back then it was believed that as the Cold War was over, the spying espionage novel was finished. Redundant. Passé.

Of course that wasn't the case, the world's second oldest profession was never going to go as quietly as that, and so it proved. Today in 2007, the intelligence services are busier than ever.

The Secret Pilgrim centres on George Smiley's retirement, and the progress of his protégé, Ned. In many ways it is not a single book at all, but a collection of flashback stories set in such varied locations as Estonia, Israel and Lebanon, and Thailand and Cambodia. The individual stories come in varying degrees of intensity, and many of the images it brought to my mind lived with me long after I had set the book down. Some of them I will never forget. Is this the true test of a novel's power?

Dame Stella Rimington, the former head of Britain's intelligence services, the first woman to hold the post, and the first person ever to hold the post whilst known to the public, stated recently that John Le Carré, of all the espionage writers, painted the most accurate pictures of her times in the service. It is not difficult to believe, and The Secret Pilgrim will not disappoint any espionage aficionados, though you don't have to be such a buff, to glean enjoyment from this work.

I have always preferred Mister le Carré's earlier works, of which this just about is. I found it an easy book to read, hard to put down, easy to follow, (not always the case in this genre) and well worth the effort in returning to his back catalogue. I suspect spy books are set for a comeback, something that will suit Mister le Carré admirably. I thoroughly enjoyed it, but then I would. I'm hooked you see. Give it a try. Codebook anyone?
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