- Hardcover: 328 pages
- Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton (5 April 2001)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0340733756
- ISBN-13: 978-0340733752
- Product Dimensions: 16.1 x 3.6 x 23.8 cm
- Average Customer Review: 186 customer reviews
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,956,427 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
Smiley's People Hardcover – 5 Apr 2001
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'Smiley's People has all the le Carré touches` (Sunday Telegraph)
An enormously skilled and satisfying work (Newsweek)
An achievement of subtlety and power of which few novelists would be capable. It is the best single thing le Carr has done (Financial Times)
A classic le Carré novel, now repackaged in hardcoverSee all Product description
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Following form Tinker and the Honourable schoolboy, this is the triumphant conclusion to the Karla trilogy. The second book in the trilogy, the overbloated and at times tedious Honourable Schoolboy was a bit of a let down, but I am pleased to report that this book finds Le Carre on his top form, with a gripping tale and tight plot that really nethralls.
Smiley is summoned out of retirement to rake over the traces when an old Circus contact is found dead. The powers that be are concerned that there is no scandal attached to the Circus, and ask Smiley, as the last of his generation, to tidy up the legacy of that generation. Smiley starts to look over the last days of the General, and soon finds a trail that leads to very dark places. Does he quietly tidy up as he has been asked, or does he use the knowledge gathered to settle some long standing scores and lay many old ghosts to rest?
It’s a brilliantly constructed and told tale. Smiley is aided and abetted by many old faces from his past, as he tries to resolve the big unresolved question from his time at the Circus. Le Carre draws each of them beautifully, and I often felt that these were real people and that I was in the room with them. Toby Esterhase in particular makes a great impression in this book. I also liked the character of Herr Kretzschmar, the morally dubious but fundamentally decent man who goes a long way ‘for the sake of friendship’.
The story falls into two main sections. In the first, and longest, Smiley quietly and carefully investigates the last days of the General, locating clues and unravelling a tangled skein. Once he has all the pieces of the puzzle he is then ale to be proactive, to set up a cunning scheme that may lead to redemption for him and his generation. The second part of the tale is a tense and nerve-wracking read as his scheme comes to a climax. It’s a 5 star book of excellently crafted paranoid spy games.
I have eulogised about Michael Jayston's narrations a few times before, especially those that he has done for the Adam Dalgleish stories, but here he raises his usually high game to a new level in this unabridged reading. It probably helps that he co-starred in the late seventies TV production of Tinker that starred Alec Guinness. His delivery here is an absolute joy. With the merest light inflection of his voice he differentiates the myriad of different characters. In a stroke of genius he makes Smiley sound a lot like Guinness, with a very calm and reassuring tone. He narrates with a real feel for the rhythm of the book, and captures the atmosphere as the crisis is reached. It's a joy to listen to, and the hours just fly by. On twelve discs it is nearly 14.5 hours long. The discs are in a spindle case. Liner notes are limited.
A great reading of a great book. 5 stars.
Smiley's People is more similar to Tinker, Tailor than the middle novel, The Honourable Schoolboy. Like the first part of the trilogy, Smiley is firmly in the operational heart of the plot. He travels across Europe following the trail and with his unique, detached insight reconstructs the puzzle.
The `people' of the title are the many returning characters -Connie Sachs, Peter Guillam, Toby Esterhouse- who join Smiley's private army, operating at the very greyest edges of the intelligence community. It is a genuine pleasure to again spend time with all of them, such is leCarré's mastery of their characterisation. If anything elevates leCarré above other thriller writers, it is the literary precision with which he constructs his characters and environments in addition to the byzantine plots. His style is lean, precise but never skimping on detail or humanity.
The novel explores the toll of living in the clandestine world of espionage on the participants. Karla, once a faceless, shadowy bogeyman who lived only for the soviet mission, is humanised but it is that chink in his armour that Smiley pursues. Smiley, meanwhile, casts aside not only the remnants of his `civilian life' but also many of the ideals by which he lived to pursue his one chance to strike directly at his opponent. The reader is left wondering, after all the death and damage, is it worth it for the individuals or the nations they represent?
It can be no accident that the imagery of chess continually appears in this novel. The intelligence chiefs of leCarré's world construct operations like grand masters, thinking a dozen moves ahead, analysing their opponents' strategy and willing to make any sacrifice to preserve their long game. The difference in this novel is that Smiley and Karla are no longer playing at a distance: they are both on the board.
Of course, the ultimate game player is leCarré, who confidently moves his character around a complex and mesmerising plot. He is clearly at home in the western European theatre and revels in bringing the contest between Smiley and Karla to a conclusion in a way that resonates across all of the Smiley novels, not just this trilogy. If there is any criticism at all, it is that perhaps Smiley's people is a little less disciplined and compact than Tinker, Tailor but the result is no less satisfying.
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Typically well prepared and nail biting a truly fitting finale to George Smileys life’s...Read more