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A Perfect Spy
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on 27 November 2017
Where to start? I had read The Pigeon Tunnel, Le Carre's life stories, and been smitten by his father, conman extraordinaire, described as the inspiration for Rick T Pym in A Perfect Spy. Le Carre treats all his characters with utmost respect and love; downright criminals are allowed their own justification, everyone is permitted a degree of mixed thought and dissembling, their private and their public persona need not accord. This thorough analysis of the genesis of a spy and how a basically good man might become a traitor with the assistance of family, friends and his own intelligence bosses is salutary.
I am a slow reader and would normally avoid heavy novels, but the beautiful descriptions, the carefully crafted dialogue and the vivid characters kept me with it all through. I think I understand people better now.
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on 23 November 2015
The Perfect Spy is a masterpiece of its genre: Le Carre is renowned for his skill and expertise in creating characters and scenarios in this spy-thriller arena and The Perfect Spy is as near perfection as is likely to be achieved for this type of novel.
How the Book Awards bodies such as Man-Booker overlooked the Perfect Spy in favour of lesser literary works will always be to their discredit.
The high-brow intellectual claims, but in essence snobbishness of the literary elite publishers, agents and critics who annually rejected Le Carre's brilliant work primarily because of their misconceived notion of what constitutes 'popular, contemporary, literary fiction' is something only they will ever understand.
The reading public will I am sure regard The Perfect Spy as an outstanding story, a superb narrative exploration of a remarkable character displaying a level of description, analysis and evocative development of themes that may never be matched by any other tome for this genre.
No spoilers by me: This Perfect Spy, as any thoughtful reader will grasp from the outset, is anything but that exemplary, supreme Intelligence
agent, however, his story encapsulates the intellectual, philosophical and psychological aspects of that unique Cold War creature - the humanity of those that through choice and force of circumstance must bury their true self from everyone about them - theirs is a story we actually can never know, however, Le Carre in this story surely gives us insight to what creates the sort of person for whom that desperately isolated Life becomes a 'normal' existence.
Le Carre at his height of his story-telling powers conveys a depth of sensitivity that will affect every reader.
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on 24 March 2018
I’m nearing the end of The Perfect Spy by John Le Carré and am already mourning the impending end of an amazing book. It’s an old ’un but many say his best. If you’ve read some Le Carré but not this one, I’d highly recommend it…

If you’ve not read any of his books, start with a recent one - A Delicate Truth, which is shorter but exquisitely crafted. And if you like audiobooks, it is a great one as the author narrates it himself and you can quickly tune in to his singular voice (which I used to find quite hard to tune into).

As for The Perfect Spy, as Mark Kermode said about the film adaptation of Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy - it’s not about spies. Well it is, but mainly it is about how we invent and reinvent our many selves…
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on 16 January 2018
I first read this book many years ago when it first was printed.
Then it was a deep black book about betrayal like all Le Carries other novels.
I re read it after reading the excellent biography and autobiography which finally put the book in its rightful place as his masterpiece.
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on 5 November 2016
I'm struggling with this one. Not your typical JLC novel, it never seems to get moving and I am finding the characters difficult to follow with a couple of exceptions.
Disappointing.
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on 24 July 2014
A PERFECT SPY is by far the best le Carré Novel, possibly the best spy thriller ever written. This masterpiece tells the story of Magnus Pym the boy along with Magnus Pym the grown man, both entangled in a world of deceit and shadows.
While the boy grows up with a con-artist father, Pym has a dark secret that is yet to be revealed, when what is apparent is that he has disappeared from the face of the planet.. or has he ? Us the readers know he didn't but only as the gripping tale evolves do we understand the degree to which Magnus Pym has amounted to in his underlying world.
You will not be able to put this one for even a second.
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on 2 March 2017
Not one of his best. Yes a clever deception but not really worthy of a full book. Rather glad to have got to the end. If I had a better idea of what it was all about I would not have bothered to read it. Like the author so has not put me off reading other works.
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on 30 November 2016
Passed many an hour reading A Perfect Spy. At times it suited my mood perfectly at others I found it hard going. At the end of each sitting I felt like I wanted to read on and it was with reluctance that I closed the book when for one reason or another I had run out of reading time.

Would have given it four and a half stars if it had been possible.
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on 12 August 2012
This book is John le Carre's magnum opus - it is also his most personal work drawing on his own admittedly unsatisfactory relationship with a somewhat dubious father. I enjoyed the work. Le Carre has a style that is all his own as he circles around a plot and you wonder where he will alight next - it is a trait he shares with Conrad.

Another element that I like about 'A Perfect Spy' is that it is not marred by the somewhat old-fashioned (and embarrassing) anti-American sentiments that can make other le Carre novels a bit of a drag. One feels that much as le Carre may protest this point he is of a generation that has never forgiven the US for saving Britain's bacon in WWII.
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on 10 December 2016
I was surprised to find I could not get into it. I blame too many characters, which is difficult as I get older.
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