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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 6 April 2017
'Smiley's People' is wonderful. Having been a little disappointed in the previous book 'The Honourable Schoolboy' (George Smiley #6) (1977), I am delighted to report that 'Smiley's People' is a return to peak Smiley.

My experience is that the more Smiley appears, the better the book, and so it is with 'Smiley's People’ which is about 90% Smiley.

'Smiley's People' is also the final part of the Karla trilogy. Smiley, now in his twilight years, displays his customary thorough, cerebral, unrelenting methods and finely honed powers of deduction, which cut through a complex and intriguing plot to finally draw Karla out, for a finale worthy of this superb trilogy.

Thankfully for me there’s still one more Smiley book to go - 'The Secret Pilgrim' (George Smiley #8) (1991) - and better still Smiley is set to return for the first time in 25 years in 'A Legacy of Spies', a new novel by John le Carré that is scheduled for publication on 7 September 2017.

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VINE VOICEon 24 February 2010
George Smiley is called out of retirement when an old operative called the General is murdered on Hampstead Heath. Initially requested to make sure that there is nothing that could tie the death to the Circus (which now finds itself prone to government whims), Smiley discovers that the General had claimed to have intelligence that could change the game between the west and the Soviet Union and enable him to finally defeat his old enemy, Karla. What follows is Smiley's delicate unravelling of the information that the General had obtained, a journey that will take him from Britain to West Germany, France and Switzerland and which will see him reunite with old colleagues, including Toby Esterhase, Peter Guillam and Saul Enderby.

One of the all-time great spy thrillers, Le Carre effortlessly weaves his storylines together, switching between Smiley's investigations and Madame Ostrakova's innocent trigger of the unfolding events. Smiley is a brilliant character - devoted to the Circus and loyal to the people who worked for him and yet not blind to their faults - a man in control of his emotions and yet unable to control his feelings about his wife Anne and her innumerable affairs. Indeed, Anne's affair with Bill Haydon lingers like a spectre over the events of the book with Smiley remaining unable to forgive her and seeking revenge for Karla's instigation of it.

Written in 1980 and set in the same period, it's fascinating to read of a time before mobile phones and computer technology were prevalent. The spies here rely on their memories and their instincts and luck plays as much a part as hard work.

There are some wonderful scenes in the book as Smiley follows up on old colleagues. His scene with the broken Connie is poignant and touching but there is also room for dark humour, such as his first encounter with the fearful Madame Ostrakova and moments of humanity, such as Smiley's scenes with Tatiana. The tension never eases up for a moment and its given such authenticity that you never question whether this could have happened.

This is a must-read book written by an author in complete control of his subject matter and ability.
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on 24 January 2017
Another absorbing story from Le Carre. But this time we square the circle of the battle of wits between Smiley & Karla.
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on 10 April 2017
Words oddly can't express how much I love this book, this was randomly my first introduction to George Smiley! having not read or had (what I thought) much interest in the other books........ how wrong I was...

Firstly this is the last in the Karla trilogy and the Smiley series ( unless you consider the Secret Pilgrim part of them I personally have still to read that so don't!). I after reading this book and falling in love a bit with the unassuming short balding gentleman whose suites - albeit quality were always ill-fitted thanks to this book.
Navigating across continents and times to lead you, in what to to me, feels like and ever increasing speed and necessity to the final pages the story is intricate, intriguing and so authentically complex that in the years I have been re-reading this I have never managed to remember 'exactly' how we get from the beginning to the end ! such it he genius of Le Carre's writing... This book single-handedly gave me a love for George Smiley (and leCarre!) that I will carry with me throughout my life, and have gone not to buy all the Smiley books and read regularly from the beginning to the end. Although Smiley's People still sometimes comes off the shelf (especially for a holiday or work trip!) and Is re-read again and above all others!!
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on 7 June 2001
For readers new to le Carre(and there can't be many)this is the third of what has become known as the "karla series".The previous two being "tinker,tailor,soldier, spy" and the herioc and romantic "honorable schoolboy"(highly reccomended too).The third sees much of the same cast collected again.You meet clever and dodgy Toby Esterhazy,the valient and niave Peter Guillam,a forgoten Russian General, an intelligence pimp,a collection of 2 dimensional whitehall twits as a foil,and as always a most humane cast of extras.The most humane being the conscience wracked George Smiley himself.As for villians you have the afformentioned whitehall boys, a convincing KGB thug and a villian of Moriaty proportion in Karla;Smileys foe for many years.The plot?Smiley is brought back once again from retirement to fight against his old enemy.A fight both personal and patriotic.It is the height of the cold war,his brief is strictly unofficial and he calls in favours and friends as his allies(thus the title).The locations?Paris,the bleakest Germany you have ever met,a sumptious Switzerland and of course grey,beaurocratic London.The drama?Betrayal.Le Carre's constant theme.Of wives,country,friendships and finally of the morality that has sustained Smiley through the long years of the cold war. Its a great read.Le Carre at his peak(though the semi autobiographical "a perfect spy" deserves a mention).If you haven't read the two others you can read this one alone. Wonder aloud afterwards how Deighton and co. can hold their head up in public.Le Carre is another world of thriller writers.I recomend you read all three but this one is one of the best you will ever read.
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#1 HALL OF FAMETOP 50 REVIEWERon 11 April 2016
I have just re-read this after about 35 years, and it is still very good indeed. There's not much in the way of violent action, although its aftermath does feature, but le Carré's brilliant storytelling keeps the tension high and kept me reading well after I should have gone to sleep.

I think what makes this so good is le Carré's mastery of character and dialogue. He knows the world of Intelligence intimately, of course, and he peoples it with plausible, beautifully drawn characters. There are also moments of description which encapsulate and idea or experience quite brilliantly, like "the unclearable litter of old age" or "a clarifying loneliness." These lift the book above just being a very good spy novel and make it a very fine novel in itself, I think.

This is the third in the Karla Trilogy, and it's best to read Tinker, Tailor, Soldier Spy and The Honourable Schoolboy first, but this can be read on its own with great pleasure, too. I would recommend it very warmly – it is the work of a true master at the height of his powers.
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on 11 May 2017
Five stars of course, who would give less. The slow build up is masterful. If you are a Smiley fan, then I'm preaching to the choir, if you are a Le Carre fan I'm preaching to the curate. So only espionage fans who have never read any need my advice. My advice is read it, but read Tink, tailor first.
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on 22 October 2012
This is John Le Carré reading from his brilliant book "Smiley's People". I know the book well, and have read it many times. Having enjoyed other recordings of Le Carré reading of his own work, I was looking forward to this. However I was disappointed. The work has been truncated to quite a great extent: chunks of original text are missing, and lots of the details. I realise that works are sometimes abridged for audio, but this time it was too much, in my view. Sudden leaps are made, which makes me wonder if someone not familiar with the text would follow the logic. Why did Smiley suddenly fish a plimsoll from the water? In the book, it's explained, with smooth detailed inevitable logic.
Even the great scene near the end, following the chess game, classic Le Carré, is cut so much it almost loses its point.
I have to confess I am a Le Carré enthusiast, and so I notice when bits are missing. Others might be perfectly happy with it. But when the text is there, and gives so much pleasure, why leave bits out?

Have another go Le Carré, and this time unabridged?
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on 15 June 2017
The usual complex account of characters and a story that rounds off George Smiley's career as an intelligent yet troubled spy.
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HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWERon 13 September 2013
First published in 1979, this is the ninth book from the pen of Le Carre, and the eighth to feature his most famous creation George Smiley. It was written as Alec Guinness was appearing as Smiley on television in the BBC's epic `Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy', and Le Carre was so impressed with the performance that he here subtly changes certain aspects of his own depiction of Smiley to better reflect Guinness' TV persona.

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.
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