Literary reviews by Tim Love.
Warning: Rather than reviews, these are often notes in preparation for reviews that were never finished, or pleas for help with understanding pieces. See Litref Reviews - a rationale for details.

Thursday, 24 November 2011

"The Spy Who Came in from the Cold" by John Le Carre (Penguin 2011)

It was first published in 1963. With a puff like "'The best spy story I have ever read' - Graham Greene" you don't really need any further blurb. In the Afterword to this edition the author says it took him about 6 weeks to write the novel. He adds "What prompted me to write it? ... I know that I was deeply unhappy in my professional and personal life, and that I was enduring the extremes of loneliness and personal confusion ... The familiar process of embracing an institution, then fighting my way clear of it, was taking over my relationship to my marriage and my work" (p.257)

The plot and the author employ double-crossing. When characters exhibit emotion it pays to be circumspect - "Leamas was sweating. Peters watched him coolly, appraising him like a professional gambler across the table. What was Leamas worth? What would break him, what attract or frighten him? What did he hate, above all, what did he know? Would he keep his best card to the end and sell it dear?"

PoV switches when it suits the plot. We dip occasionally into other minds: fair enough I suppose, but it seems to me that in the final chapter Liz become too articulate, too wise.

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