Book: Tinker, tailor, soldier, spy - Livre d'Or








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livredor
Book: Tinker, tailor, soldier, spy
Tuesday, 10 April 2007 at 09:25 pm
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Author: John le Carré

Details: (c) 1974 David Cornwell; Pub Simon & Schuster Pocket Books 2000; ISBN 0-671-04273-4

Verdict: Tinker, tailor, soldier, spy is reasonably clever.

Reasons for reading it: le Carré is highly regarded, and I quite enjoyed The spy who came in from the cold years ago. To tell the truth I'm running low on books that I both strongly want to read, and actually have copies of.

How it came into my hands: RS's books hamper.

What I most appreciated about Tinker, tailor, soldier, spy was the background. I really got a strong impression of the intelligence world (not the faintest idea whether it's accurate, but it's extremely solid and detailed and plausible). It's especially evident in the little details of how the characters think like spies, from constantly checking for bugs to assuming that everything is some form of complicated intrigue. In general, there's a really strong atmosphere and sense of period and situation.

However, it doesn't quite match up to the creepiness and sheer disorientation of The spy who came in from the cold, it lacks some of the sense of everybody double-crossing everyone else and even themselves and being manipulated when they think they are in control. Possibly this is because of the different setting; Smiley's point of view gives us a relatively high ranking intelligencer who is anyway working on his own, so there's not so much scope for multiple levels of misdirection.

As a story, TTTS is only moderately exciting, but readable enough. As a puzzle it's just too complicated to be interesting; the use of multiple viewpoints often seems like a cheap trick to obfuscate, and I didn't have enough information to work out whodunnit or enough motivation to try. I just let the story carry me along and waited to see how Smiley would resolve things.

The characterization is sparse, but effective. I think the sections with Jim Prideaux as a substitute teacher are very effective, underlining the emotional impact of the betrayal without being overly maudlin. Smiley is also easy to like but isn't too perfect. There are slightly too many minor characters but they're distinguished just about enough. I didn't really get what Ricki Tarr was doing in the story, but that's a minor thing.

I think part of the reason that I'm lukewarm about TTTS is that Brust does this kind of detailed intrigue at least as well, but with added glee and shoulder dragonets. Ah well.


Whereaboooots: The Circus
Moooood: okayokay
Tuuuuune: Apoptygma Berzerk: Electronic warfare
Discussion: 4 contributions | Contribute something
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rysmiel: someone to watch over you
From:rysmiel
Date:April 11th, 2007 08:05 pm (UTC)
36 minutes after journal entry, 04:05 pm (rysmiel's time)
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I think part of the reason that I'm lukewarm about TTTS is that Brust does this kind of detailed intrigue at least as well, but with added glee and shoulder dragonets.

That is a sentence with which it would be all too easy to fall in love. *hug*

Also, if you have that reaction to this book, shall I put my spare copy of The Labyrinth Makers in whatever I next send you ? Because Anthony Price strikes me as bringing that kind of thing to a whole different level, and one I think you would enjoy given this review.
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livredor: livre d'or
From:livredor
Date:April 15th, 2007 04:25 pm (UTC)
3 days after journal entry, 04:25 pm (livredor's time)
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Compliments on my sentences are always the best kind. Thank you so much!

I don't know much about Price but I would definitely appreciate something that does intrigue and complexity well.

About that icon: can you explain it to me? To me it has very strong negative emotional resonances, it says geography and fatal loneliness and stuff I don't want to dwell on. But you seem to use it in positive contexts, perhaps you just mean that you miss people? I don't want to ask you not to use it, but if I knew what your associations are I'd be less distressed.
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hairyears: default
From:hairyears
Date:April 12th, 2007 12:18 am (UTC)
4 hours after journal entry, 12:18 am (hairyears's time)
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Of the three books in Carré's not-quite-a-trilogy, I would say that Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy is definitely my favourite. It has the the mood music of my youth: the human weaknesses of good, bad and mediocre men; deception, betrayal, and tainted motives; a symphony of grand and petty lies in an incestuous closed community where mistrust dominates all human interaction. The author plays it superbly, but I can see that this would not be to everyone's taste, however skilfully-written it may be: I think you'd better skip The Honourable Schoolboy and go straight to Smiley's People. That's a much simpler book - at least, the plot is simple - but it's a far richer read in terms of the characters and the sheer complexity of people with a clear sense of mission and 'rightness', rounded by a lifetime of moral compromises, but offered one last hope of victory. I think you'll like it.
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livredor: livre d'or
From:livredor
Date:April 15th, 2007 04:32 pm (UTC)
3 days after journal entry, 04:32 pm (livredor's time)
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Interesting comment, thanks. There is possibly an element of Le Carré doing something well that I happen not to like. I did very much appreciate the atmosphere and the sense of how that closed community works, certainly. More character depth sounds like a good reason to look out for Smiley's People, thanks for the rec.
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