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TINKER, TAILOR, SOLDIER, SPY by John le Carré Kirkus Star


by John le Carré

Pub Date: June 1st, 1974
ISBN: 0143119788
Publisher: Knopf

But "What's the access?" Of course the Le Carre name, and the Book-of-the-Month Club selection, and the special language (of which that term is an example) and the "tradecraft" (another) along with his technical command of his material which differentiates this book in a genre where familiarity breeds -- and breeds. But "what's the access" may be a very real grievance on the part of the impatient or indolent reader. For a long time -- most of the book in fact -- one seems to be running in place while circling with the members of a group called the Circus through various dispositions, defections, and connections. Uncertainty is everywhere -- theirs and yours -- there seems to be a mole (moles are deep penetration agents) within the Circus accountable for just what? The death of Control? The fact that Jim Prideaux now seems to be put out of the way (he'd been shot in the back -- who shot him in the back?) in a boys' school where a podgy youngster becomes a dangerous embarrassment by watching him too devotedly? Or what of George Smiley, "deceived in love and hate alike," is he through? Is his lovely wife Ann through with him? Or particularly Bill Haydon, who'd been head of the London Station, who'd shared Ann with Smiley, and who was a romantic residual of the past in which they'd all participated but now seem to have lost -- Bill who had been "ubiquitous, heroic and charming, like Lawrence"? It's very intricate -- all these associations, reverses, betrayals. But this is unmistakably Le Carre country -- be it only the sense of spiritual loss, more than the megrims of middle age and the combat fatigue of survival. There is that chilly interior climate of those who have fought the good fight only to end up, sullied and disenchanted, losing a private war. . . A dirty, dodgy business this -- and no one seems to know it better than Le Carre or can endow it with that special, covert, inductive fascination. We have no other thinking man's world of intelligence.