Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy

Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy

Book - 1974
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"The man he knew as Control is dead, and the young Turks who forced him out now run the Circus. But George Smiley isn't quite ready for retirement--especially when a pretty, would-be defector surfaces with a shocking accusation: a Soviet mole has penetrated the highest level of British Intelligence. Relying only on his wits and a small, loyal cadre, Smiley recognizes the hand of Karla--his Moscow Centre nemesis--and sets a trap to catch the traitor."--Publisher website.
Publisher: New York : Knopf; [distributed by Random House], 1974.
Edition: 1st ed.
ISBN: 9780143120933
Call Number: LE CARRE
Characteristics: 355 p. ; 22 cm.
Subjects: Smiley, George (Fictitious character) -- Fiction.
Intelligence service -- Great Britain -- Fiction.
Suspense fiction.
Spy stories.
Thrillers (Fiction)


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Jan 09, 2020

If you were looking for a James Bond/007 movie script wannabe, this is not it. If you understand the paranoid Cold War mentality this book depicts, the story becomes more pertinent.

Uncertainty, moral ambiguity, and betrayal: The book is loosely based on the real life story of Kim Philby, a Brit double agent who spied for USSR for nearly 30 years. An estimated 25 major missions were blown by Philby due to the passage of information to his Russian handlers, and numerous men killed. Philby was a close associate of Nicholas Elliot and James Angleton, the latter being the head of the CIA counterintelligence until the mid-1970s. Angleton spent years at the CIA hunting for moles like Philby. The Secret Service of these countries were riddled with double agents. Reference for this information is “A Spy Among Friends” by McIntyre.

The meandering plot of the first third of the story only adds to the entertainment, while the background of English class distinction, delusions of world domination and alcohol excess contribute to the malaise. Additional commentary on the insanity of that era can be found in The Honorable Schoolboy, set in the last days of Nixon. If you need a visual version, the BBC miniseries with Alec Guinness is far superior to the movie with Gary Oldman.

Jun 20, 2019

3.5 whatever that means

I should know by now that I don't much like spy stories - maybe Eric Ambler a bit in the 70s & 80s, but then his heroes were always amateurs who stumbled into the game. The professionals, people who build lives of deceit and destruction are hard to write with a conscience, and therefore hard for me to root for or care about.

And yet, here I finished Le Carre's 400 pages of paranoia, and it was not a slog. The plot: a hunt for something not quite right, and perhaps a chance to make up for something very wrong. The characters full of seething inner torments.

I imagine that folks who do enjoy spy stuff will quite like this. So, add a star if cold war sleuths with hidden mail drops looking over their shoulder to see if they've been followed sounds fun. Subtract one if that sounds too dreary. Otherwise, I guess 3.5; not bad, really.

Jan 19, 2018

I loved the story and the way you stay with Smiley as you venture through the mystery. You do visit Jim, but he's just waiting for Smiley to show up. It makes for a good intense story that is fun to fall into. Will be reading more of John Le Carre in the near future, and the further adventures of George Smiley.

Jul 14, 2017

For those commenting on the pacing... the British classic method for developing a murder or mystery plot is almost always the same. It takes three chapters before the "event" occurs. It is the same with Agatha Christie and others who follow the classic model. We, in Canada, are more used to the American model - BANG! Event in chapter one.

Nov 23, 2016

really a classic !
take your time to read into it, you will enjoy it all.

Apr 01, 2016

Much too slow in developing, gave up on it!

mvkramer Feb 05, 2015

I know, I know, it's a classic - but I could not get into it. There are only so many times I can read a scene of shadowy men talking in drawing rooms. For a book that is supposedly a spy thriller, nothing really happens.

Feb 01, 2014

I've read it three times now, and expect to read it again sometime. As Dickens was to the 19th century novel, Le Carre was to the novel from 1960-1980, when the cold war was at its peak, in all its paranoid glory. If you can read the chapter in which Guillam breaks into the room in which the log books are kept, and not feel a terrible unease, then you don't remember the cold war.

Jun 02, 2013

I started to watch the movie, but it was way too slow. Finished the book, though. It was well written, but all in all I thought it could have been more suspenseful and found the ending a bit anticlimactic.

bkilfoy Mar 28, 2013

le Carre is a big name in spy fiction for a reason, and this novel is a perfect illustration of why. Brilliantly evoking the later days of the Cold War in the mid-1970s, we explore the world of men that came in to preserve Britain and the Empire in WWII and are now embroiled in a conflict where victories are nebulous at best. The novel is far more about the intellectual suspense of the spy game, and while there is a decent dose of action, it is the slow and intense burn of Smiley's hunt for answers about what happened prior to his being ousted from Circus and his search for the Russian mole that makes the novel such a delicious read.

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Feb 08, 2012

pandalovebug thinks this title is suitable for 13 years and over


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Feb 01, 2012

"I have a theory which I suspect is rather immoral," Smiley went on, more lightly. "Each of us has only a quantum of compassion. That if we lavish our concern on every stray cat, we never get to the centre of things. What do you think of it?"


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