George Smiley has become chief of the battered British Secret Service. The betrayals of a Soviet double agent have riddled the spy network. Smiley wants revenge. He chooses his weapon: Jerry Westerby, ‘The Honourable Schoolboy’, a passionate lover and a seasoned, reckless secret agent. Westerby is pointed east, to Hong Kong. So begins the terrifying game…..
Another very long book by John le Carré. I have yet to read a book by this author that I did not enjoy, so the length is not an issue. But this one did go more slowly for me. I love the characterization in his novels and he writes so beautifully. I did get involved with the characters and I wanted everything to turn out well; of course it doesn't. At least in this story, some of the characters appear to be make choices about their futures.
I liked the focus on Jerry Westerby in this book. He is an interesting character, a spy called on to do Smiley's bidding. He had been put "out to grass" because he was no longer useful, with the possibility that his identity had been blown by the mole.
There was just enough of Smiley in this novel for me. Smiley seems to be more ruthless than he was in earlier novels, which seems realistic, if he wants to achieve his goal. Along the way I began to feel that Smiley and those working for him were being set up for failure. Spying is dirty work (like politics). Of course, knowing that this is part 2 of a trilogy gave me some hope that things will work out in the end, although it is unusual for a novel by le Carré to have a feel good ending.
I loved reading the reviews of this book. So many people panned this novel as a bore and not up to the rest of le Carré's work and just about the same number said it is one of their favorites by le Carré. Some say it is a slog; others say it is exciting. Maybe it is all up to whether one enjoys the scenes in Southeast Asia, which do tend to go on. I fall in the middle. I did enjoy it, I would have no problem rereading it because I know I would understand more the second time around. But it did have less of an impact than Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy and it was more depressing in the end. I can't speak for Smiley's People, as I haven't read that one yet.
List of 'Smiley' Novels (with links to my reviews)
1. Call for the Dead (1961)
2. A Murder of Quality (1962)
3. The Spy Who Came in from the Cold (1963)
4. The Looking Glass War (1965)
5. Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy (1974)
6. The Honourable Schoolboy (1977)
7. Smiley's People (1979)
8. The Secret Pilgrim (1990)
- See this post at Existential Ennui. With a look at the first edition with lovely map end papers.
- At To Bed With a Trollope, all three books in the trilogy are discussed.
Publisher: Penguin Books, 2011. (Orig. pub. 1977)
Length: 606 pages
Format: Trade Paperback
Series: Karla Trilogy, #2
Setting: UK, Cambodia, Hong Kong
Genre: Espionage fiction
Source: I purchased this book.