Sunday, June 21, 2015

Hope: Len Deighton

From the book's dust jacket flap:
Deighton ... deftly re-creates the internecine squabbling and self-preserving panic that characterized spying in the months before the Berlin Wall crumbled and the Eastern Bloc dissolved. With cold war loyalties shifting in the freezing wind, Bernard is forced back into the "game", this time without the moral sureness that evil lies exclusively on the other side of the Iron Curtain. Caught between his job and his ethics, his past and his future, and the two women he loves, trapped in a maze of deception and danger where nothing is what it seems, Samson undertakes a mission that leads from rural Poland to the heart of London Central.
The previous four books in the series were set in 1987, and as far as I can tell, this book follows closely on the last one. The plot revolves around the death of Bernard's sister-in-law, Tessa Kosinski. Tessa bequeathed her apartment in London to Fiona, Bernard's wife, so they are now living there. Tessa died in Germany and her body has never been returned to her husband, George. George has disappeared, and Bernard and his boss are trying to track him down in Poland. George's family still lives in Poland. So, lots of international intrigue. Lots of revelations about characters. And along with all of that, the continuing saga of Bernard's home life.

As I get closer to the end of the nine book series about Bernard Samson, it is even more difficult to review each book, especially without telling too much that has gone before. For this series, I am a firm believer in reading in order, although Deighton has said in his introductions to the books that he wrote each one to stand alone. So I will make this post more a set of quotes from other sources, with some of my thoughts on the entire series.

Several reviewers who have read all of the Bernard Samson novels found this to be one of the weakest in the series. It may be, in comparison to the previous novels in the series, but I still found it better reading that most other spy fiction I read.  My passion for Bernard Samson's story may have influenced my opinion.

Simon at Simon's Book Blog says:
...what I have said about several of the others applies with more force here: start at the beginning with Berlin Game and you will want to read the whole Bernard Samson story; do not start in the middle or near the end. [emphasis is mine]
Robert Latona has written a long post at Open Letters Monthly about a reread of the nine Bernard Samson novels. (Latona's article does include spoilers for the series.)  He notes that the novels in a large part are about relationships, and that is what I love about the series.
I have been on a re-reading binge and find all nine novels to be aging quite nicely, perhaps because they are only secondarily “about” Cold War intrigue, though they have got plenty of that. “Human relationships” are his real subject, Deighton once stated, and he is skillful enough to make British Intelligence work for him as the Church of England did for Trollope, as the framework on which the hidden professional and personal agendas of his characters enter into conflict with one another.
Now I have only one more book to read in the series, and I am sad about that. On the other hand, I could start rereading the series with Berlin Game as soon as I finish the ninth book, so I have that to look forward to.

Another great resource is the website, The Deighton Dossier. It covers all subjects relating to Len Deighton, and here is a page with an overview of the Bernard Samson series.

This is a list of the books in the series, with a link to my review if there is one.

1. Berlin Game (1983)
2. Mexico Set (1984)
3. London Match (1985)
4. Spy Hook (1988)
5. Spy Line (1989)
6. Spy Sinker (1990)
7. Faith (1994)
8. Hope (1995)
9. Charity (1996)


Publisher:  HarperCollins, 1995.
Length:      295 pages
Format:      Hardcover
Series:       Bernard Samson
Setting:      1987, London, Berlin, Poland
Genre:        Spy fiction
Source:      I purchased my copy.


col2910 said...

More driven than ever now to find the first few in the series and make a start, cheers!

Sergio (Tipping My Fedora) said...

I remember loving this series at the time, though have not re-read them since. This may be because after the initial trilogy I felt I had to acceopt a certain diminution in pleasure that comes with a level of repetition by sticking mostly with the same xtended family of characters throughout. I kept hoping bernie would go off and have an adventure involving a different set of characters or that at least would eventually link back to his family, friends or close associates. I thought SPY SINKER was a fascinating summary and a brave game changer at the same time, and in theory would have been a great way to finish. On the other hand, because it was so tough on Samson, I was very glad it didn't. Deighton is a true master and you really make me want to re-read his work - thanks Tracy.

Anonymous said...

Tracy - This is a great series, and I'm very glad you've been 'enjoying the ride.' I absolutely, positively must spotlight one of his books. Very annoyed with myself that I haven't yet...

TracyK said...

I hope you like them, Col. This series ranks with my other favorites, Charles McCarry and Olen Steinhauer. But each author's books are very different.

TracyK said...

I loved the way this book ended, Sergio. I meant to put that in the review, but no matter. Other than this series (and Winter which is really a part of it), I have only read XPD and the first two nameless spy mysteries. So I have lots of his books to read when I get done with this one.

TracyK said...

I wholeheartedly agree, Margot, you should do a spotlight on a book by Deighton.

Clothes In Books said...

I will be posting a review of this soon Tracy (I nearly said 'I hope to' and decided that would be confusing) and very much enjoyed your post. I really liked this one, I thought the whole section set in Poland made a refreshing change.

TracyK said...

I agree, Moira, I liked all of it but the part set in Poland was especially good and interesting. I really look forward to reading the last one.

Sergio (Tipping My Fedora) said...

You have to read SS-GB, it's a real classic - I think you'll love it!

TracyK said...

My husband has only read that one, and he liked it. You are right, Sergio, I should put that at the top of my list.

Prashant C. Trikannad said...

Tracy, I'm going to (re)read this series in chronological order and I'm looking forward to it, only I don't know when. I have a few half-read books that I should finish reading first.

TracyK said...

I know you will like this series, Prashant. I will be eager to see a review of the books... when you get to them.

Rick Ollerman said...

I'm surprised no one's mentioned Deighton's "Winter," a saga that precedes the three trilogies and features younger versions of the older characters, some of the current characters' parents, etc. Chronologically--from a story standpoint--I'd read "Winter" first....

TracyK said...

I agree, Rick, I would have read Winter first if I had known more about the Bernard Samson series before I started it. It is so different though. I would like to reread myself before I embark on the nine books again.