Okay, so, previous statement about not lying may be slightly a lie. I originally bought this book in 2011 right before the movie came out. I don’t think Eggs Benedict was even on the menu at that point in my life. (I think I watched Sherlock for the first time later that year when it ran on PBS?) Anyway, I mostly bought it because I’d really enjoyed The Constant Gardener (and by really enjoyed I mean I FUCKING LOVED IT–that book slays me), and had also read A Perfect Spy* for a graduate seminar in English literature earlier that year and really enjoyed it. The professor recommended the Karla Trilogy for further reading, and so I went to the bookstore. I had to order my copy off Amazon, though, because all Barnes & Noble had was movie tie-in editions, and I hate those.
*His most autobiographical work. le Carré (aka David Cornwall) was himself a spy for England, but the book is also a pretty blatant deconstruction of his relationship with his father.
The part that is not a lie in my previous statement is that I finally picked up this book and decided to read it after it’s being on my shelves for three years because of Eggs Benedict Cucumberbatch. See HERE, HERE, and also HERE for reasons.
Also, see below:
Course, sexy scarf Cumberbatch is not the incarnation we get. Instead, we have this 1960s blonde spy moppet:
You know what, I’ll take it.
Okay, so the rest of this review will be for people who actually care about my thoughts on the novel, and not my thoughts on Benedict Cumberbatch (which are, to sum up, mostly naughty ones).
The most exciting thing that happened to me during my Twitter hiatus is a dream I had where I got piggyback rides from Benedict Cumberbatch.
— Ashley (@narfna) July 12, 2014
I note the piggyback rides as an obvious highlight but in that dream we were also fugitives on the run and he was basically the getaway car.
— Ashley (@narfna) July 12, 2014
Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy is the first book in the Karla Trilogy, and the fifth book to feature protagonist George Smiley (the Gary Oldman character in the film). You don’t need to have read any of the previous four to read this one, but I’ve heard The Spy Who Came in From the Cold is pretty great–it was the book that put le Carré on the map. All the Smiley books feature his espionage adventures at the Circus (MI-6 headquarters), and this one begins his showdown with Karla, the head of the Soviet spies.
We actually start the book while Smiley is no longer a spy. He had been forced out of the Circus, essentially put out to pasture, after an international incident and the fall of his mentor, Control, the former head of the Circus (now dead). But events occur that make it clear that Smiley and some of his people were put out or marginalized because there is actually a mole in the Circus, placed there by Karla, and he is really, really high up. The main thrust of the novel features Smiley investigating this mole (and the incident that spurred his ‘retirement’) and ferreting out the secrets of the Circus, one by one.
The thing about le Carré is that he’s a really good writer, but he happens to write mostly spy novels, which really aren’t my thing. Also, his views of human nature aren’t the happiest, so you definitely have to be in the right mood to read his stuff. I wasn’t in the right mood, apparently, as it took me about three months to finish this book. But once I finally did, I was really into it. His language sucks you in, and while the spy stuff can get a bit confusing if you’re not used to the terminology, his characters and his attention to detail make up for it.
I probably won’t be digging into the last two books in the Karla Trilogy for at least a couple of years, but if spies are something you’re into and you somehow haven’t read le Carré, you should probably get on it ASAP. It’s not just guns and action and torture with him. It’s intrigue and identity and masculinity and really awesome imagery, and even if you don’t normally like that sort of thing, you still might like his stuff. He’s just that kind of writer.