"A house without books is like a room without windows." -Horace Mann

Monday, January 9, 2012

Tinker, Tailor, Soldier Spy

by John LeCarre

I normally don't go in for book by such prolific authors as John LeCarre because it seems like quantity rarely equals quality.  If someone asks me, "Have you read the latest LeCarre (or fill in the blank with another author)?"  then I usually decline, because it seems to me that unless you are truly an almost miraculous writer/editor etc, its hard to imagine putting out books that fast that are really good.  I'm sure they're good, but not really really good.

So, I was hesitant to read this one but it was recommended from a book website I love, and was recommended in an interview from a "spy novel" writer, so I figured that at least the recommendation came from someone who probably knew the genre well.

To finally get to the point of this post, I very much enjoyed Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy.  Probably not the all time best mystery novel I've ever read, but I haven't actually read a huge amount in this genre because there is so much of it that is really bad, or that just has a lot of crap in it that I'm not willing to wade through.

Some other comments on this book are that it is a very "cerebral mystery."  As in, its more brain than brawn.  Very true.  There wasn't honestly much action in this book, even if it was a spy novel.  Its mostly a lot of conversation, thinking and speculation from the main character who is brought back from forced retirement to figure out who the mole is within the spy agency.

One difficulty, which I didn't find bothered me too much, is that it is a British spy novel, so you've got to be okay with British words, lingo, and phrases, and some of them you just have to brush past because its not worth trying to remember all the different names and places.  But the reason I liked it is because it didn't feel the need to explain all this, it just assumed you either knew it or would figure it out for yourself.

Of course, any good spy novel is great if you can't really guess who the bad guy is, and this one kept me guessing all the way to the end and had a good surprise at the end.  I loved all the little spy details that make any good detective novel exciting and interesting.

And I recently discovered that they just released a movie based on the book, and I didn't even realize the coincidence until I was almost finished reading.  Unfortunately, I was disappointed that it was rated R.  I can pick the things in the book that they probably focused on and sensationalized to make it an R, but I think extremely unwarranted and unnecessary.  Most of the parts that would be "questionable" are told in retrospect through conversation and with a lot of inferring, so I don't think they needed to do that.  I was so looking forward to seeing their version of it.  Now I'll pass.  (getting down from my soap box now)

So, it would be a good book to read when you're a little short on your list of other books.  Can't say it was so fabulous I would tell you to read it immediately but it was a great break from my more serious line up of books, and still intense and kept me wanting to figure it all out.  Fun way to start the new year!


  1. Obviously I'm very late to this, but I wanted to recommend the BBC version of the story, starring Sir Alec "Obewan" Guinness as George Smiley. It was made decades ago and is now fresh out on DVD:


    It's more of a mini-series, so they're able to get into all the twists and turns of the book -- which I happen to love, but couldn't exactly tell you why -- and well worth a watch! (Also, not R, obviously, since it was made for TV.)

    And as an added note, the newer movie is excellent, and they didn't sensationalize as much as you might expect. The R comes mostly from a couple instances of language and brief moments of violence -- demonstrating the harshness of Soviet interrogations, mostly. They are shocking, but not lingered on.

    So, anyway, it was good, but the old BBC version is awesome. Plus, Obewan!!


  2. Thanks for the recommendation, that one is actually on my list to watch, great minds think alike! Have you seen the BBC series called Sherlock? If not, its fabulous. Thanks for keeping in touch!