Now Tinker Tailor Solider Spy has been on my personal ‘to-read’ list for ages. And so has the author John Le Carre. Le Carre is just one of those authors that has to be read, in my opinion, at least once. The same goes for the likes of classics like Charles Dickens, or Jane Austen. ‘Modern-day’ writers like Agatha Christie, Ian Fleming, Stephen King and Salman Rushdie also make this list (as do many many others).
So I finally picked it up the other day and gave it a go. And I realise now why it was on my ‘must be read’ shelf. It is one of the best thrillers I have ever read. It has layer within layer that keeps you intrigued and gripped from the very off.
The opening line, “The truth is, if old Major Dover hadn’t dropped dead at Taunton races, Jim would never have come to Thursgood’s at all.”, is full of intrigue who is Major Dover, who is this Jim, and what is Thursgood’s?
Set in an era where men wore buttoned-up suits and spoke still fondly of the dwindling British Empire, and in the midst of the Cold War. This is shown beautifully through the style of his writing.
Truthfully, I watched the film starring Gary Oldman as George Smiley before I read the book. However, I couldn’t really remember the film at all, and which actor played which character (apart from Oldman as Smiley) and I couldn’t remember the ending. So my imagination wasn’t tainted by watching the film first. Of which I am glad.
The novel is a dense puzzle where espionage, anxiety and paranoia are key players. It is a wonderfully complex novel with multiple layers to discover as George Smiley delves deeper and deeper into the mysteries of the Circus to uncover the mole. Dragged from sudden retirement Smiley uses all his expertise to ferret out the mole, while constantly looking over his shoulder in his paranoia that his training afforded him. And like Alice in Wonderland he cannot guess how deep the rabbit hole goes: into the very depths of the Circus.
Simply brilliant. Wonderfully complex. A definite must-read.
This is the first Le Carre novel that I have read, and it most certainly will not be the last.
4 out of 5 stars.