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Smiley's People
 
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John le Carré
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Smiley's People (The Karla Trilogy #3)

4.23  ·  Rating Details  ·  22,406 Ratings  ·  523 Reviews
John le Carré's classic novels deftly navigate readers through the intricate shadow worlds of international espionage with unsurpassed skill and knowledge and have earned him -- and his hero, British Secret Service agent George Smiley -- unprecedented worldwide acclaim.

Rounding off his astonishing vision of a clandestine world, master storyteller le Carré perfects his art

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Published (first published 1979)
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(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Warwick

What is so exhilarating and fulfilling about reading le Carré is the sense of genuine intelligence at play, both in the characters and in the author. There are different ways of trying to convey great cleverness in a literary character: one approach is to give them superhuman deductive skills à la Sherlock Holmes, you know – I perceive, sir, that you have recently returned from a hunting excursion in Wiltshire and that your wife's tennis partner owns a dachshund called Gerald — But my dear fello
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Chloe
Jul 17, 2009 Chloe rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Chloe by: Ted Graf
Note for completists: This is the third of the Smiley books, preceded by first Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy and then by The Honourable Schoolboy. While it is possible to read these books out of order and still enjoy them, the later books are informed by the events that come before and definitely spoil salient plot points of those novels.

Life has not been overly kind to George Smiley. Devoted husband to a faithless wife, dedicated servant to a government that does not admit he exists, archnemesis
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Greg
Dec 13, 2010 Greg rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
I've been watching Roberto Rossellini's The Age of the Medici this afternoon. Or about the middle two and a half hours of the four hour long 'mini-series'. I've been really enjoying it and surprisingly I haven't gotten too distracted watching it (this is something of a rarity for me in the past two years or so, I can probably using my fingers and toes all of the movies I've been able to make it through since the start of 2009). It's made me wonder though why the thought of watching movies leave ...more
Steve
Aug 14, 2012 Steve rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: i-spy
The last book of le Carre's Karla series might be the best. I turned to this book after watching the recent -- and excellent -- film adaptation of Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy (I read the book many years ago). I don't know why it took me so long to finish this series, since I also loved the second book, The Honorable School Boy. Maybe I just didn't want the series to end. In this chapter Smiley finally goes on offense against his nemisis, the Soviet spy master, Karla. But it takes him over half ...more
Krissa
May 09, 2012 Krissa rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book changed my life. My dad, sick of hearing me make fun of his spy novel proclivities, bet me $50 that I would love this book. It was a safe bet, too. If I loved it, I owed him nothing other than the smug satisfaction of having been right. If I hated it, he'd give me $50.

I loved it. I love the entire trilogy, in fact, but since I read this one first, out of order (tsk tsk dad) it has the special place on my favorites shelf.

And even though I now own THREE copies, this edition was my fathe
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Manny
May 18, 2009 Manny rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The conclusion of the trilogy that starts with Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy; but, while that book is about betrayal, this one is about manipulation. The heartbreaking message is that, when you want to manipulate someone, the most effective approach is not to try and exploit their weaknesses. Needless to say, that can work too. But the very best way is to exploit their kindness, their decency, and the things that make them a worthwhile human being.

It's been done in many other books too, of course,
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Laura
From IDMb:
Called out of retirement to settle the affairs of a friend, Smiley finds his old organization, the Circus, so overwhelmed by political considerations that it doesn't want to know what happened. He begins to follow up the clues of his friends past days, discovering that the clues lead to a high person in the Russian Secret service, and a secret important enough to kill for. Smiley continues to put together the pieces a step ahead or a step behind the Russian killers.


A movie was made bas
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Jen
Apr 05, 2009 Jen rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Soviet history fans, mystery-lovers, Smiley lovers
The first thing I have to say is IF YOU HAVEN'T READ THE FIRST TWO BOOKS IN THE TRILOGY, DON'T EVEN THINK ABOUT READING THIS BOOK!
Okay, sorry 'bout the all caps, but you cannot possibly read this book in isolation and enjoy it in the way that it was meant to be savored and enjoyed. This is the ultimate book in a trilogy, and all the pieces come together, characters deepen, brief glimpses of characters and places make sense, and the hard work that you've done to get to this point because of le Ca
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Scotchneat
Oct 26, 2011 Scotchneat rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Just re-read this one after many years. I forgot how awesome this book is. Le Carre was at the top of his game.

First, there's Smiley, his heavy-lidded contemplation of what makes people tick. Then there's his people--the lamplighters, the mothers, the housekeepers and the wranglers.

The lead-up to the big catch is perfectly done. It's funny, and suspenseful and gives you a thrill without big shoot-em-ups or special effects.

Maria Ostrakova is a wonderfully drawn character who carries the early p
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Michael
Jan 05, 2012 Michael rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A stunning work, even better than the excellent Tinker, Tailor.

Smiley's intelligence is portraid in the cracks in between action. The progress of his investigation is subtle; this isn't anything like a modern spy thriller. No car chases, no galavanting around the world.

Although this is a book that's ostensibly about the cold war, its themes still resonate. How far is too far when it comes to pursuing enemies? What really differentiates us?

I don't want to say too much, but I can't recommend thi
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Srinivas Prasad Veeraraghavan
In my Top 10 all time list. Few (if any) understood the human psyche as well as Le Carre and the Master's white hot brilliance finds its fullest expression in this Espionage classic. The last few pages where the enigmatic Karla is finally made to confront himself after painstakingly precise spade work by Smiley with his needle sharp brain and patience that could put a Zen Buddhist to shame made for riveting,breathless reaading that made me sweat. Doesn't get much better than this.
Bradley West
Jun 15, 2016 Bradley West rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites, thrillers
I've read a couple hundred spy novels, and this is my all-time favorite. Maybe it's because of the build up from the predecessors, "Tinker, Tailor" and, to a lesser extent, "The Honourable Schoolboy" but actually it's because le Carre is at the top of his game. He masterfully introduces the bit players via other bit players one instrument at a time until the orchestra is roaring away.

By this late date, George Smiley (operating as "Max") and Alec Guinness were interchangeable in both le Carre's
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Todd Stockslager
Jun 08, 2015 Todd Stockslager rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
Le Carre picks up the thread of Smiley's pursuit of Karla as it was at the end of Tinker, Tailer . . . , the first book in the series, with barely a reference to the second. And like the first, this is a return to the spare, taut writing that makes Le Carre's best writing classic, without the overplotting and "literary" touches that marred the second.

Le Carre writes with omnipresent omniscience, getting in every character's head, selectively, sometimes pulling the story forward, sometimes pushin
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Jonathan
Jan 16, 2015 Jonathan rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Magnificent. The beginning has the first wrong notes I've heard in Smiley's voice -- angry political editorializing, objectively arising out of the character's sense of obligation to others but somehow more jarring than his occasional revelations of feeling in the closing scenes which arise from the same sense of duties owed. But soon the novel slips into the familiar rutted paths of investigation -- observation, interrogation, analysis, memory -- as it builds towards its quiet, tense, conclusio ...more
Hellen
Mar 17, 2012 Hellen rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: mystery-thriller, spy
irst of all I have to say that this book is one of the best spy thrillers I’ve ever read.

The plot is slow, but in a good way. There are several characters involved, some more important than others, but everybody fits in the story. Sometimes it may seem that things don’t make sense and you may wonder how some of the characters are connected, but everything makes sense when you reach the end. All the questions you had while reading will be answered.

The main character is George Smiley. In this book
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Patrick Brown
Jan 11, 2014 Patrick Brown rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: spy-thrillers
A masterpiece and a tour de force of pacing and point of view. What separates Le Carre from his competitors is the depth of humanity he gives his characters. He's so in tune with human nature--the things that drive us and make us who we are--and it shines through in all his people, but most of all in Smiley, of course.

If something stands out from this book, its the restraint that Le Carre shows. After all, this is really the culmination of all of Smiley's efforts against Karla, the end of a long
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Qi
Jun 06, 2012 Qi rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
One major pleasure of reading Le Carre is to savor his pithy, unexpected turn of phrases. Here are several: "He is a man cut off from all spontaneous acts", and "his silence was not offensive, he had the gift of quiet". One of my favorite paragraph is when Smiley grieved about an agent's death: "You didn't break down or beat your chest or any of thos histrionics. No. You just happened to put your hand to your face and find it damp and you wondered what the hell Christ bothered to die for, if He ...more
Liz
I don't think I've ever clutched a book quite so tightly while finishing it as I did with this one. It was partly awareness of the impending parting - I was about to finish the Karla trilogy and would have to let go of this world - but mainly it was pure tension, built up gradually over three novels and ratcheted up to maximum in this last one.

For me, this book - all three of them, actually - works because it hurts. Everyone sacrifices something, often part of their moral fibre, in order to get
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Saul Escalona
Mar 31, 2016 Saul Escalona rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
4 1/2 stars.
Great slow motion espionage, in a good sense though, basically on the same lines as Le Carre's Tinker Taylor Soldier but slower and combines murder investigation and espionage. Smiley is older and retired. The style of the narrative reminded me much of Hercules Poirrot's (A.Christie) in his later books and The Quite American by G. Green.
There is quote that goes; “You know, one of the tragedies of real life is that there is no background music.”
―Annie Proulx
Well neither in books, bu
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Heather Croxon
Dec 08, 2014 Heather Croxon rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This was by far my favourite of the seven George Smiley novels (just pushed 'Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy' out of the top spot) and is a brilliant conclusion to the three novels centred around Smiley's Soviet nemesis, Karla.
This is the novel in which everything comes to a head and le Carre shows just how good he is by pulling together all the threads strewn throughout 'Tinker, Tailor' and the other Karla novel, 'The Honourable Schoolboy'. The tension throughout the novel built gradually and had
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Gerald
Feb 15, 2008 Gerald rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The espionage establishment as mundane, humorless British corporate bureaucracy. Endless, boring meetings, unreadable secret-stamped files locked in nameless reading rooms, and middle-management infighting.

Chilling because it feels so real, so closely observed.

Third in the trilogy with Tinker, Tailor and The Honourable Schoolboy. The latter is an interlude. You could skip from one to three, then come back to it. If you do, you'll appreciate it more.

The BBC TV series captured it all wonderfully,
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Libby
Aug 13, 2015 Libby rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: suspense
A thoroughly satisfying, achingly poignant conclusion to John le Carré’s Karla Trilogy, which brings us the final showdown between retired British spymaster George Smiley and his Soviet counterpart, Karla. Le Carré delivers a gripping and suspenseful espionage tale while systematically stripping away his protagonist’s last illusions. Smiley’s existential weariness is palpable and lends the quiet moments of the book great pathos whilst grounding the suspenseful and action-filled scenes. But Smile ...more
Franc
May 24, 2016 Franc rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Smiley’s People is set the 1970s Cold War detente, a timeout observed by the politicians, but as we see, not the spies. Le Carre gives us one In the book of the best characterizations of the Cold War: “It’s not a shooting war any more, George…That’s the trouble. It’s grey. Half-angels fighting half-devils. No one knows where the lines are. No bang-bangs.” It is out of this view of the Cold War that Le Carré invents the “grey” espionage novel, and his Karla Trilogy starring the anti-Bond hero, Ge ...more
Rachel
Apr 25, 2014 Rachel rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Ahhh, I love John Le Carre's books and this one did not disappoint. This is a sequel to "Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy" so you have to have read that one first to understand "Smiley's People."

I liked this book as much as I liked "Tinker..." but my favorite of Le Carre is still "The Spy Who Came in From the Cold." Talk about a masterpiece! I suggested it for my book club. Not everyone loved or appreciated it because the story is quite complicated. Le Carre isn't for the "Twilight" set.

Le Carre tel
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Rob
Feb 04, 2009 Rob rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
More excellent work from Mr. le Carre. A thoughtful, fascinating page-turner about spies handcuffed by bureaucracy, specifically le Carre's prime spy, George Smiley, who in retirement is given the opportunity to take down his long-time nemesis, Karla (and if you haven't read the books, Karla is not a woman but a code name whose explanation I haven't read.)

I picked this up partly because I wanted something with a London setting because I'm writing a story set in London and I've never been there.
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Matthew Kresal
Nov 10, 2011 Matthew Kresal rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
In Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy John le Carre reintroduced his agent George Smiley to the world and introduced for him a nemesis: the Soviet spymaster known only by the codename of Karla. In Tinker, Smiley became the man who uncovered a mole inside the British intelligence agency known as Circus. Subsequently, Smiley became the temporary head of the Circus and continued his battle of wits in the novel The Honourable Schoolboy. With Smiley’s People, le Carre sought to bring Smiley and Karla into ...more
Darwin8u
Nov 09, 2011 Darwin8u rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2011
"He looked across the river into the darkness again, and an unholy vertigo seized him as the very evil he had fought against seemed to reach out and possess him and claim him despite his striving, calling him a traitor also; mocking him, yet at the same time applauding his betrayal. On Karla has descended the curse of Smiley's compassion; on Smiley the curse of Karla's fanaticism. I have destroyed him with the weapons I abhorred, and they are his. We have crossed each other's frontiers, we are t ...more
Matt Brady
Jun 09, 2013 Matt Brady rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-in-2013
An excellent conclusion of the Karla Trilogy, with a welcome return of focus to George Smiley. Now well into his (second) forced retirement, Smiley is haunted by the failures of his long career, dissatisfied where life has left him and troubled by the ruthlessness and complete lack of loyalty shown by the Secret Service, the organisation he dedicated a better part of his life to. But Smiley, of course, is not destined to fade away like some old soldiers. An old agent, a Soviet defector long sinc ...more
Sandi
A fitting conclusion to the Karla trilogy. Though retired, George Smiley is still at the top of his game and many of his old compatriots also make appearances throughout the narrative. Listened to the audio version which was excellently narrated by Michael Jayston
Frederik
Sep 09, 2015 Frederik rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
In the conclusion to the Karla Trilogy, Le Carre does diverge from time to time to examine characters other than George Smiley. But he doesn’t do so nearly to the same extent that he did in The Honourable Schoolboy, with the lean result being a riveting espionage drama rather than a slog. The narrative, about Smiley’s efforts decisively defeat his nemesis, is much clearer. The portraiture is more insightful. Unlike the Bond-type figure, which Le Carre rejected, Smiley is a cerebral spy with an u ...more
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John le Carré, the pseudonym of David John Moore Cornwell (born 19 October 1931 in Poole, Dorset, England), is an English author of espionage novels. Le Carré has resided in St Buryan, Cornwall, Great Britain, for more than 40 years, where he owns a mile of cliff close to Land's End.

See also: John le Carré - Wikipedia
More about John le Carré...

Other Books in the Series

The Karla Trilogy (3 books)
  • Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy
  • The Honourable Schoolboy

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“[Smiley contemplates graffiti:]'Punk is destructive. Society does not need it.' The assertion caused him a moment's indecision. 'Oh, but society does,' he wanted to reply; 'society is an association of minorities.” 8 likes
“In Lacon's world, direct questions were the height of bad taste, but direct answers were worse.” 6 likes
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