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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)

4.2 of 5 stars 4.20  ·  rating details  ·  16,418 ratings  ·  383 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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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...more
Chloe
Jul 17, 2009 Chloe rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  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...more
Greg
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
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
Jen
Apr 05, 2009 Jen rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  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...more
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.
Hellen
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...more
Patrick Brown
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...more
Michael
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...more
Matt Brady
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
Scotchneat
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...more
Qi
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...more
Krissa
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...more
Manny
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,...more
Gerald
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,...more
Rob
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....more
Mart
Modern spy thrillers are like porn - they both feature unrealistic characters who engage in rather meaningless acts with much surface glitter and unrealistic enthusiasm. Le Carre, on the other hand, practices the real, true art of story telling, with credible characters and story lines that dare to raise more questions than answer them, granting the reader an opportunity to decide himself how to interact with the book, instead of providing ready made fast food style ways. A rather dark and slow...more
David Barrie
Don't be fooled: although Le Carré's books are ostensibly about espionage, they are actually an extended meditation on what it is to be English once the empire has crumbled and Albion is no more than a grey and damp island. The Karla trilogy (Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy, followed by An Honorable Schoolboy, and then this one) provide not just the benchmark for what a spy novel should be, but a primer for Le Carré's extended meditation on what deception does to the soul.
Rachel
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...more
rameau
Once again Smiley is called back to deal with old spies and old secrets others have long since forgotten, and this time he’s in a hurry. Within a few weeks George Smiley will face his old nemesis, Karla, and play his last hand in their twenty year card game.

That’s where the title of the Finnish translation comes from: Värisuora = straight flush.

I felt like le Carré tried to recreate Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy in Smiley’s People. All the things I so very much disliked about The Honourable Scho...more
Antof9
This was my first Le Carré, and I enjoyed it. Having heard his name for at least my entire adult life, I always thought I should have read one of his books. Well now I finally have! I will say this, though -- it's not the kind of book to carry in your handbag and read for 10 minutes here and 10 minutes there. It's really a 2-hours-at-a-time book, and I feel I didn't quite do it justice by reading it in smaller chunks than that. It's a spy novel, and there's quite a bit of intrigue, not to mentio...more
Darwin8u
"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
Priyanka
I'd read a 1000 page book that has nothing but George Smiley's inner monologues. I love this guy.

Reichenbach is invoked a couple of times by the book's characters to describe the encounter towards the end of the book between Smiley and his arch-nemesis Karla. Reichenbach was too dramatic. It's not Le Carre's style. It's not Smiley's style.

Smiley is an extremely introverted, possibly depressive, former spy in the British secret service or the Circus as it is called by its employees. He spends h...more
Erin
I thoroughly enjoyed this book. As a new fan of le Carre and George Smiley I found this an excellent wrap up to the feud between Smiley and Karla that began in Tinker Tailor. The writer makes sure all of the key characters that Smiley has dealt with along the way make an appearance. I particularly find the character of Connie Sachs fascinating. Especially as she progresses through all 3 novels. Peter Guillam is another favorite as a loyal and shrewd observer of Smiley. But this is George's book...more
Dan
Overall, I found le Carré's writing to be very strong and engaging, but at times, it could veer into the overly prosaic. There were definitely parts that I plodded through. His strong control of the story kept me coming back.

I've not read any of the earlier Smiley novels, though I did see the Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy movie, so I was, at least, familiar with the characters and the world. I assume there were some subtleties that were lost on me starting in medias res, as it were, but the key m...more
Margie
I'm going to blame this one on Sherlock. Benedict Cumberbatch was in the recent remake of Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, which piqued my interest in le Carre. I should note, however, that in general I have absolutely no interest in spy novels. Which should have been a warning to me. There are whole genres and authors that I simply have no interest in, and when I do read them (to see what the hullabaloo is all about, usually), I'm disappointed. But I had high hopes, being an eternal optimist.

Most of...more
Walter
I truly love this book. I read it years ago (I can't really remember when, but it was before the USSR collapsed). I listened to it on tape about a year or two back and loved it again.

Why? Smiley is a has-been, past his prime, a bit of an embarassment. His crusty doggedness made him seemingly obsolete. And it's his crusty doggedness that brings him back. It's the redemption of an old codger who refused to compromise.

Why? The book is populated by a bunch of odball Eastern European emigres. Just th...more
Caitlin
This used to be my least favorite of the George Smiley books. Honestly I think when I was younger I just couldn't figure out the intricacies of the alliances between all these refugees who seemed so old and odd to me. Now they feel just right - with romantic pasts and possibly romantic presents and still committed to their cause, no matter how quixotic the quest.

This book is much more like Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy in tone. It details various interconnected yet solitary quests and hones in on...more
Stephen
After the jet-setting of The Honourable Schoolboy, this is a return to classic Smiley territory. London, Berlin, and other parts of Europe. If you like Smiley (as I do) then this book is great. You feel his frustrations, you are in awe of his tenacity, his methodical weaving of the story, you understand his existential crises, overridden by his sense of duty. The story is similar in many ways to Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy, though much more straight-forward, and then, ultimately, perhaps not qu...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 forty years where he owns a mile of cliff close to Land's End.
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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.” 5 likes
“Why and earth should an unshaven young man in a track suit be carrying a basket of oranges and yesterday's newspaper? The whole boat must of noticed him!” 2 likes
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