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Smiley's People (The Karla Trilogy #3)

4.24  ·  Rating Details ·  24,718 Ratings  ·  594 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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Mass Market Paperback, 335 pages
Published 1980 by Pan (first published 1979)
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David Talley No. Maybe read Bk 1 (Tinker, Tailor,...) to establish the characters and premise but Bk 2 adds very little to the overall story.

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
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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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Manny
Nov 26, 2008 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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Chloe
Jun 22, 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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Abubakar Mehdi
Jan 20, 2017 Abubakar Mehdi rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Smiley’s People is the last book in the “Karla Trilogy”; a series that describes the world of espionage during the Cold War. The story starts with a revelation by a ‘lost-agent’ recently resurfaced that at the very top of Circus (British secret service) there is a KGB agent, a mole spying for the Russians. And he is there for decades. Dangerous, resourceful and one of their own, this double-agent is capable of wrecking havoc if he isn’t caught immediately and off-guard. Here Smiley is called bac ...more
Bettie☯


Revisit via film

Description: John le Carre'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 Carre perfects his art in "Smiley's People."

In London at dead of night, George Smiley, sometime acting Chief of the Cir
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Greg
Dec 04, 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
Krissa
Mar 19, 2007 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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Steve
Aug 08, 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
Michael
May 25, 2017 Michael rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is my absolute favorite le Carre novel--and in my view the best of the Karla Trilogy. All the cerebral incisiveness of Tinker, Taylor, married to a well-constructed, suspenseful, and active plot. A real crescendo of a novel.
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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Foteini Daila
Aug 01, 2016 Foteini Daila rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: owned-books
Ο Carre ξέρει να χτίζει χαρακτήρες. Και -δεδομένου ότι δούλεψε κάποια χρόνια ως πράκτορας των βρετανικών μυστικών υπηρεσιών- έφτιαξε "αληθινούς" χαρακτήρες και οι περιγραφές που δίνει για την περίοδο του Ψυχρού Πολέμου (ποτέ δεν μου άρεσε αυτός ο όρος) είναι ρεαλιστικές. Εδώ βλέπεις ανθρώπους που δεν ξέρουν για ποιον δουλεύουν πραγματικά και ανθρώπους που νιώθουν χαμένοι, παρά τη νίκη τους. Κάπου στο βιβλίο μου έμεινε η φράση "Έχασαν αυτοί που έπρεπε να χάσουν, κέρδισαν όμως αυτοί που δεν έπρεπε ...more
Ludmilla
Sep 03, 2016 Ludmilla rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favoriler
türünün çok iyi bir örneği. serinin diğer kitaplarını da okumayı düşünüyorum.
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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Michael
Jan 04, 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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Patrick Brown
Aug 31, 2010 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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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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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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Srinivas 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.
Dillwynia Peter
Jun 21, 2017 Dillwynia Peter rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This completes the trilogy (Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy; The Honourable School Boy; Smiley’s People) often known as the Karla Trilogy. Each novel concentrates on a different espionage trait: betrayal, trust and loyalty; and manipulation. This novel is the ultimate manipulation against Smiley’s bete noire. It has become an obsession for him, an unhealthy one that can easily go pear-shaped; for some characters it does.

Of the three I enjoyed this one the most. Tinker et al is the most popular, but
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Peat
Feb 03, 2017 Peat rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I am personally of the opinion that this book should be accounted a masterpiece of its type. The story of a weary spy brought of retirement by an unexpected murder and given one last chance at bringing down his greatest opponent of all, Smiley's People does three things to near their highest conceivable peak in fiction.

The first is how close we feel to the characters. We get every absurd thought, every hasty judgement, every echo of someone else's voice in their minds, every sudden fear and sudd
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Jonathan
Jan 10, 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
Ci
Jun 05, 2012 Ci 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
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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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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Elena
Mar 17, 2012 Elena 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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Bradley West
Jun 13, 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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Heather
Nov 24, 2014 Heather rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 5-stars
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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Feliks
Jun 22, 2012 Feliks rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: genre-thrillers
As far as modern fiction storytelling is concerned, I feel there's a strong technical reason why espionage is better-suited than any other genre (if we must perforce label it a genre) for the purposes of an author's narration. First-person psychological realism of course, is the most powerful form of fiction narration --and you can find that rigorous and difficult metier' in many --many of the best ever--mainstream dramatic novels.

But in any 'lesser' yarn--the yarns which dominate the more popu
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Matthew Kresal
Jul 24, 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
Franc
Jun 19, 2015 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
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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.” 7 likes
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