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The Honourable Schoolboy (The Karla Trilogy #2)

3.93 of 5 stars 3.93  ·  rating details  ·  9,130 ratings  ·  459 reviews
In the wake of a demoralizing infiltration by a Soviet double agent, Smiley has been made ringmaster of the Circus (aka the British Secret Service). Determined to restore the organization's health and reputation, and bent on revenge, Smiley thrusts his own handpicked operative into action. Jerry Westerby, "The Honourable Schoolboy," is dispatched to the Far East. A burial ...more
Paperback, 589 pages
Published October 29th 2002 by Scribner Book Company (first published January 1st 1977)
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Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy by John le CarréThe Bourne Identity by Robert LudlumThe Spy Who Came In from the Cold by John le CarréThe Hunt for Red October by Tom ClancyThe Day of the Jackal by Frederick Forsyth
Best Spy Novels
23rd out of 773 books — 1,391 voters
The Spy Who Came In from the Cold by John le CarréTinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy by John le CarréThe Day of the Jackal by Frederick ForsythThe Bourne Identity by Robert LudlumThe Hunt for Red October by Tom Clancy
17th out of 639 books — 769 voters

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Popular opinion has it that this is the weakest of the three Karla novels. I thought it was a masterpiece, and a more ambitious novel than Tinker, Tailor.

It is very different from the last book: suddenly there is this unexpectedly huge scope of Southeast Asia to go alongside the muted meetings in grey London office rooms. I can well understand how some readers might have felt it was two books jammed together, but for me the contrast worked perfectly and I was riveted by how brilliantly Le Carré
I'm a longtime reader of the espionage genre --beginning as just a lad--and although I massively enjoyed all of John LeCarre's earlier works and particularly his George Smiley series--I must call out "The Honourable Schoolboy" for especial recognition.

This penultimate work of that series is really the triumph of LeCarre's career; the point at which he reached the full breadth and scope of his powers. Afterwards--although he enjoyed further achievements--I suggest that he never again eclipses th
“I and the public know
What all schoolchildren learn,
Those to whom evil is done
Do evil in return.

― W.H. Auden

“Yet it's not for want of future that I'm here, he thought. It's for want of a present.”
― John le Carré, The Honourable Schoolboy


Well sport, this was a messy, sometimes uneven AND occasionally a plodding novel but I absolutely loved every single word of it. This is the second book of le Carré's Karla trilogy. Perhaps, the greatest spy trilogy ever. While more people focus on the first
Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy is a tough act to follow, but I must admit I was expecting more. At first, I thought that’s exactly what I was getting but then the mind-numbing second third happened and I was lost in a way I never was in Tinker Tailor. I still don’t have a clear understanding of what happened—in the book or with my interest in it.

All I know is that I got sick of reading about Jerry. I got sick of Guillam’s overdone fawning. I got sick of the female characters—including Connie—portraye
Juanita Rice
I have read this book almost countless times. I have tried to make schematics of its complex structure, to understand the grand architectonics upon which Le Carre built an absolute monument to the grand art of running and being an "agent."

The narrative time from the first action of the novel to its last may be something less than a month, but the lives it recounts cover some sixty complicated years. As the "perfect spy" ironically and compulsively, angrily and lovingly, pens a series of biograp
Bryan Alexander
This is one of the greatest spy novels I've ever read. It's a powerful, ambitious, satisfying sequel to the very great Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy.

The plot concerns the Circus (British espionage unit) tracking down a Soviet operation in the far East. Smiley rebuilds the shattered agency and hurls it into the fray. Without spoilers I can assert that The Honourable Schoolboy takes place largely in south and southeast Asia, with long stretches back in London, and an ultimate focus on Hong Kong. E
Apparently, many people read John Le Carré’s spy novels for a glimpse at what the world of international espionage is really like; in other words, they read them like a kind of journalism about the shady world of Intelligence Services. And there certainly is something to it – we’ve grown used to a more realistic perspective on secret services, but we can still imagine what it must have been like to read a novel like The Spy Who Came In from the Cold for someone whose idea of spy thrillers were I ...more
Stuart Ayris
This the second in the Smiley/Karla trilogy - the only one (as far as I'm aware) that hasn't been dramatised and as such the least known of the three. Yet it is my favourite by far.

The main character is not George Smiley (although he is present in much of the novel) but Jerry Westerby, one of the Occasionals as they are referred to - foreign correspondents who do a little spying on the side. As such, it is altogether more human than either Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy or Smiley's People - the r
Nick Baam
Crime noir been given its due, with Raymond Chandler, Dashiell Hammett, and James M. Cain all winning Nobel prizes (haven't they?) (read Cain's Serenade), I nominate for the award the spy genre's only serious candidate, John le Carre. More, I nominate The Honourable Schoolboy as the best spy novel ever written, and the author himself doesn't put it in his top four.

The Honourable Schoolboy, second in the Karla Trilogy, coming after Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy and before Smiley's People, is all a
A John le Carre novel set in Hong Kong and Southeast Asia? Yes, please!

This is the second volume in the Karla trilogy, and as such is the direct sequel to Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy. Do not expect more of the same, however. This is, after all, John le Carre, and he rarely, if ever, writes the same novel twice.

The le Carre novels that I have read tend to make use of two general frameworks. There are the 'whodunit' style stories, set primarily in London, such as Call for the Dead and TTSS. These ar
The Karla Trilogy is not a true trilogy but a marketing spin and this book proves it in more ways than one.

To start with, this book has little connection with the Karla-Smiley story of Tinker, Tailor. Yes, Karla is mentioned as linked to the spies being chased but with no other role whatsoever. Smiley team is there but more as a sideshow to the juvenile story of a fringe spy falling in crazy love over a single meeting, his Southeast Asian ventures and a complex capture tale where one is never cl
I really wanted to get into this for my holiday. The plot was set in Hong Kong, so what could be more appropriate, and initially I was quite gripped by the characters and potential story. But as the novel progressed I found I just wasn't interested enough in the minutiae of the spying world in the way that Le Carre so clearly is, how it operates and what legwork needs to be done in order to unearth the Red under your Bed. Which was enough of a pity that I might go back to the book soon, because ...more
Honourable School Boy Another good production by the Smiley Players. This radio drama more than a straight forward audio book. The cast is great, especially Simon Russell Beale who plays Smiley. It is more of morality tales that will make you think. If you like Dowton Abbey, you might want to check this out as Hugh Bonneville has a large part. ...more
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Very dark, very heavy, very good. I was a child when this story is set, and its easy to just think of the end of the Viet Nam war as just the US getting out. I'll admit that until I read "Bangkok 8" by John Burdett, I wasn't sure how other Asian countries participated in the war, or how the drug trade fitted in. Similar terrain in this book.

This book has a range of characters: Asian capitalists, crazy expat journalists, peasant soldiers, one femme fatale; and puts them in action in a multination
Matt Brady
It’s tough to follow up the brilliance of Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy, and while The Honourable Schoolboy is an interesting and entertaining novel in it’s own right, it certainly paled in comparison to it’s predecessor for me.

The British Secret Service is reeling and George Smiley, the pensive, middle-aged Cold War veteran has been charged with setting the Circus back on it’s feet. To that end he employs Jerry Westerby, a minor character from Tinker, Tailor, to run down a possible lead – a myst
I liked that le Carre writes an introduction to these editions of the Karla trilogy, because it helps me forgive the some of the distractions and ramblings in what is the most exciting but also weakest of the three. First of all, le Carre explains that he went on location to gather sights, sounds and experiences for this book, which explains the vividness and a lot of the action. It also explains why there are scenes in the book that, while interesting, don't move the plot forward. It's like he ...more
Chris Parks
Seriously, I can't understand why le Carre' is not even more popular. It may that he is just too good of a writer. This book was so dense, so expertly written, and so visual, I could not wait to get back to it. Yet, I recommended it to several people and almost no one shared my passion for the story. I feel the problem may be that there is a lack of early action in the story, instead, le Carre' takes his time with character development--which he probably does better than any other modern writer. ...more
Colin Powell
This is the second of the George Smiley vs Karla stories. At the beginning we are introduced to Jerry Westerby who featured in Tinker, Taylor, Soldier, Spy. The characters of this story are wonderfully crafted and I enjoyed the way we got to learn of these various protagonists through interviews with people who knew them from the past. These meetings and interviews are done via Connie Sachs, George Smiley etc during the middle part of the book as they gather information from parents and friends ...more
The Honourable Schoolboy is an epic, sprawling mess of a novel that doesn't quite deliver the payoff it promises those willing to invest in its near 700 page length. As in Tinker Tailor and Smiley's People (the other two novels making up the so-called Karla Trilogy, of which this is the second), le Carre narrates the events of the book as a sort of controlled retrospective, deliberately withholding information from the reader until the end. Here, however, the technique starts to grate due to the ...more
The honourable (very English) schoolboy of the title is Jerry Westerby, the son of an English peer and the product of English public (i.e., elite private) schools; a gruff, hale-fellow-well-met who works for the British Secret Service while posing as a freelance journalist. Westerby’s boss is George Smiley, le Carré’s most memorable character—middle-aged, somewhat portly, the cuckold of a beautiful wife, brilliantly insightful, and a bit ruthless. The year is 1975 and the Vietnam War is drawing ...more
Dennis Fischman
With this book, LeCarre bring Smiley and the British spies he calls the Circus into the Vietnam era. So, what difference does a decade make? Mostly, I think, that Smiley is not the only one who's feeling anguished about the things they have to do for a cause that seems more and more sordid. It's a post-Watergate novel, and even though the Americans in the book are still mainly cowboys, the cynicism that Nixon's fall brought about in the U.S. has infected more and more of the Brits.

The plot is s
I read this along with the other two volumes of the Smiley trilogy when they were first published. I found I couldn't remember this one, or imaging why it hadn't also been made into a movie. Now I know. One tip-off was how hard it was to find. I eventually got a large-print copy out of the public library. I needed the large print, because this is a slog. There are a lot of pages of arch language which gets old very fast, many more pages of sneaking up on an unintelligibly complicated scheme whic ...more
It's a long while since I read 'Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy' and so approached this book with something resembling trepidtaion, in case I was required to remember huge amounts of knowledge from the earlier book. Fortunately Le Carre is a strong enough writer to allow even the neophyte reader admittance. However, and I don't think my memory is playing tricks on me here, this volume is nowhere near as strong as its predecessor.

The plot concerns Smiley setting up plans to catch an Asian spy from Lond
I tried so very hard to like this book, I really did. It had been recommended to me as a good example of an espionage book by a master storyteller, and I thought that it might be a good airplane read to boot. During the past two weeks when I’ve been traveling, I have faithfully labored through this work, and hard work it was. Initially I was intrigued by the details of spy “tradecraft,” but those details became quickly tedious. The story itself is involved and clearly a part of a larger and long ...more
This will go down as my least favorite Smiley book. That said, even my least favorite Le Carre is still pretty darn good. In this installment we see a little of Smiley as the acting head of the Circus. He and his team are looking to find the secrets Karla had Bill Haydon hiding while he was a double agent. He happens upon one in South East Asia and sends Jerry Westerby - a reporter and occasional field man - to investigate. I wondered about Westerby before I even started the book. He grated on m ...more
Ryan Sanderson
The first forty pages of The Honourable Schoolboy read like a miraculous delivery on the promise of Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, wherein LeCarre perfects, not just the art of plotting, but of obfuscation through excess. This is a mental exercise in inference and interpretation. All of the information is present but the reader is invited to plod their own way through, a thrillingly lifelike exercise few popular fictions would ever dream of allowing. LeCarre once stated that Schoolboy was the first ...more
Second book in the "Karla Trilogy" by former British intelligence officer "John le Carre'" (David John Moore Cornwell). Le Carre continues the cold war dual between (now reinstated) British intelligence officer George Smiley and the Kremlin's devious "Karla". Interestingly enough, Smiley is mostly missing in this story featuring the young, nomadic spy Gerald Westerby called back in to service mostly in Hong Kong and throughout Southeast Asia during the end of the Vietnam War. The book was enjoya ...more
It used to be that this was my favorite of the George Smiley books. I liked the reporter angle, the exotic Hong Kong setting, the intricacies of running agents, the tragedy waiting to happen throughout. This time I enjoyed it, but less so than the other two books. In some ways I think this is le Carré throwing everything he knows at the wall in hopes that it will stick. It is a testimony to his skill that it all does. In other ways it's almost too tainted with the Vietnam War, although that is n ...more
Meticulously Detailed. Painfully so, at times. Takes the 'brooding spy thriller' to an entirely different level.
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Why Did They Let Westerby Go? 9 65 Apr 02, 2015 09:21PM  
it is hands-down, the best ever written 19 62 Nov 23, 2014 01:50PM  
Did Smiley order the death that closes the action? 4 56 Nov 07, 2013 10:19PM  
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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
  • Smiley's People

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