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Smiley's People (The Karla Trilogy #3)

4.21 of 5 stars 4.21  ·  rating details  ·  19,541 ratings  ·  450 reviews
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 ...more
Paperback, 397 pages
Published November 26th 2002 by Scribner Book Company (first published 1979)
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The Bourne Identity by Robert LudlumTinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy by John le CarréThe 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
8th out of 752 books — 1,230 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
Espionage
8th out of 617 books — 748 voters


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Community Reviews

(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
...more
Chloe
Jul 17, 2009 Chloe rated it 4 of 5 stars
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
Aug 14, 2012 Steve rated it 5 of 5 stars
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
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
...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
Jen
Apr 05, 2009 Jen rated it 5 of 5 stars
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
Jonathan
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
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
Heather Croxon
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
...more
Czarny Pies
Apr 08, 2015 Czarny Pies rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Fans of Espionage Novels
Recommended to Czarny by: I loved the Movie version of the Spy who Came in From the Cold and have been an intermittent LeCarre fan ever since.
Shelves: english-lit
Everyone has to read at least one novel by John Le Carre who worked for 15 years with the British Secret Service (a.k.a M15) for roughly 15 years at the height of the cold war. During his time with M15 he did everything from interrogating defectors in German who crossed the Berlin Wall to infiltrating campus communist circles.

In other words, with Le Carre you get the view of the insider. Given the importance of the espionage during the cold war, it certainly is worthwhile to read a few of his no
...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
Franc
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
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.
Beáta
Sokszor láttam a metrón, hogy emberek Le Carré valamelyik könyvét olvassák, így érdekelt, hogy milyen típusú regényeket ír. A fülszöveg alapján választottam ki a Csapdát. Mikor már a könyv a kezemben volt, derült ki, hogy egy trilógia harmadik kötete, de szerencsére nem volt szükséges az előzmények ismerete. Ez egy kémtörténet, ami európai országokban játszódik és visszanyúlik a szocializmus idejére. Egy-egy ügynöknek több fedőneve is volt, ami kicsit megbonyolította számomra a történetet, de iz ...more
Todd Stockslager
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
...more
Yashaswi Narasimha
The concluding chapter of the Karla Trilogy is a fine spy novel. le Carré seems to wilfully avoid writing escapist page-turners full of thrilling plot twists. He seems to consider Chekov's Gun a predictable gimmick, preferring instead to build the story organically and describe with immersive detail the world outside and inside the mind of an aging spy. This approach, coupled with the fact that le Carré himself used to be an MI6 officer, results in an unmatched sense of authenticity that made me ...more
Brenda
This is my first review at goodreads and I'm floundering but also bursting with feeling re Mr. Smiley & company. I always felt a deep personal connection with all the cold war mentalities because they involve passionate zealots on both sides accompanied by lots of support staff who don't care so much - I am both fascinated and horrified by what people driven by "zeal" will do - a long time favorite is Solzhenitsen. Reading the reviews here - so delightful - I want everyone to come to my hous ...more
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
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1411964
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
Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy The Spy Who Came In from the Cold The Russia House The Constant Gardener A Perfect Spy

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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.” 7 likes
“In Lacon's world, direct questions were the height of bad taste, but direct answers were worse.” 4 likes
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