Patrick Brown's Reviews > Smiley's People

Smiley's People by John le Carré
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's review
Aug 31, 2010

it was amazing
bookshelves: spy-thrillers
Read from January 04 to 10, 2014

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 and painful war. And yet, in key moments, its not Smiley we're with but Esterhase or Guillam or even Mendel, who doesn't really factor into the action here at all. And when the key moments come, Le Carre draws them out masterfully.

I would say that you could read this book without having first read Tinker Tailor, but I think having read that book informed so much about the background here that just the mention of Bill Haydon was sufficient to cast a certain tone over a scene. At any rate, its really a moot point, as you should read both books. To be honest, I couldn't decide which is better, though I enjoyed reading this much more than Tinker Tailor.

To close, a favorite passage, from the last third of the book:

Mendel, a loping, dourly observant man with a taste for keeping bees, said outright that George was pacing himself before his big fight. Mendel had been in the amateur ring in his time, he had boxed middleweight for the Division, and he claimed to recognise the eve-of-match signs: a sobriety, a clarifying loneliness, and what he called a staring sort of look, which showed that Smiley was "thinking about his hands."
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Reading Progress

01/04/2014 marked as: currently-reading
01/07/2014 page 206
55.0% "Whoa. Karla, you dog."
01/10/2014 page 345
01/10/2014 marked as: read

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