Helen's Reviews > The Looking Glass War

The Looking Glass War by John le Carré
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Nov 01, 10

bookshelves: espionage
Read in October, 2010

Phenomenal, absolutely phenomenal.

Le Carre at the height of his powers. The Looking Glass War begins twenty years after the end of World War II, telling the tale of an imagined rivalry between the shrunken, decayed remains of military intelligence, and Smiley's legendary Circus, the political wing of British Intelligence.

The book begins with a botched operation; an agent dies. These men are no longer operational, they are playing at a game that has passed them by in terms of manpower, technology, technique and ability. Bathed in a sepia-toned fondness for the Good War, when ministries and armies awaited their decisions, they long to return to a time when they were vitally connected to the heart of something bigger. When a blurry, dubious lead falls into their laps, they eagerly blow it up into a full-scale spy operation, recruiting a long-retired agent who is laboring under the same sentiments as themselves; he too, longs to return to a time when he mattered.

The characters and situations are real and dimensional, sharply defined. You can almost hear them squabbling, you can almost see the bleak gray landscape. The politics are painfully amoral.

A mesmerizing read, as good in its way as The Spy Who Came in From the Cold. Highly recommended.
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