Ed's Reviews > The Ipcress File

The Ipcress File by Len Deighton
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's review
Oct 07, 11

bookshelves: spy, thriller
Read from September 23 to October 03, 2011

I really, really wanted to enjoy this more and maybe the fault was partly my own for thinking it was going to be one of those novels I could read in 20 minute snatches on my daily commute, but despite its relatively short length, I just found it maddeningly difficult to follow. The tone is basically Noir filtered through the spy thriller with a little dash of The Man Who Was Thursday surrealism with the result that it had one of those hyper-dense narratives, full of non sequiturs, one-liners and sudden plot shifts, that means if your mind wanders for a line or two, suddenly you find yourself desperately skipping back pages trying to figure out what is going on. Don't get me wrong: I've read and enjoyed Noir fiction in the past and I understand that sometimes with the genre it's more about soaking up the atmosphere of the text rather than trying to puzzle out every nuance of the plot (that way lies madness), but nevertheless I did feel The Ipcress File ramped up the convoluted narrative to ridiculous levels. I was just thankful that the plot of the rest of the novel was explained in the final chapter (and it still had me flipping back, going: "Who's doing the WHAT now?!?"), otherwise I would have been entirely lost.

Still though I can understand why this is seen as such a canonical work and I will give it the benefit of the doubt because I reckon it is one of those novels that you have to read in as close as one sitting as possible to get the most out of it. I will probably give it another go at some point.
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