Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “Smiley's People” as Want to Read:
Smiley's People
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

Smiley's People

(George Smiley #7)

4.27  ·  Rating details ·  32,384 ratings  ·  967 reviews
Featuring George Smiley, this New York Times bestseller is the third and final installment in the Karla Trilogy, from the author of Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy and The Spy Who Came in from the Cold
 
Tell Max that it concerns the Sandman…   A very junior agent answers Vladimir’s call, but it could have been the Chief of the Circus himself. No one at the British Secret Serv
...more
Paperback, 398 pages
Published June 28th 2011 by Penguin Books (first published 1979)
More Details... Edit Details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about Smiley's People, please sign up.
Popular Answered Questions
David Talley No. Maybe read Bk 1 (Tinker, Tailor,...) to establish the characters and premise but Bk 2 adds very little to the overall story.
Liam Keegan The implication is that someone in the Group gave the information to Karla, although an official reasoning is somewhat hard to grasp. There is the pot…moreThe implication is that someone in the Group gave the information to Karla, although an official reasoning is somewhat hard to grasp. There is the potential that it was over the continued operation of Vladimir even in retirement, which annoyed members who had settled into newer, less riskier lives, or perhaps the financial burden that came after the Circus withdrew funding the émigré groups following the more recent changeovers to Saul Enderby's rule of the Circus and the rise of the governmental "Magic Circle" group.

Of these, it would seem to me the most obvious that Mikhail would stand to be the best option for giving up Vladimir. He was almost nauseatingly complementary of the General when Smiley visited the library, and he also stood to lose the most financially when he bankrolled the fifty pounds to get the initial stages of the operation going. Likely he felt that in their older age, the Group should enjoy its time in peace and relative safety, instead of putting more financially risky operations back on without Circus backing.

However, like I said, it is very cloudy as to who the traitor was, but the story doesn't really need it. Smiley is like the Circus, and whilst he trusts Vladimir's judgement he is largely divorced from trying to find the traitor in the Group because of the larger question of who was blackmailing who, as well as his investigation being private and not sanctioned by either Lacon, Strickland, or Enderby (less)
This book is not yet featured on Listopia. Add this book to your favorite list »

Community Reviews

Showing 1-30
Average rating 4.27  · 
Rating details
 ·  32,384 ratings  ·  967 reviews


More filters
 | 
Sort order
Start your review of Smiley's People
Candi
Jun 02, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
"Like an archaeologist who has delved all his life in vain, Smiley had begged for one last day, and this was it."

Smiley’s People is the extremely satisfying conclusion to John le Carré’s Karla trilogy. Having finished the first in the trilogy (Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy) in March and the second (The Honourable Schoolboy) in April, I was able to sink into this installment with reasonable ease. Although once again presented with a fairly large cast of characters, I was more readily able to wrap
...more
Jaline
Aug 02, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: xx2018-completed
If you have ever been curious about exploring John Le Carré’s writing, this Trilogy (titles listed in order in the next paragraph) from his George Smiley series would be a great place to launch from. I learned in the author’s notes that his intention was to continue the conflict story between George Smiley and the head of Russia’s most top secret intelligence agency for several novels. However, T.V. and movies got in the way – the key characters had become so closely associated with the actors w ...more
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
Jun 22, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Chloe by: Ted Graf
Note for completists: This is the third of the Karla 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
Manny
Nov 26, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Krissa
Mar 19, 2007 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Lewis Weinstein
The best of the best ... everything a spy novel could possibly be ... Smiley vs Karla ... a weakness, a mistake, a brilliantly orchestrated response ... and of course the bridge into West Berlin.

Smiley's People is also a master class in writing ... when to expand, when to move quickly, setting a scene, using peripheral characters. I think I'll read it again. But for now, I will go into my class next week at Oxford - British Spies in Fact and Fiction - as prepared as I can be and ready to learn m
...more
Abubakar Mehdi
Jan 20, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Smiley’s People is the last book in the “Karla Trilogy”; a series that describes the world of espionage during the Cold War. The story starts with a revelation by a ‘lost-agent’ recently resurfaced that at the very top of Circus (British secret service) there is a KGB agent, a mole spying for the Russians. And he is there for decades. Dangerous, resourceful and one of their own, this double-agent is capable of wrecking havoc if he isn’t caught immediately and off-guard. Here Smiley is called bac ...more
Barbara
Sep 23, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
And so we have come to the conclusion of the Karla trilogy, in which John le Carré pits quiet, self-effacing George Smiley of the Circus, the British espionage agency, against Karla, his ruthless Soviet counterpart. In the first book, Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy, we learned how Karla used a "mole" placed in the Circus decades before to threaten both Smiley's intelligence service and his marriage. An unbiased judge would probably give that round to Karla.

The middle volume, The Honourable Schoolb
...more
Steve
Aug 08, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Jason Koivu
Mar 26, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction, spy
Smiley comes out of retirement was his people come under attack in this aptly named conclusion to the Karla trilogy.

This is fantastic stuff! Taut tension, high stakes, personal vendettas...ah, it's all wonderful. The characterizations and conversations are finessed with an admirable subtly. The Cold War settings descriptions put you in the middle of these depressingly drab locations. John le Carré is on fire in Smiley's People!

It's far more cerebral cold war spy novel than say Fleming's stuff. T
...more
Jamie
Jan 02, 2021 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A deeply introspective slow burn with a deliberate, measured pace, much like Smiley himself, that nonetheless delivers an incredibly taut end-game. Smiley remains a puzzling figure. Understated and unassuming, possessed of a particular brilliance and practicality which sadly he doesn't seem capable of leveraging in his personal affairs.

"I have destroyed him with the weapons I abhorred, and they are his. We have crossed each other's frontiers, we are the no-men of this no-man's land."

Whether le C
...more
Michael
May 25, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is my absolute favorite le Carre novel--and in my view the best of the Karla Trilogy. All the cerebral incisiveness of Tinker, Taylor, married to a well-constructed, suspenseful, and active plot. A real crescendo of a novel.
Sara
May 27, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition


Some faces, as Villem had suggested this morning, are known to us before we see them; others we see once and remember all our lives; others we see every day and never remember at all.

And, so it is with literary characters, some are so like us that we know them instinctively; some are not like us at all but completely unforgettable; and others are forgotten the moment we close the pages of the book. George Smiley is of the second sort, he wiggles his way into your sensibilities and lodges him
...more
Bettie


Revisit via film

Description: 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 in "Smiley's People."

In London at dead of night, George Smiley, sometime acting Chief of the Cir
...more
Cphe
Normally pretty stingy with handing out 5 star ratings but this was a terrific read and a satisfying conclusion to the Karla trilogy.

Such an interesting character George Smiley, a master spy wonderfully depicted in this conclusion. An espionage novel that ticked all of the boxes that I look for in this genre.

A novel of disillusionment, betrayal and love. Another from the Boxall 1000 list, time and money well spent.
Greg
Dec 04, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
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
Constantinos Capetanakis
In memoriam, as Mr. Le Carre has now left the building.

This is only one, and perhaps the most representative, sample of his genius, perception and empathy.

Had it not been for the ever-annoying prejudices which also afflicted masters like Graham Greene, Mr. Le Carre's oeuvre would have been recognized in its truest merits. Not that it hasn't but still, he was not a spy writer. He was a great writer.
...more
Calzean
This is probably the most fulfilling of the Smiley stories. But it does follow the usual format.
Something happens. Smiley is pulled out of retirement. He talks to his old contacts/colleagues. He reads a lot of files. There are lots of words as the story rolls slowly along. Then in the last 20 pages the denouement occurs where the final act is not known till the last page.
Roman Clodia
Oct 13, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
On Karla had descended the curse of Smiley's compassion; on Smiley the curse of Karla's fanaticism. I have destroyed him with the weapons I abhorred, and they are his. We have crossed each other's frontiers, we are the no-men of no-man's-land.
My first comment on this - the third part of the provisional 'Karla trilogy' - is the utter and beautiful restraint of le Carré: not so much in the writing which is detailed and precise, but in the depths of what is not said. Le Carré shows complete con
...more
Jen
Apr 05, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
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
Maureen
Jul 05, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: everyone
Shelves: espionage, novel
By the time I reached the end of this book, I cared so deeply for the characters whom John LeCarre had created that I could not believe it was over. I immediately started reading it again. This is definitely a book not to be read out of sequence, because the deeper nuances of the characters will be lost without having read the earlier books. I thoroughly enjoyed this book, and highly recommend it.
Nigeyb
Mar 19, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
'Smiley's People' is wonderful. Having been a little disappointed in the previous book 'The Honourable Schoolboy' (George Smiley #6) (1977), I am delighted to report that 'Smiley's People' is a return to peak Smiley.

My experience is that the more Smiley appears, the better the book, and so it is with 'Smiley's People’ which is about 90% Smiley.

'Smiley's People' is also the final part of the Karla trilogy. Smiley, now in his twilight years, displays his customary thorough, cerebral, unrelenting
...more
Douglas
May 05, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This was stunning - quite possibly a perfect novel. It would almost be an insult to describe it as a great example of its genre, for le Carre is such a splendid writer that he elevates his tales of espionage to the level of true literature. While other of his works exhibit the slight flaw (in the case of Tinker, Tailor it was more than slight) of an overly-complex plot, here le Carre keeps things just simple enough that the reader can keep up without too much difficulty. The "tradecraft" is stil ...more
Scotchneat
Oct 26, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Darwin8u
Oct 16, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2011
"He looked across the river into the darkness again, and an unholy vertigo seized him as the very evil he had fought against seemed to reach out and possess him and claim him despite his striving, calling him a traitor also; mocking him, yet at the same time applauding his betrayal. On Karla has descended the curse of Smiley's compassion; on Smiley the curse of Karla's fanaticism. I have destroyed him with the weapons I abhorred, and they are his. We have crossed each other's frontiers, we are t ...more
Bradley West
Jun 13, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites, thrillers
I've read a couple hundred spy novels, and this is my all-time favorite. Maybe it's because of the build up from the predecessors, "Tinker, Tailor" and, to a lesser extent, "The Honourable Schoolboy" but actually it's because le Carre is at the top of his game. He masterfully introduces the bit players via other bit players one instrument at a time until the orchestra is roaring away.

By this late date, George Smiley (operating as "Max") and Alec Guinness were interchangeable in both le Carre's
...more
Michael
Jan 04, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Wanda
***2018 Summer of Spies***

In the spy genre, if James Bond is a boxing match, then George Smiley is a chess game. Lots of planning ahead, knowing your opponent, and biding your time to make the right move. Smiley and Karla match wits again, but George has a new advantage—Karla can no longer manipulate him via his wife.

Fans of fist fights and gun battles may find this boring. People like myself, who have spent many years researching and working within libraries and archives, will find ourselve
...more
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 next »
topics  posts  views  last activity   
Huntsville-Madiso...: Staff Pick - Smiley's People by John Le Carre' 3 9 Dec 31, 2020 04:57PM  
Espionage Aficion...: Smiley's People 20 55 Jun 19, 2019 02:59PM  
Reading 1001: Smiley's People by John LeCarre 2 17 Mar 05, 2019 01:40PM  
Play Book Tag: Smiley's People by John Le Carre 5 20 Dec 05, 2018 05:38AM  
Reading 1001: Smiley's People by John le Carre' 1 7 Aug 02, 2018 05:38PM  
World Mysteries a...: The end of interwoven plot lines? 3 27 Dec 18, 2013 01:46PM  

Readers also enjoyed

  • The Spy Who Came In From the Cold by John le Carré: Summary  Study Guide
  • Renatus (Renatus #1)
  • The Honourable Schoolboy by John le Carre Summary  Study Guide
  • Berlin Game (Bernard Samson, #1)
  • Mexico Set (Bernard Samson, #2)
  • Our Man in Havana
  • Seven Wakings
  • Hiding Gladys (Cleo Cooper Mystery, #1)
  • London Match (Bernard Samson, #3)
  • Relative Sanity
  • Spy Line (Bernard Samson, #5)
  • Spy Sinker (Bernard Samson, #6)
  • Agent Sonya: Moscow's Most Daring Wartime Spy
  • A Spy Among Friends: Kim Philby and the Great Betrayal
  • The Ipcress File (Secret File, #1)
  • Faith (Bernard Samson, #7)
  • Spy Hook (Bernard Samson, #4)
  • Treacherous Estate
See similar books…
6,908 followers
John le Carré, the pseudonym of David John Moore Cornwell (born 19 October 1931 in Poole, Dorset, England), was an English author of espionage novels. Le Carré had resided in St Buryan, Cornwall, Great Britain, for more than 40 years, where he owned a mile of cliff close to Land's End. ...more

Other books in the series

George Smiley (5 books)
  • Call for the Dead (George Smiley #1)
  • A Murder of Quality (George Smiley #2)
  • Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy (George Smiley, #5)
  • The Honourable Schoolboy

Related Articles

If you ask us, it's always the perfect time to lose yourself in a page-turning mystery. To help you sleuth out a new read, we asked the...
93 likes · 84 comments
“[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.” 10 likes
“In Lacon's world, direct questions were the height of bad taste, but direct answers were worse.” 9 likes
More quotes…