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The Little Drummer Girl

3.97  ·  Rating details ·  11,791 ratings  ·  629 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 unprecedented worldwide acclaim.

In this thrilling and thought-provoking novel of Middle Eastern intrigue, Charlie, a brilliant and beautiful young English actress, is lured into "the theatre of the r
Paperback, 672 pages
Published April 1st 2000 by Pocket Books (first published 1983)
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Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy by John le CarréThe Spy Who Came In from the Cold by John le CarréThe Bourne Identity by Robert LudlumThe Day of the Jackal by Frederick ForsythThe Hunt for Red October by Tom Clancy
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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
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Average rating 3.97  · 
Rating details
 ·  11,791 ratings  ·  629 reviews

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Jeffrey Keeten
Dec 17, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: spies, book-to-film
”What would it be like really and absolutely to believe? (...) To know, really and absolutely know, that there's a Divine Being not set in time or space who reads your thoughts better than you ever did, and probably before you even have them? To believe that God sends you to war, God bends the path of bullets, decides which of his children will die, or have their legs blown off, or make a few hundred million on Wall Street, depending on today's Grand Design?”

 photo LittleDrummerGirl_zpsb6d741d2.jpg
Joseph proved to be more than jus
Nov 29, 2018 rated it really liked it
When spy novelist John le Carré broke off from George Smiley’s complex world long enough to pen this terrifying thriller in 1979, it announced a New World of Terror.

So said The Guardian in October of 2018: they pronounced this the one book that best predicted our present paranoia.

Be that as it may, for me it was the stimulus that drove me to bury myself safely in a grey world of existential psychology.

For ‘the world (was) too much with (me)!’

Yes, with this novel the insularity of my little worl
"They wanted her. They knew her through and through; they knew her fragility and her plurality. And they still wanted her. They had stolen her in order to rescue her…"

I have already officially declared myself a devoted John le Carré fan. It truly seems he cannot write something bad or even mediocre as far as I’m concerned. I knew with The Little Drummer Girl I would be missing my favorite spy, George Smiley. I’ve gotten pretty accustomed to seeing him in the pages of my novels every few months,
“[W]e want to offer you a job. An acting job…The biggest part you ever had in your life, the most demanding, the most difficult, surely the most dangerous, and surely the most important. And I don’t mean money. You can have money galore, no problem, name your figure…The part we have in view for you combines your talents, Charlie, human and professional. Your wit. Your excellent memory. Your intelligence. Your courage. But also that extra human quality to which I already referred. Your warmth. We ...more
"You want to catch the lion, first you tether the goat." - Misha Gavron

If a good book is one that immerses you in the fictional world it creates and makes you see and feel every moment of the characters lives and actions, then The Little Drummer Girl is a study in what a good book should be. I wondered if I would be swept up in it again as I was when I was young, romantic and impressionable. The answer is a resounding “yes”. I have long counted it as a favorite, unforgettable book, and I am happ
Sep 09, 2009 rated it it was amazing
An amazing novel. I was a le Carre fan coming in, but this book's explorations of identity and morality blew my mind while simultaneously blowing up lots of other stuff. It's a story about Zionists, Palestinians, and bombs. And love and identity and morality. It's complex as hell; the identity stuff is on a PK Dick level, but goes there without drugs. The morality issue may be closer to common, as we are given Palestinians and Zionists and why they are who they are, but le Carre never overtly po ...more
I found this novel extremely disturbing, and the movie version starring Diane Keaton even more so. Perhaps it's because I'm half-Jewish, and family discussions regularly circle back to Israeli/Palestinian politics. The basic scenario in the book is that Mossad are concerned about a successful series of bombings carried out against Israeli targets by a Palestinian terrorist group. They want to infiltrate the organization, and recruit a young actress to help them. There are two scenes near the beg ...more
Apr 01, 2013 rated it it was amazing
John le Carrè’s The Little Drummer Girl is much more than a spy novel. At its heart is a compelling relationship – which just happens to be between an agent and her agent runner (or case officer) amid a fascinating plot to stop a terrorist bomber. But it’s the genius and complexity of the relationship that raises The Little Drummer Girl to heights far above the limits of the spy genre.

An intricate fiction is planned in order to infiltrate the bomber’s network and bring him down. Michel, the bom
Roman Clodia
Aug 27, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I'm having a hard time untangling my responses to this novel: part of me dislikes the dismissive way in which le Carré's female protagonist is portrayed: her childish 'I'm a rebel, me' politics, her self-absorption, her naivety, her arch dialogue: in le Carré's defence, I guess, we have to remember this was first published in 1983 and can't help but be shaped by the gender politics of the time.

I was also slightly amused that this is essentially a 'caper' plot, albeit more serious than that label
Tom Marcinko
Jan 11, 2013 rated it it was amazing
I have a vague memory of a column by George Will, back when I used to read him, about this 1983 novel. If memory serves, Will was upset that le Carré depicts the Palestinians as having a point of view, or maybe of just acknowledging that they exist. He likened the book to a Harlequin romance. He hated the dust jacket, and the typeface.

I don’t like any of the choices we’re given in the Middle East: choose one side or another, or say “a plague on both your houses,” or ignore it altogether. Le Car
Patricia Williams
I do not want to rate this book because I've given up on reading it and I know this author is greatly admired and read all over the world. I just could not get into the book and am moving on. ...more
Jun 05, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: aere-perennius, 2012
What happens when a woman loves two righteous men? Two feuding nations? A woman who is struggling with both her inner and outer world; her inner and outer dialogue. ''The Little Drummer Girl'' is the second best spy novel I've ever read, but I NEVER give first prizes. Charlie is a woman who incubates in the womb of her mind the warring ideals and pitiful trails of two imperfect people(s). We all have both angels and devils in our nature and the irony is that when we try to invent one, we end up ...more
Jun 02, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
In this story LeCarre takes us on a trip into the schizophrenic world of creating legends and running spies.

It was set during the early 1980's when terrorist bombings had become common place in Europe. And there were characters in this story that reminded me of the BaderMinehoff(sp?) Group.

Even though some of the elements in this story are dated, it is still a powerful novel.

And after a spate of reading not so great Le Carre novels, this one was very refreshing.
Sep 29, 2008 rated it really liked it
Remember all of the sudden I really loved this book, the story, the woman lead player, the suspense, in short, great book!
Mar 26, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Brilliant. Unputdownable. One of his best novels and his female main protagonist is brilliantly realised. In awe of the writing craft displayed in this novel. Le Carre's skill at weaving backstory with a love story with a gripping political thriller is unique. Every time I read him I'm reminded again that he is a real novelist.

Those saying it is slow are idiots and clearly have short attention spans and are of low intellectual ability - try one of those gaming game thingys where everyone gets k
Left Coast Justin
Nov 16, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: spies
This was actually one of the most suspenseful and exciting of Le Carre's books, but it took a long time to get to the exciting part, which means it doesn't quite land on my shelf of favorites. This is also one of the most plot-driven of Le Carre's works, and that makes it rather difficult to review without spoiling.

I was happy embarking on this journey, because it not only started in my old hometown, but in the very neighborhood of the town I lived in so happily. Then -- ooops -- a bomb went of
Selina Kyle
There is no fear like it. Your courage will be like money. You will spend and spend, and one night you will look in your pockets and you'll be bankrupt and that is when the real courage begins.

This book is possibly the most complex le Carré novel I've read to date. This is the story of Charmian ("Charlie" to her friends, though she doesn't keep them for long). She's a talented British actress who, like many other talented artists, is penniless and jobless. She follows her abusive boyfriend from
Another LeCarre masterpiece, in my judgment, right up there with the best of the Smiley/Circus series. Given the broad spectrum of characters here (from Israeli intelligence agents to young members of the '70s counterculture to Arab guerrillas to European Marxist revolutionaries -- all of whom are worlds apart from Smiley's British "espiocrats"), I predict that this will go down as LeCarre's most ambitious project. Also, LeCarre somehow manages to create truly chilling scenes that take place in ...more
Dec 26, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: espionage
Dreary spy novel about the hunt for a mad bomber.

I've tried Le Carre before, but I think he just isn't for me.
Germany, 1979. When a bomb goes off in the diplomatic quarter of Bonn, senior Israeli intelligence agent Martin Kurtz flies in to investigate. A series of similarly deadly attacks targeting prominent Jewish figures across Europe have been carried out in recent weeks, and Kurtz now believes there is a Palestinian revolutionary at the heart of this pattern. Kurtz sets in motion a brilliant and elaborate plan to catch the kingpin, Khalil.

Meanwhile in London, passionate young actress Charlie is trea
Kim Kaso
Jul 23, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I read this book the first time when it first came out, I read it at least two more times before this read, and I’ve watched the movie with Diane Keaton, Klaus Kinski , & the marvelous Sami Frey many times. I did this re-read before watching the recent mini-series, which was well done but felt less romantic than the cinematic version.

I am a huge Le Carré fan, I started with The Spy Who Came in from the Cold which was something I read in junior high and came to appreciate in re-reads, but I fell
Nov 01, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
The Little Drummer Girl is a page-turning story of love and loyalty set against the backdrop of the Middle East conflict, and I found it significantly different in tone and composition to the George Smiley series, and his other spy novels generally, which I am more familiar with. I think its no exaggeration to say that Charlie goes on an emotionally and physically draining journey during the course of this book, quickly maturing from an outspoken, incredibly dislikeable, and shockingly naïve you ...more
Jul 29, 2008 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: everyone
Shelves: espionage, novel
A young actress, Charlie, is recruited by an Israeli spymaster, Martin Kurtz, to try to locate a Palestinian terrorist by the name of Kahlil, who zeroes in on Jewish targets, mostly in Germany. Internal conflicts arise for Charlie, whose character is probably loosely based upon Vanessa Redgrave, because she is an anti-Zionist working for Israelis. She falls in love with her case officer, who closely resembles Kahlil's brother. As the plot spirals inward, the pressures on Charlie consistently inc ...more
Marty Fried
Mar 20, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: espionage, audiobooks
I think I would have enjoyed this more if it were not an audiobook, mainly because it was a little hard to follow, but I think I did OK by going back a few times.

If you're looking for a typical spy novel, you'll probably be disappointed. This had a bit in common with the Gabriel Allon series by Daniel Silva, but not a lot. However, having read a lot of the Silva novels, I think it helped me follow the action a little better.

The hardest part of following this book is the fact that Charlie, the "g
Feb 23, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Astonishing. It literally starts with a bang (Palestinian terrorists set off a bomb in Germany), but then Le Carre takes his wonderful sweet time setting up the plot. The recruitment and training of a young British actress by Israeli counterintelligence takes up two-thirds of the book. Her actual mission kept me on the edge of my seat for the final wrenching 150 pages. This 1983 book was Le Carre's first to leave Smiley behind and not center around British intelligence, and it's far and away one ...more
Aug 28, 2014 rated it it was amazing
His best, and for me that's saying a lot. Intricate, atmospheric, penetrating and going to a gripping climax. The love interest in The Night Manager is less manipulative, and I like that book better as a romp, but Drummer Girl is exceptional in its politics and its Shakespearian psychology. ...more
N. Jr.
Sep 14, 2014 rated it it was amazing
One of his best. I enjoyed this book on many levels. Le Carre does a good job in developing the character of Charlie, a cut-rate actress with radical left leanings suffering from low self-esteem, who is recruited as a mole to ferret out a terrorist bomber. The Mossad operatives are also well portrayed as cold and vengeful.

Events in the story are disturbingly realistic showing the ruthlessness required for the counter-terrorist game. The author spent a lot of time researching this book in Lebanon
Thomas Strömquist
In his genre he's hard to beat. So if you want to read a suspenseful spy thriller and are willing to put in some effort (a bit slow and thorough storytelling and often complicated (sub)plots) then you can't go wrong with this one. ...more
Feb 06, 2020 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: spies
Picked up soon after watching the TV series, which I found beautifully shot but hard to follow. I can see why this one's regarded as a problematic novel; I'm glad he took a stab at writing a female lead, because women are thin on the ground in his books, but I'm never quite convinced by Charlie's character. I also found the first and last chapters a little too flippant given the grimness of the subject matter. There's cynical and then there's plain glib. ...more
David Beeson
Oct 29, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
‘Some interrogations are conducted in order to elicit truth, others to elicit lies. Kurtz wanted lies.’

Whenever I dip into The Little Drummer, and I dip into it frequently, I tend to gravitate to the pivotal scene of the interrogation, between the time-worn Israeli spymaster Kurtz – the weather-beaten warrior who had once been a little boy escaping the Holocaust from Central Europe – and Charlie, the English actress whose ‘ragbag of […] vague leftwing principles’ and radical past made her an ide
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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

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“What would it be like really and absolutely to believe? (...) To know, really and absolutely know, that there's a Divine Being not set in time or space who reads your thoughts better than you ever did, and probably before you even have them? To believe that God sends you to war, God bends the path of bullets, decides which of his children will die, or have their legs blown off, or make a few hundred million on Wall Street, depending on today's Grand Design? (ch. 14)” 10 likes
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