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The Honourable Schoolboy

(The Karla Trilogy #2)

3.95  ·  Rating details ·  14,572 ratings  ·  772 reviews
Featuring George Smiley, The Honourable Schoolboy is the second installment in the renowned Karla Trilogy, the follow-up to the New York Times bestselling Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy, which was the inspiration for the Oscar-nominated film starring Gary Oldman, Colin Firth, and Tom Hardy.

As the fall of Saigon looms, master spy George Smiley must outmaneuver his Soviet coun
Kindle Edition, 611 pages
Published June 7th 2011 by Penguin Books (first published September 1977)
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Nancy Thormann Jerry Westerby was also kicked out by Bill Haydon and the whole book revolved around him. He was one of the clean ones, as PG puts it.

I thought the…more
Jerry Westerby was also kicked out by Bill Haydon and the whole book revolved around him. He was one of the clean ones, as PG puts it.

I thought the opium running was over done a bit myself.

What's not clear to me is why Westerby had to go into Laos and Cambodia for such a long time, unless it was part of the shake down plan.(less)
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3.95  · 
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 ·  14,572 ratings  ·  772 reviews

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Feb 26, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: xx2018-completed
In the review I wrote for Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy I mentioned that it took me a while to accustom myself to the spy jargon as well as many of the British idioms. It gave me a very strange feeling to start reading this episode (# 6 in the George Smiley series) and discover: (1) the British idioms are offset by the fact that the Circus (centre of espionage in London) is balanced, and often explained by the Cousins (their American counterparts, based in Langley, Virginia); and (2) the definiti ...more
Popular opinion has it that this is the weakest of the three Karla novels. I thought it was a masterpiece, and a more ambitious novel than Tinker, Tailor.

It is very different from the last book: suddenly there is this unexpectedly huge scope of Southeast Asia to go alongside the muted meetings in grey London office rooms. I can well understand how some readers might have felt it was two books jammed together, but for me the contrast worked perfectly and I was riveted by how brilliantly Le Carré
I'm a longtime reader of the espionage genre --beginning as just a lad--and although I massively enjoyed all of John LeCarre's earlier works and particularly his George Smiley series--I must call out "The Honourable Schoolboy" for especial recognition.

This penultimate work of that series is really the triumph of LeCarre's career; the point at which he reached the full breadth and scope of his powers. Afterwards--although he enjoyed further achievements--I suggest that he never again eclipses th
Nikos Tsentemeidis
Σε αντίθεση με το πρώτο μέρος της τριλογίας, αυτό με κούρασε. Το τρίτο αστέρι πάει βέβαια στον Le Carre, ο οποίος δεν είναι απλώς ένας συγγραφέας noir. Είναι ένας πολύ καλός λογοτέχνης, με ωραίο λεξιλόγιο και ιδιαίτερη ικανότητα να αφηγείται.
Oct 12, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2011
“I and the public know
What all schoolchildren learn,
Those to whom evil is done
Do evil in return.

― W.H. Auden

“Yet it's not for want of future that I'm here, he thought. It's for want of a present.”
― John le Carré, The Honourable Schoolboy


Well sport, this was a messy, sometimes uneven AND occasionally a plodding novel but I absolutely loved every single word of it. This is the second book of le Carré's Karla trilogy. Perhaps, the greatest spy trilogy ever. While more people focus on the first
One of the few bright spots is how the author wrote the 1970s colonized Hong Kong, I also enjoy how the author described the international spy network and how those spies work, but all the good things I have to say about this book end here. The characters are rather flat, the plot and the war among spies slow paced and uninteresting. In the end I don't care what might happen to any of those characters. So it's a disappointed 2 stars.
Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy is a tough act to follow, but I must admit I was expecting more. At first, I thought that’s exactly what I was getting but then the mind-numbing second third happened and I was lost in a way I never was in Tinker Tailor. I still don’t have a clear understanding of what happened—in the book or with my interest in it.

All I know is that I got sick of reading about Jerry. I got sick of Guillam’s overdone fawning. I got sick of the female characters—including Connie—portraye
Vit Babenco
May 26, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
John le Carré calls Hong Kong the world capital of espionage of the seventies. There on the invisible battlefields the unseen combats are being fought… But the invisibility doesn’t make the mêlées less cruel. Clandestinity just makes spy battles much more psychologically complex.
“A redhead, which was half-way to whoredom for a start. Not enough breast to nurse a rabbit, and worst of all a fierce eye for arithmetic. They said he found her in the town: whore again. From the first day, she had not
Bryan Alexander
This is one of the greatest spy novels I've ever read. It's a powerful, ambitious, satisfying sequel to the very great Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy.

The plot concerns the Circus (British espionage unit) tracking down a Soviet operation in the far East. Smiley rebuilds the shattered agency and hurls it into the fray. Without spoilers I can assert that The Honourable Schoolboy takes place largely in south and southeast Asia, with long stretches back in London, and an ultimate focus on Hong Kong. E
Bradley West
Jun 13, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites, thrillers
After Tinker, Tailor, le Carre's fans waited many years for the follow-up The Honourable Schoolboy. When I first read the book 35 (!) years ago I recall being a little disappointed that the book wasn't more Smiley-centric, but in retrospect le Carre's shift in focus from treachery within the Circus to the exotic East was what the series needed lest it choke on its own incestuous fog.

The Hong Kong of the early 1970s in the book wasn't very different from the Hong Kong I encountered in the early 1
May 25, 2017 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I love le Carre, and I love the other two books in the Karla Trilogy, but for some reason this one didn't do it for me. I found the writing flat, devoid of le Carre's usual angry incisiveness, and the characters seemed more like wooden dolls than people. Maybe I'll revisit it some day, but let's just say, I'm in no rush.
Mar 06, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I'd wanted to read the George Smiley books since watching the BBC adaptation of 'Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy' back in the 1970s. I also subsequently loved the 2011 film adaptation directed by Tomas Alfredson, which I saw in the cinema, and rewatched recently.

Everything I had heard about the source material suggests joy and wonder would await and, I’m pleased to report, that’s exactly what I have found so far.

I have read the series, up until 'The Honourable Schoolboy', in quick succession…
Stuart Ayris
Dec 29, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This the second in the Smiley/Karla trilogy - the only one (as far as I'm aware) that hasn't been dramatised and as such the least known of the three. Yet it is my favourite by far.

The main character is not George Smiley (although he is present in much of the novel) but Jerry Westerby, one of the Occasionals as they are referred to - foreign correspondents who do a little spying on the side. As such, it is altogether more human than either Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy or Smiley's People - the r
Oct 04, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: spies
A John le Carre novel set in Hong Kong and Southeast Asia? Yes, please!

This is the second volume in the Karla trilogy, and as such is the direct sequel to Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy. Do not expect more of the same, however. This is, after all, John le Carre, and he rarely, if ever, writes the same novel twice.

The le Carre novels that I have read tend to make use of two general frameworks. There are the 'whodunit' style stories, set primarily in London, such as Call for the Dead and TTSS. These ar
Oct 25, 2012 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
The Karla Trilogy is not a true trilogy but a marketing spin and this book proves it in more ways than one.

To start with, this book has little connection with the Karla-Smiley story of Tinker, Tailor. Yes, Karla is mentioned as linked to the spies being chased but with no other role whatsoever. Smiley team is there but more as a sideshow to the juvenile story of a fringe spy falling in crazy love over a single meeting, his Southeast Asian ventures and a complex capture tale where one is never cl
Apparently, many people read John Le Carré’s spy novels for a glimpse at what the world of international espionage is really like; in other words, they read them like a kind of journalism about the shady world of Intelligence Services. And there certainly is something to it – we’ve grown used to a more realistic perspective on secret services, but we can still imagine what it must have been like to read a novel like The Spy Who Came In from the Cold for someone whose idea of spy thrillers were I ...more
Bevan Lewis
Nov 02, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A superb story, multifaceted with wonderfully evoked characters and settings. The pinnacle of the Smiley books thus far. Michael Jayston's narration is flawless as always in the Audible version.
Nick Baam
Feb 27, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Crime noir been given its due, with Raymond Chandler, Dashiell Hammett, and James M. Cain all winning Nobel prizes (haven't they?) (read Cain's Serenade), I nominate for the award the spy genre's only serious candidate, John le Carre. More, I nominate The Honourable Schoolboy as the best spy novel ever written, and the author himself doesn't put it in his top four.

The Honourable Schoolboy, second in the Karla Trilogy, coming after Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy and before Smiley's People, is all a
Pavol Hardos
Super. Ripping. But you see, sport, this is a case of le Carré being himself but 'more so', as they would say at Sarratt. To the book's great detriment. The writing is not that great for there to be so much of it.

But the book's main shortcoming is the titular character, a journalist aristo cum spy named Westerby, dispatched by Smiley on a mission in the south-east. Annoying by half, in the final part of the book he [spoiler!] inexplicably turns out to be an utter cretin, when the plot so dictat
Oct 05, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: audio, mystery-spies
Honourable School Boy Another good production by the Smiley Players.  This radio drama more than a straight forward audio book.  The cast is great, especially Simon Russell Beale who plays Smiley.  It is more of morality tales that will make you think.  If you like Dowton Abbey, you might want to check this out as Hugh Bonneville has a large part.
Feb 11, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2018
164, 164, 228, 340, 433, 686.

This is the sixth in the tentative Smiley series (I say tentative because the "series" is mostly a marketing trick) and the second of the Karla Trilogy within that (also a marketing ploy although more believable).

The numbers above are the page counts (in the editions I read) of the six books so far. It doesn’t take a mathematician to spot a trend!

It is clear that THS is substantially longer than everything that has led up to it. And I have to say that I am not comple
At times this was le Carre's best work. The chapter of the bureaucrats arguing over what to do was a triumph of showing government pettiness at it's best. But it did go on a bit, Westerby was just too smart, Guillam needs to find a new line of work and the women are trinkets. Of course the question of why did any of this matter was raised as George Smiley seemingly goes back into another retirement.
Dillwynia Peter
Jun 27, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I have read two classical espionage novels this year that puts into play the canon that would follow: Ashenden by Somerset Maughan and The Gadfly by Ethel Voynich. From these two novels it went two ways- glamourous settings & people, and heroic deeds; or covert activities, lots of watching and reporting and a dark side involving governments and betrayal. The former style is admirably covered by James Bond, or The Saint; the former became the style favoured by LeCarre.
I like LeCarre a lot. He
Jun 11, 2012 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I tried so very hard to like this book, I really did. It had been recommended to me as a good example of an espionage book by a master storyteller, and I thought that it might be a good airplane read to boot. During the past two weeks when I’ve been traveling, I have faithfully labored through this work, and hard work it was. Initially I was intrigued by the details of spy “tradecraft,” but those details became quickly tedious. The story itself is involved and clearly a part of a larger and long ...more
Dec 12, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
I really wanted to get into this for my holiday. The plot was set in Hong Kong, so what could be more appropriate, and initially I was quite gripped by the characters and potential story. But as the novel progressed I found I just wasn't interested enough in the minutiae of the spying world in the way that Le Carre so clearly is, how it operates and what legwork needs to be done in order to unearth the Red under your Bed. Which was enough of a pity that I might go back to the book soon, because ...more
From BBC Radio 4 Extra:
1/3: It's 1975, and spymaster George Smiley takes charge of dealing with a betrayal. Stars Simon Russell Beale and Hugh Bonneville.

2/3: The Americans make their presence felt, and tragedy strikes in Hong Kong.

3/3: Can George Smiley keep the situation under control? Can Jerry Westerby be trusted? Stars Simon Russell Beale and Daisy Haggard.
Oct 01, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
To long and a little tiresome.It's still a very good novel but THE HONORABLE SCHOOLBOY is the weakest book in the KARLA TRILOGY.
Carlos Azevedo
Agora a decisão torna-se nebulosa: a história (the plot) é lenta e complicada.
A escrita e os personagens são deslizantes , perturbantes e pouco claros.
Mas claro, claro, não é tanto o plot quanto a vida deste universo incongruente, deslocado e desmotivado.
Não é a continuação de "A Toupeira", embora se reclame como tal.
É o romance pelo romance, com romance e muita moral desesperada.

Não devia dar estrela nenhuma, ou cinco.

Não é para perceber, mas pode ler-se, como quem não quer comprar mas compr
Anthony Nesbitt
There are two LeCarre's. the first from 1961 to 1971. (Good, though nothing memorable.) Then the second, from 1971 to the present. (Bitter, mediocre, overlong, padded, anti-Western Judeo Christian, pretentious, and whose characters only ever had one voice. Namely they all sounded like LeCarre.) LeCarre didn't just want the commercial sales, he wanted to be a chronicler of our time. A modern day Stendahl or Balzac. That will never be within him. Cuts a sad figure these days.
Oct 03, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Another really good novel about cold-war spies. Once again, John le Carré creates a world that is filled with moves and counter moves, by opponents hidden all over the world. I particularly enjoyed his writing in this novel, which was about the discovery of another one of Karla's agents. Instead of being within the Circus, this book instead takes us to Hong Kong and Thailand where an agent of the Circus has to uncover Karla's plot and all the characters involved. It felt, in tone, very similar t ...more
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Two questions 3 12 Jan 02, 2019 01:35PM  
Did Smiley order the death that closes the action? 5 85 Jan 02, 2019 01:27PM  
Why Did They Let Westerby Go? 11 126 Apr 19, 2018 06:32PM  
Espionage Aficion...: the 1963 coup d'etat in South Vietnam 4 16 Oct 26, 2017 04:42PM  
it is hands-down, the best ever written 19 71 Nov 23, 2014 01:50PM  
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  • The Spy Who Came In From the Cold by John le Carré: Summary  Study Guide
John le Carré, the pseudonym of David John Moore Cornwell (born 19 October 1931 in Poole, Dorset, England), is an English author of espionage novels. Le Carré has resided in St Buryan, Cornwall, Great Britain, for more than 40 years, where he owns a mile of cliff close to Land's End.

See also: John le Carré - Wikipedia

Other books in the series

The Karla Trilogy (3 books)
  • Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy (The Karla Trilogy #1)
  • Smiley's People (The Karla Trilogy #3)
“Home's where you go when you run out of homes.” 1375 likes
“It is also the pardonable vanity of lonely people everywhere to assume that they have no counterparts.” 29 likes
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