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The Company

4.24  ·  Rating details ·  4,947 ratings  ·  419 reviews

With a sharp eye for the pathos and absurdity of the Cold War, Robert Littell crafted his first novel, the now legendary spy thriller The Defection of A.J. Lewinter.

Christopher Lehmann-Haupt of The New York Times called it "a perfect little gem, the best Cold War thriller I've read in years," and the praise kept coming with critics hailing Littell as "the American Le Carré
Kindle Edition, 891 pages
Published April 22nd 2002 by The Overlook Press (first published April 1st 2002)
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Margaret1358 Joyce If you figure an average of 300 words per page, @ 894 pages, there are about 268,200 words.
This question contains spoilers... (view spoiler)
Margaret1358 Joyce It's open to interpretation; it's left purposely ambiguous, in my humble opinion.…moreIt's open to interpretation; it's left purposely ambiguous, in my humble opinion.(less)
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Average rating 4.24  · 
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 ·  4,947 ratings  ·  419 reviews

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Apr 23, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
“High over the city, a rack of clouds drifted across the hunter’s moon…On a deserted avenue near a long wall, a dirty yellow Fiat mini-taxi cut its light and its motor and coasted to the curb at Port Angelica. A lean figure wearing the rough ankle-length cassock and hood of a Dominican friar emerged from the backseat. He had been raised in the toe of the boot of Italy and was known as the Calabrian by the shadowy organizations that from time to time employed his services…”
- Robert Littell, The C
Back when I was in middle school, I would have given my left nut to be James Bond (as portrayed by Sean Connery, not Roger Moore). I read all the books (they were a link from reading comics to reading actual books without pictures) and watched all the movies about a half dozen times each. The lure of being a super spy was great. I even remember reading that the CIA used to show James Bond films as part of their training.

The CIA’s version of Bond, as rendered here (code name: Sorcerer), was an ov
Chris Holmes
Mar 07, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I am not a patient person when it comes to books, so if I'm going to invest the time to read something this long it better be worth it.

I've read The Company three times.

I can't comment on how accurate Littell's depictions of the inner workings of the U.S. and USSR's secret intelligence and espionage agencies are, but it sure seems authentic. And on top of that, there are a number of excellent storylines running concurrently.

Even if you're not into "spy books", this is top-grade drama.
May 20, 2021 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2021, j
Synopsis/blurb .....

Robert Littell does for the CIA what Mario Puzo did for the Mafia ...

Robert Littell's The Company is an engrossing, multigenerational, wickedly nostalgic yet utterly entertaining and candid saga bringing to life, through a host of characters - historical and imagined - the nearly fifty years of this secretive and powerful organization.

In a style intelligent and ironic, Littell tells it like it was: CIA agents fighting not only 'the good fight' against foreign enemies, but som
Jul 23, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2012
One of the great cold-war, spy novel epics. Belongs on the shelf next to le Carré's Karla Trilogy: Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy / The Honourable Schoolboy / Smiley's People and Mailer's Harlot's Ghost. ...more
Jan 27, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This doorstopper of a novel (about 900 pages) is an excellent 40 year overview of the growth of the US Intelligence structure as seen through the stories of a few men and women who started with the beginnings of the CIA after WWII and grew with the "Company" to hold positions of leadership. The method of using factual history as the backdrop for many of the plotlines was intrinsic to keeping the interest level high while Littell flipped through the decades. I'd be remiss in not saying that at ti ...more
Antonio Nunez
Jul 12, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jan 04, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Littell provides an in-depth and captivating look at the history of the CIA.

The Company incited captivating discussions in my household, and has fostered in me a new found interest in the history behind the turmoil in the Middle East.

Littell is a masterful story teller and this espionage thriller is without equal.
Steve Chaput
Apr 15, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Nick Ungefug
May 21, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The company is an extraordinarily well done espionage and conspiracy thriller by author Robert Littell. Every page I read of this novel the deeper I sank into the hidden and chaotic world described by Littell. The beautiful and grotesque imagery are craft from the same wood as each scene evokes memories of bond films and mission impossible. With all the action being packed in so tightly to the book, I was pleasantly surprised by its' complexity as the political and narrative perspectives of char ...more
May 20, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Being born at the end of the baby boom, and the youngest in my family, I was surrounded by news and discussion of so many of these news headlines that came out of the second half of this book, and kept saying to myself, so that is what happened with, for instance the Bay of Pigs.

Littell presents the story of the CIA from its beginnings in post WWII, as an offshoot of the OSS, through the collapse of the Soviet Union.
While this was fiction, it read as a non-fiction work in its accuracy and reve
May 26, 2013 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
A rather engrossing novel about the CIA during the cold war. This novel is rather unique in that it deals with the Company throughout several decades, beginning in the late 1950s and going through the early 1990s. It follows the career of several spies from recruitment all the way up to retirement (or death in some cases) as they slowly climb the ladders of the organization.

But the novel is truly a work of fiction, even if it manages to incorporate some of the historical events in which the Comp
Nov 09, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
If I expect to get through 52 books in 2011, then I need to stop picking up 900 and 1100 page books. Littell's The Company clocks in at around 900 pages. At least 700 of those are well worth the time--I'm not going to quibble about the rest. Given that the book starts in pre-Wall Berlin, and the action ends with the August 1991 coup attempt in the Soviet Union, the length is understandable.

After finishing the book I was struck with a question of who and how much in the book was history and how m
Jul 11, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
This was my first Littell book and I found him to be the best American spy writer I have read. His knowledge of CIA workings is comparable to LeCarre with MI-6.
This book follows a set of characters through the beginnings of the CIA and the spy hunt for double agents in the 50's-60's by James "Jesus" Angleton following the Brittish discovery of Soviet double agent Kim Philby in MI-6. It could be viewed as the American equivalent of LeCarre's Tinker, Tailor novel. It is written with an insider's v
May 09, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: audiobooks
Loved this book. Fictional characters woven into historical events of the Cold War. Comparing this book to Legacy of Ashes, it's too bad, the that the CIA gets a lot more right in the fictional book than they do in the historical one. ...more
Had I not binge read Ben Macintyre I might find The Company entertaining. Well, it is entertaining but it's very long with repetitive plots so I lost interest at some point then back on then lost again.
May 04, 2009 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Whew, this book was LONG. 894 pages, spanning three generations of spies and over forty years of CIA operations.

Overall, I enjoyed this book. But, as I was reading, I had mixed feelings - sometimes, I thought the pacing was great. But at other times, I thought that all of the dialogue and extremely detailed outlines of the missions and political goings-on really bogged the pacing down. And, occasionally, I forgot I was reading a novel, and felt like I was reading a nonfiction novel about the Col
Geoffrey Gordon
Feb 04, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: spy-fiction
I haven't been this engrossed in a novel in a very long time. Easily one of the best spy novels I've ever read. Very suspenseful, but also humorous. Cannot recommend it highly enough. ...more
Ken Hammond (kenzaz)
The Company by Robert Littell What a massive undertaking 40 years of CIA history, fictional characters combined with real people. This story is full of everything you would expect in a spy novel. Bold face lying, double and triple agents, gadgets, casinos. What is a spy? quoted, A spy: heart of the matter, in our work boldness, daring and audacity must be combined with prudence and dialects. Dialects: Thinking conventionally and systematically & then challenge conventional thinking. You develop ...more
Matthew Sullivan
I enjoyed it so much, I tried to pace myself reading it. It’s basically Jack Ryan meets The Godfather, with a series of characters from 1950-1995 that are both fiction and real.

Great work writing about tradecraft and some of the hotbeds in the Cold War, would highly recommend for someone that enjoys the genre or general historical fiction.
Jack Heath
Synopsis: a novel that brings to light nearly 50 years of the secretive and powerful cold war organization, the CIA. It asks who is the mole?
Nov 27, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: audio
Interesting book...... Scott Brick always does a nice job....... I think the book might have been better to read instead of the audio. I was lost with all the names and alias's/legends - at times. ...more
David Fairweather
Great historical fiction (or novelized history) about the inner workings of the CIA. Educational and exciting.
Kelly H
This book is a novel about the CIA, and is pretty long for a spy novel. It follows a series of friends from their recruitment into the CIA after college during the cold war to their retirement just after the Coup in the Soviet Union. The book reads much like a Le Carre, and it's made me interested enough to go back and read about what actually happened in some of these worldwide events that were covered in the book. It does cover a lot of territory, and maybe I just missed it, but i didn't see a ...more
Jan 19, 2008 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: the unemployed
It's not worth it, is the best way of putting it, or so I thought. You see it clocks in at about 1300 pages and takes a long time to get through - yes it's nicely epic for it, but the story isn't quite good enough.

The stuff it's based on, however, make my first reaction invalid. The history of certain parts of the cold war and all the figures, a large number of them taken from the history itself, make the fiction of the story work rather well.

I wish I could be a bit more wordy about it, it would
Downloaded from

Narrator: Scott Brick
Publisher: Phoenix Audio, 2002
Length: 40 hours and 43 min.

Publisher's Summary
Crisis constantly lurks around the corner, monitored by spies who are always with us. In his career-capping thirteenth novel, master of the espionage thriller Robert Littell has crafted a breathtaking story of the legendary CIA - "The Company" to insiders. At its heart lies a spectacular mole hunt involving the CIA, MI6, KGB and Mossad - a stunningly conceived trip down th
Jeff Yoak

This novel is fine fluff, but at 41 hours, it is just beyond what I can read right now. I'm giving up 17 hours in, with 24 remaining, and I'd be reading this for at least all of next month at my now greatly-reduced reading rate (with no commute.) I must be more selective. :-)

The novel fictionalizes the history of the CIA from 1941 to 1991. Major events and people I know something about show up in the background, and the foreground is held by (I assume) fictional smaller players. It moves a
I have watched the movie directed by Mikael Salomon, based on the novel.

And this is my summary:

A tangled spies' story of the Cold War times (and beyond),inside the Company/CIA. Apparently there's a soviet mole inside the agency,but no one believes this quirk character called Angleton (Michael Keaton). He'll prove to be right, though.

-so, who won the war?...
this is the last line of the movie.You can complete the answer.
Jul 08, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Epic, multi-generational novel about the CIA during the Cold War. Operations gone wrong, moles running amock, and an author who knows how to misdirect and subvert expectations. No, the characterization isn't deep, but the plotting is ace. Simply said- nail biting spy stuff and 900 pages of it. ...more
Feb 04, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Amazing. Brilliantly written and incorporates various points in history. Warning: very long, but worth it!
I'm currently working on my tradecraft
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An American author residing in France. He specializes in spy novels that often concern the CIA and the Soviet Union. He became a journalist and worked many years for Newsweek during the Cold War. He's also an amateur mountain climber and is the father of award-winning novelist Jonathan Littell. ...more

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