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The Russia House

3.91  ·  Rating details ·  22,171 ratings  ·  428 reviews
John le Carre's bestselling classic is a timeless spy thriller about the Iron Curtain and the tense relationship between Great Britain and Russia.

John le Carré has earned worldwide acclaim with extraordinary spy novels, including The Russia House, an unequivocal classic. Navigating readers through the shadow worlds of international espionage with critical knowledge culled
Paperback, 368 pages
Published January 20th 2004 by Scribner (first published May 22nd 1989)
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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 3.91  · 
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 ·  22,171 ratings  ·  428 reviews

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3.5 stars rounded down

"Spying is waiting."

I dont typically read spy thrillers anymore, and I would say the word thriller is used loosely here. Spying may be waiting, and waiting is what I did for about one-third of the book before becoming nearly fully absorbed. It starts off slowly, and likely due to my ignorance of spy jargon, I was a bit lost. Quite a few characters were introduced, and I had trouble distinguishing between several of them. I even struggled to determine the role of the first
Mar 19, 2010 rated it really liked it
Shelves: thriller
I think it's instructive to read one of Graham Greene's spy novels back-to-back with one of John le Carre's because, surprisingly, it's instantly clear that le Carre is the better writer. It's not just his plotting, which is always tight and suspenseful- it's the actual strength of his writing- the descriptions of places, the dialogues, the constructions of his wounded and noble characters. One concern I had with this book was that it was written in 1989- after the golden age of the Cold War, ...more
Jul 19, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2013, aere-perennius
"The old isms were dead, the contest between Communism and capitalism had ended in a wet whimper. Its rhetoric had fled underground into the secret chambers of the grey men, who were still dancing away long after the music had ended."

I love 'The Russia House'. I love the anger; the way the novel seems to capture all the threads that le Carré had woven in most all of his cold war novels and noose both sides. I love it for its humanity. In some ways it reminded me of Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-Four:
S.P. Aruna
Apr 27, 2019 rated it it was amazing
As in most of John le Carré's novels, the characters take center stage, driving the novel forwards, while the plot remains insidiously in the background, though nonetheless potent. This approach emphasizes that whatever happens depends on the personalities and behaviors of the players - remove them and nothing happens. This is the exceptional creative power of this author.

In many of his earlier works, le Carré is sending a message, i.e. that espionage is a game that exists only for the sake of
Apr 09, 2020 marked it as to-read
Shelves: seen-as-movies
I don't particularly like John Le Carre,generally he bores me and I have read few of his books.

But I have seen the movie version of this one.Great cast,an older Sean Connery and Michelle Pfeiffer. What's more,the film was actually filmed in Russia,shortly after the collapse of the Soviet Union.That was a very big deal in those days

The locations were Moscow and what was then,Leningrad.Lots of great shots of the Kremlin.That alone made it worth watching.

As for the story,well it dragged.As Roger
May 17, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
For me this book had a slow start, so it took a bit to get into. And towards the climax of the story it seemed like it got a bit muddled.

What I enjoyed most about this work was that it was set in the world of publishing during Peristrokia. And the reader got a small insight to what Western publishers had to do to have their books published during the end of the Soviet Era.

And yes, the spycraft story line in this story was brilliant once you got into it. Still, it did not have Le Carre's usual
Jason Koivu
Aug 01, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: spy, fiction
I understood what was going on the entire time! That's a big deal for me when it comes to John le Carré's books! Of course, what that really means is that The Russia House isn't as devilishly complicated as some of the author's other works. Definitely not that I'm getting smarter, so put that right out of your mind!
Sam F
Oct 29, 2020 rated it it was amazing
One reads Le Carre not as much for the plot as much as for the mastery of the prose. It's a delight to read and re-read. Just the descriptions alone are worth it. This book, along with the Secret Pilgrim & the Tinker Tailor / Smiley's People & A Perfect Spy comprise his best work, in my opinion. The sheer talent is captivating in its allure. His 21st century work is not nearly at the same level I'm afraid. The Cold War was his forte. I could give examples of the master of prose at work ...more
Jan 03, 2009 rated it liked it
The Russia House is a love story wrapped in a spy story. The love story is somewhat less convincing than the spy story, but more compelling. Le Carre is a strong storyteller nonetheless, achieving vivid atmospheric effects (Moscow, London, an island off the coast of Maine, Leningrad) and driving scenes forward with deft, spirited dialogue.

The peculiar satisfaction of the book lies in the main character, Barley, shaking off the chains he's been wrapped in by the British and American intelligence
Craig Pittman
Dec 13, 2016 rated it really liked it
I am late to reading John le Carre', and only now getting around to his non-Smiley books such as this one. Because it's set in the heady days of glasnost and perestroika, I thought it might seem dated -- but given what's been going on in the news today about the Russians trying to tilt our presidential election, it turned out to be far more timely than expected. It was also a compelling read, despite lacking the nail-biting suspense of his "Call for the Dead" or "Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy."

Nov 20, 2010 rated it it was ok
Shelves: crime
I noted on Facebook before I left for holiday that I have a habit of selecting crap books to read on it, but I always take Le Carre as a standby. John, John, just when I needed you most, you let me down. A painfully slow, slight tale of the ending of the Cold War that made me wonder where Le Carre found the motivation to persisit with the novel when he knew where it was going - to an end not with a bang nor a whimper. It felt like an elongated subplot from one of his better thrillers. The ...more
May 31, 2013 rated it it was ok
This is a good, solid Le Carre, but as is often the case, the novel needed editing. The story concerns a Soviet physicist with information that Soviet nuclear technology is less advanced than the world thinks, who communicates this information through a manuscript that he asks a friend, Katya, to pass on to a British publisher, Scott Blair ("Barley"). British intelligence intercepts it, and then recruits Barley to go back to Moscow and try to recruit the scientist to find out more Soviet ...more
Olivia Kienzel
Jul 11, 2007 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
i just finished it two nights ago, and what a book! thanks, ted, for turning me onto le carre. he is a master of characterization, he has intricate, exciting, and utterly believable plots, and he has the added bonus of actually knowing what the hell he's talking about, having been on the inside of all this himself.
even if you don't like spy fiction, there's much to admire here. i can see why he's regarded as a grand master. far and away better than ludlum, whose stuff has become dated in my
An expatriate British publisher unexpectedly finds himself working for British intelligence to investigate people in Russia.

A movie was made based on this book, with Sean Connery, Michelle Pfeiffer, Roy Scheider .
Sep 02, 2013 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Lobstergirl by: Mikhail Voskresensky

Some le Carré novels are deeply satisfying. This is not one of them. Here we are on the cusp of the Cold War ending - glasnost and perestroika have been put in motion - yet among the insiders, the spycraft continues. Of course, the Cold War was the agar for spy novelists. Did le Carré get a sick, sinking feeling in his stomach as he watched the Soviet empire crumble? As a reader, I felt like there wasn't much here to bite into. The story line wasn't terribly compelling. We're supposed to fall in
Mar 02, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: read-2019
As the Cold War nears its end, an English publisher is drawn into the world of espionage when a mysterious manuscript containing Soviet military secrets finds its way into his hands, smuggled out from behind the Iron Curtain through a colleague acting on the behest of a beautiful young Russian woman to whom the papers were entrusted by a physicist tired of keeping secrets.

Slow, but wonderfully complex. Le Carré never disappoints.
Jan 12, 2016 rated it it was amazing
This is almost perfect Le Carré world weary but romantic; cynical but whimsical. The setting is a world thrown into confusion by Gorbachev's glasnost and perestroika. And I guess much like spy-novelists, the spies are unsure whether to pull up stumps and congratulate each on a 'good game' or to dig in for the inevitable double-cross. With such a rich and complex milieu, it is perhaps understandable forgivable? beneficial? that the plot is more straightforward than his earlier works. That's ...more
Oct 13, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
An amateur spy - down-at-heel English publisher Barley Blair - is given a few weeks training by the British and then, backed by the USA, he's sent to Moscow to receive documents from a highly placed but anonymous source which will prove the Soviet's nuclear missile capability is based on lies. The go-between is the beautiful Katya and Barley complicates matters by falling in love with her.

Meanwhile, le Carre details how the joint British-American operation is set up, with the Americans gradually
Hilary Mak
Jul 28, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: books-read-2016
I haven't read much of Le Carre- but enjoyed what I have so far. This was quite complicated, with lots of characters, and I found myself having to re-read bits to check who people were and what was happening. However, its beautifully written, and even now, so many years after 'glasnost', it offers a fascinating insight into changes in Russia, and the spying industry in general. Overall a rewarding read but not one to skim over.
Colin Flaherty
Oct 11, 2014 rated it really liked it
If you've never ready any le Carre, the Spy Who Came in From the Cold is a great place to start. I also enjoyed Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy. Russia House is good, though my guess is the Cold War fiction is probably suffering a bit in popularity.

Jan 20, 2013 rated it really liked it

I loved this!
Jan 07, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: fans of this fine author and fine fiction
Recommended to Brent by: this fine author and Atlanta-Fulton Public Library
Shelves: fiction
It's 1989 or so, and a bookseller is the protagonist. The Russia House is an office of the British foreign intelligence service. LeCarre rocks. Just read it.
Gerneylee Carter
Mar 31, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Feb 25, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction, suspense
In my reading, this book was all about the challenges, perils and rewards (if any, in this case) of nuclear disarmament. It's a world-weary view of the subject, though, especially in le Carre's take on experts. From a conversation between Barley, the British publisher, and Goethe, the Russian scientist: "Experts are addicts. They solve nothing! They are servants of whatever system hires them. They perpetuate it. When we are tortured, we shall be tortured by experts. When we are hanged, experts ...more
Sep 26, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This was one of those books I had put off for many years. I finally got to it (probably motivated due to a recent trip to Eastern Europe). le Carre's writing is fabulous; the tension and human innuendos, the patterns of those who are involved with spying versus those who would rather just live and love, and Mr. Barley's place in both as a reluctant hero sets the probably-realistic tone for the glamorous gray life of secret service.
Oct 30, 2016 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: le-carre
finished this one today...took me some time, things happening, here, there, i did not have time to enjoy the story. don't believe this is one that you can...i could not...pick it up and read some, put it down...come back to it time permitting, this that the other. maybe you can. i can't i did but...ummmm.
just not into it. i liked it...i have enjoyed any "spy" stories i've read, fiction or fact. that is all. over and out.
Oct 25, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
My first brush with le Carré!

Gorgeous novel full of tenderness, mixed feelings, cold weather, and secrets. I loved the story and the style a lot. The pacing is tense but driven by conversation, not by action. Part of me picked this up expecting a Clancy or Ludlum style thriller so the emotional depth of this novel caught me by complete surprise.

A nice cold weather read.
Nov 28, 2015 rated it it was ok
Shelves: 2015
I was disappointed in this book. I understood it to be the story of spies, which it was. However, this story is based on conversations rather than actions. It made it hard for me to remain interested. I've read a number of books by Tom Clancy, and many of the Jason Bourne series. I guess that influenced me, and I was expecting the same kind of story.
Wes F
Jul 23, 2012 rated it really liked it
Enjoyed this book--my first one by le Carre. I enjoyed his style and characterizations; seemed realistic and well-grounded. Not an action-packed unrealistic story with people who can do it all, all the time, without breaking a sweat. Looking forward to reading more le Carre.
So this is the BBC adapted radio play. The voice acting is good, but I don't buy the whole romance, great love, sub-plot. Pfeiffer and Connery could sell it, but the voices don't.
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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

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