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A Legacy of Spies

(George Smiley #9)

3.89  ·  Rating details ·  19,942 ratings  ·  2,047 reviews
Peter Guillam, staunch colleague and disciple of George Smiley of the British Secret Service, otherwise known as the Circus, is living out his old age on the family farmstead on the south coast of Brittany when a letter from his old Service summons him to London. The reason? His Cold War past has come back to claim him. Intelligence operations that were once the toast of s ...more
Hardcover, 264 pages
Published September 5th 2017 by Viking
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Marissa Lucado I believe it would be very helpful, in order to understand the "backstory" in Legacy to read "The Spy Who Came In From The Cold." Legacy is really a s…moreI believe it would be very helpful, in order to understand the "backstory" in Legacy to read "The Spy Who Came In From The Cold." Legacy is really a sequel to this book.(less)
carol johnson Yes, it is definitely worth reading A Legacy of Spies. One character is anti-American but most of the references to Americans are more amusing and app…moreYes, it is definitely worth reading A Legacy of Spies. One character is anti-American but most of the references to Americans are more amusing and appropriate than bitter and/or cynical. The story is told from the viewpoint of a now-retired Circus spy and anyone who had read Le Carre will feel happy, almost over joyed with reading such a layered, beautifully written book, with all the junk that is out there. It does help to have read some of Le Carre's earlier books, particularly A Spy that Came in From the Cold and Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, primarily because it gives more meaning to some of the events and persons discussed in this book, but even if you have not, you should still appreciate the book. (less)
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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Average rating 3.89  · 
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 ·  19,942 ratings  ·  2,047 reviews

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Jeffrey Keeten
Sep 24, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: spies
”’We were wondering, you see,’ he said in a faraway voice, ‘whether you’d ever considered signing up with us on a more regular basis? People who have worked on the outside for us don’t always fit well on the inside. But in your case, we think you might. We don’t pay a lot, and careers tend to be interrupted. But we do feel it’s an important job, as long as one cares about the end, and not too much about the means.’”

 photo George20Smiley20Oldman_zpsxacennjy.jpg
Gary Oldman is George Smiley in Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy.

Peter Guillam ha
Oct 31, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I love his care with words. All those beautifully crafted understatements and sharp observations.

I didn't expect to see Smiley and company again. I'm glad that I did.
Adam Dalva
Sep 20, 2017 rated it liked it
A reunion book, and quite a pleasurable one. Le Carré gets Smiley’s gang together one last time, knowing the reader will thrill at seeing them mashed against the modern world. It is particularly lovely to spend so much time in the head of the first-person lead Peter Guillam, who is as charming and caddish as ever, and whose misdoings are treated with great affection (there is even a clever wink at his gay retconning in the Oldman TINKER TAILOR film).

The best moments here come with the now aged P
Sep 21, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: xx2018-completed
Peter Guillam, who was George Smiley’s assistant for several years, is an old man now. He is back in Brittany puttering on his family’s farm with assistance from Catherine and her little girl Isabelle. Then he receives a “request” to get himself to HQ in London immediately.

He is then interrogated by the legal team for the Secret Service regarding an operation involving Alec Leamus and Elizabeth Gold; one that eventually cost them their lives. Both Alec and Elizabeth had a child from previous rel
Nov 05, 2017 rated it liked it

3.5 stars

In "A Legacy of Spies" John Le Carré takes us from the present day back to the time and setting of his most famous book "The Spy Who Came in From the Cold."


As the story opens Peter Guillam, a former protegé/right-hand-man of spy-master George Smiley, is a senior citizen living on his ancestral farm in Brittany.

The elderly Guillam is summoned back to London by the British Intelligence Service ('the Circus') to answer questions about a cold war operation that went badly wrong. Duri
Update: When I finished reading this the first time around, I was seized with a desire to go back in time and revisit all the George Smiley novels. I am happy to say that is exactly what I have done. I started with A Call for the Dead, the first instance of George in print, and have made my way through to this marvelous (so far) final appearance.

It was even more satisfying this go around, and a feeling enhanced by having read with a tremendous group of women who appreciate John le Carre much as
Sep 10, 2017 rated it it was amazing
An immensely satisfying conclusion to the George Smiley series. The clever plot manages to reference many of the classic Smiley books and plotlines, and also to drag them into the 21st century. This means we learn more about earlier stories and also what happened to some of the characters, not least Karla (in passing).

Although Smiley himself is not physically present for the majority of 'A Legacy of Spies' his shadow touches every page.

Timing-wise this new George Smiley book by John le Carré c
Sep 09, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2017
"We don't pay a lot, and careers tend to be interrupted. But we do feel it is an important job, as long as one cares about the end, and not too much about the means."
- John le Carré, A Legacy of Spies


Le Carré's fiction career can be roughly be divided into two broad, angry worlds (if we ignore his brief, early attempt at crime fiction): Cold War espionage novels and post-Cold War espionage novels. 'A Legacy of Spies' bridges this gulf with one of the great characters from le Carré's early works
Manuel Antão
Nov 10, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2017
If you're into stuff like this, you can read the full review.

Spies Catching Spies: "A Legacy of Spies" by John Le Carré  

The most impressive aspect is the self-examination, described late in the story. Was all the effort poured into Cold War intelligence work worth it? Did it stop wars? Did we do it because they did? Or was it a case of politicians wanting to thin they are "one up" on the other fellow? And his European outlook is so refreshing. Reminds me of the heyday of Robert Maxwell's newspa
Apr 16, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a powerful book, typically masterful Le Carré, full of betrayal and pain and heartless duty, pawns and pieces careening to the doom and tragedy we know is in their stars, and in ours.

I did not want this book to end. None of us do. And yes, I cried. The bell tolls for us.

As usual with my reviews, please first read the publisher’s blurb/summary of the book. Thank you.

A primer on George Smiley which you may find helpful. And yes, I very much recommend you first read The Spy Who Came in
Jacob Overmark
How often do you sit down and review a meeting with old friends?
You may evaluate a business meeting, but this is something entirely different.

John le Carré is revisiting some of the most freezing cold days of the Cold War, tying up a few loose ends and providing a little insider knowledge which is now safe(r) to disclose to the general public.
It is like finding old friends on Facebook and getting to know what they have been up to for the last decades, just in this case, the exchange of news is s
John Farebrother
Sep 11, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Awesome book, all Le Carré aficionados will want to read this. Long dead characters and plots from his heyday are literally unearthed and desecrated by the righteous anger of the 21st-century establishment, anxious to disassociate itself from its Cold War practices. Enough said. The old Le Carré multi-layered, triple-locked plot is there, the truth always tantalisingly out of reach until the very end (and even then), and the characters continue to suffer from the consequences of what they have d ...more
Woman Reading
4 ☆

As a teenager during WWII, Peter Guillam had provided courier services on behalf of Great Britain. Eventually, George Smiley officially recruited him to join the Circus ie. the British Secret Intelligence Service.
We don’t pay a lot, and careers tend to be interrupted. But we do feel it’s an important job, as long as one cares about the end, and not too much about the means.

In A Legacy of Spies, Guillam has retired to his family farm in Brittany after a long and eventful career,
Apr 05, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
As ever, Le Carre is the master of narratives of dissimulation and regret at the lies that have fractured the lives of his protagonists. This book is entrancing, lovely even, in it's exploration of the life of a former spy, Peter Guillam, whose actions and sacrifices are being questioned in the post-cold war world, all the more so because his training in secrecy and non-disclosure means he doles out as much mis-information as revelations during interrogation.

Ironically, the spies of the modern
Clif Hostetler
Feb 14, 2020 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: novel
This is a novel narrated in first person voice by an elderly retired former British MI6 agent who has been summoned to answer questions associated with an investigation into a covert operation that took place in the late 1950s. In the context of cold war spy craft it was one of those operations that required extraordinary tactics that happened to have an unfortunate ending. However, in the context of today’s litigious rearview-mirror judgments it now appears to have been a criminal betrayal of t ...more
Aug 25, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This book was wonderful. It sucked me in right away.

A word of caution after reading this. Don’t read the Smiley books out of order. They all tie into one another and this sews up the whole series. It especially references back to “The Spy Who Came In From The Cold” and “Tinker, Tailor, Solider, Spy”. So if this is your first reading of a Smiley book, there is going to be some confusion.

Saying anymore about this book will spoil the outcome.

I especially hope this will not be the last LeCarre novel
Barbara K
And so my mission to re-read all of le Carré's Smiley novels in 2020 is complete. These have constituted some of my most satisfying reads during the year, and I can imagine reading them again some day, particularly the "Karla trilogy" (Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy, The Honourable Schoolboy and Smiley's People). Having started at the very beginning, with Call for the Dead, I had the opportunity to observe le Carré develop from tentative beginnings into a brilliant author with consistent themes th ...more
Sep 15, 2017 rated it really liked it
A Legacy of Spies is virtuoso spy-writer John le Carré revisiting George Smiley and his Circus agency cohorts in a sequel to The Spy Who Came In From The Cold and Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy. The main character this time, however, is Peter Guillam, the chief lieutenant to M16’s Sensei Wu, George Smiley. Long retired, the elderly Guillam is called to London due to several lawsuits threatening to expose the Cold War subterfuge from the early 1960’s (the events that comprise The Spy Who Came In Fr ...more
Jason Koivu
Oct 30, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction, spy
Another brilliant one from John le Carré! This one doesn't have much of Smiley in it though, which is a let down. However, his sidekick Peter Guillam, a fan favorite I believe. Well in the very least, I'm a fan, so I quite enjoyed this retrospective look back at a case or mission or whatever you call it, wherein Guillam played a major role. Flash forward and now he's being taken to task for these actions by the Circus' own lawyers, who are looking for a fall-guy to take the wrap for a botched jo ...more

For 25 years, I called him "John Le Car". In Dhaka in the 90s, there was no one to tell me the correct pronunciation, no one to explain that the accent aigu over the "e" turned the name into "John Le Cah-ray" or, translated into English, John the Square.

It didn't matter though because, Le Car or Le Cahray, he was one of the writers, alongside Orwell, Maugham and Simenon, that I spent a great deal of time obsessing over during the nineties. Fresh out of college and gleefully skipping university
Lewis Weinstein
Apr 19, 2020 rated it really liked it
I was excited to start this book, and the early chapters were fascinating ... but then the complications built on complexities, characters were introduced or renamed, and it just got too much for me to follow ... of course there are flashes of le Carre brilliance, but not enough to reveal what is going on in this story

UPDATE ... now I read the reviews of my GR friends, I will give it another shot

UPDATE ... I finished the book ... parts were just a wonderful read ... descriptions, dialogue, twist
Blaine DeSantis
Sep 23, 2017 rated it really liked it
A fine effort by le Carre in his most recent offering. Here we are looking at a situation where the current spy agency is both questioning and trying to undermine Operation Windfall that involved George Smiley and all his fellow Cold War agents. Much of this book is seen as a series of flashback as set forth in Agency memos and notes. I really enjoyed the book and it made me a bit peeved at the new political correctness that pervades agencies who do not have a historical perspective to understan ...more
Bill Kupersmith
Sep 29, 2017 rated it really liked it
In the early 1960s Len Deighton & John le Carré redefined the novel of espionage. From John Buchan to Ian Fleming, the spy was a glamorous attractive figure performing deeds of derring-do. But The Ipcress File and The Spy Who Came in from the Cold gave us the spy (more accurately, the intelligence officer) as an anti-hero & the secret intelligence service a nest of in-fighting, turf wars, and bureaucratic intrigue, where the principal character faced more danger from his own colleagues than from ...more
May 17, 2021 rated it liked it
Shelves: thriller, spy
This is the first Le Carre book that I have been able to finish. My attempts so far have been rather unsuccessful. Years ago I started reading one of his books, but gave it up after only ten pages because it wasn't for me at all. At the beginning of last year, I tried to read the famous The Tailor of Panama and I absolutely hated this book, I couldn't bring myself to read it to the end.

The more surprised me that this book interested me from the very beginning. I don't know exactly what I found i
Lashaan Balasingam (Bookidote)
You can find my review on my blog by clicking here.

One of the godfathers of spy thrillers returns to the battlefield with A Legacy of Spies. It’s hard to ignore the legacy of John Le Carré himself when brought to reflect upon the whole universe of espionage that he was able to bring to life, from Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy to The Spy Who Came in From the Cold. His latest novel serves as a fantastic throwback to his greatest work and brings back one of his signature characters, George Smiley, i
Oct 18, 2017 rated it it was ok
Read this for Bookclub. Just never got going for me. I know le Carre is big on character and intellect, but I found the plot a little of a bore. I also found the ending/resolution a little too simplisitic, as if everything needed to fall into place to satisfy the reader.
Brandon Forsyth
May 07, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The old master may have lost a half step, but a sequel to THE SPY WHO CAME IN FROM THE COLD still has no right to be this good.
Mal Warwick
Sep 28, 2017 rated it it was amazing
The consummate British spy George Smiley originally appeared in 1961 in John le Carré's Call for the Dead, his first novel. The last time he was a central character was 1979 in Smiley's People, nearly forty years ago. (His most recent appearance, but only as a supporting character, was in The Secret Pilgrim, published in 1990.) Now, decades later, Smiley surfaces again in the background in le Carré's twenty-fourth novel, A Legacy of Spies (2017). Given the author's six-decade career as a novelis ...more
Oct 02, 2017 rated it really liked it

Although I have read only eight of the master's books, I am a John le Carre fan. I like his particular combination of thrilling escapades accompanied by the loneliness and doubts of his spies. The title of his third book, The Spy Who Came in from the Cold captured that truth of spy craft, possibly for the first time in literature, as well as inspiring a great Joni Mitchell song, "Come In From The Cold."

So I picked up A Legacy of Spies with eager anticipation and was richly rewarded by a trip
Sep 28, 2017 rated it did not like it
Without a doubt one of the most boring, abstruse novels I have ever read. I have read most if not all of LeCarre’s novels and found them quite satisfying. This one defies description. The author resorts to conversations and memories and lapses into a fog of description that confounds this reader and allows any interest to float away quickly. With half of the story to go, I am willingly leaving this circus of absurdity behind.
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As I read it, cont. 6 19 Feb 15, 2021 06:11AM  
Inconsistencies? 2 15 Aug 26, 2020 09:51PM  
Book Club: A Legacy of Spies 1 6 Feb 11, 2019 11:58AM  
Play Book Tag: A Legacy of Spies by John le Carre' - 4 stars 3 14 Sep 28, 2018 06:31PM  

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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

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; Karla Trilogy #1)
  • The Honourable Schoolboy (George Smiley #6; Karla Trilogy #2)
  • Smiley's People (George Smiley #7; Karla Trilogy #3)

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“I’m a European, Peter. If I had a mission – if I was ever aware of one beyond our business with the enemy, it was to Europe. If I was heartless, I was heartless for Europe. If I had an unattainable ideal, it was of leading Europe out of her darkness towards a new age of reason. I have it still.” 4 likes
“Did I fuck her? No, I bloody well didn’t. I made mute, frenzied love to her in pitch darkness for six life-altering hours, in an explosion of tension and lust between two bodies that had desired each other from birth and had only the night to live.” 4 likes
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