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The Little Drummer Girl

3.94  ·  Rating details ·  7,635 Ratings  ·  325 Reviews
Charlie is a promiscuous, unsuccessful, English actress in her twenties. Vacationing on the Greek island of Mykonos with friends, she longs for commitment. But to what? To whom? Intrigued by a handsome, solitary bather, Charlie finds herself lured into the "theatre of the real." For the mysterious man is Kurtz, an embattled Israeli intelligence officer out to stop the bomb ...more
Audio Cassette
Published February 1st 2001 by Chivers Audio Books (first published 1983)
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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 just a
...more
Rob
Sep 09, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Manny
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
mentor&muse
Apr 01, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
...more
Tom Marcinko
Jan 11, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
...more
Maureen
Jul 29, 2008 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: everyone
Shelves: novel, espionage
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
Darwin8u
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
Denise
This is one of the hardest books for me to get through. I'm still working it out, and it's worth it. I don't like slow reads normally, and this one started out all over the place. Boring, but if you get through the first several chapters, it gets much better. I AM interested in the girl's downslope into terrorism, if that is really what it is. I will let you know. My usual style is to finish a book in two to three nights. This one is taking forever! I cant give up on it though. There is a good s ...more
Tuck
my first le carre book in decades. n am reminded why, he takes a long long time to get to the point, then you realize, there is no point really. but interesting and fairly even-handed treatment of palestine and the occupying nazi..oops, east german...opps dang it, israel, and their battles both on 'battle fields' and on innocents.
so this thriller told mostly from a mossad side, infiltrating terror bombing family and setting up a big sting. success! sadly, the situation in 1983 and 2015 is still
...more
Stephen
Aug 28, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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.
Franti
Jul 30, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Seconda esperienza con LeCarré dopo La Casa Russia e mi rendo conto di conoscerlo da sempre. Avido divoratore di adattamenti cinematografici quale sono i due libri che ho letto di questo autore mi confermano che la sua prosa è lo stampino perfetto per sceneggiature di film di spionaggio fuori dal comune. O è così o ha un avvocato agguerritissimo che gestisce le sue royalties poiché gli adattamenti sono sempre molto rispettosi dello stile dell'autore. L'ossessione per i dettagli nel costruire i p ...more
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
...more
Robert Spencer
Aug 27, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I don't know, I guess you either love him or he leaves you cold. This to me is one of his stronger novels. Yes, it's a slow burner, but all his best ones are. The question is whether or not it builds the slow burn to an intense heat (ref The Honourable Schoolboy) or just smoulders away to a damp fizzle (ref Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy). I think the first piece of advice I would offer is not to think of any of Le Carre's books as "thrillers". They are character studies that happen to be about spies ...more
Matthew
Feb 08, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: book-club
This was my first time to read John le Carre. I watched "Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy" (the movie) and felt hopelessly lost. But if I never pick up the Smiley novels, at least I read "Little Drummer Girl." A young woman delivers a suitcase bomb to the home of an Israeli diplomat in Bonn, Germany, an act of Palestinian terrorism that sets in motion an elaborate Israeli plot to recruit a double-agent who will infiltrate PLO ranks and settle the score.

I would give this book 5 stars, except that the fi
...more
N. Jr.
Sep 14, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
...more
Malia
May 05, 2013 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: mystery-suspense
This one was a bit of a battle. I had such high expectations, Le Carre is said to be 'the master' in the realm of spy novels, but I guess I have different criteria, because I was confused and bored most of the time, and indifferent during the last third. Maybe this just wasn't the right book to start with, but I wanted a newer one...so, possibly my fault. But I just found it too long and with characters, who despite being painstakingly described, fell somehow flat. The plot was somewhat clever, ...more
Mike
Feb 23, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Matt
Nov 08, 2012 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I was loving LeCarre. He was batting .1000 as far as I was concerned and then I hit this one. I like a story that unfolds slowly and has a nice payoff, etc. But this one took too long to get there. I'm getting older and I'll never be able to read all the books I'm going to want to read before I die and I think slogging through 50% of a book to get to the good isn't fair to the reader. That's half of the book wasted when it could have been 100% awesome. Kind of bummed...but he's written enough go ...more
Javier
This is a tragic story that sees a radical actress kidnapped by Mossad and recruited into operations aiming to assassinate Palestinians.
Carol Jean
Jul 14, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Quite a long time ago, I read all of le Carre's books. While I admire his complicated plots and his knowledge of bureaucracy, none of his characters really came to life for me, except for Charlie in The Little Drummer Girl. Given the many complexities of global politics these days, I felt a longing to go back and re-experience this book, and I was not disappointed. The Zionist/Palestinian conflict is, alas, just as miserable today as it was more than 30 yeas ago when the book was originally publ ...more
David
Like most of the Le Carre novels, this one has been read many times. I always find the tension of Charlie's stretched sympathies moving. I remain unsure whether or not the "good guys" win.
J.C.
Jun 16, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Scary to think that folks actually do things like this.  Emotionally intense.
Tio Stib
Oct 29, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Le Carre’, John, The Little Drummer Girl, Audio Book, 1983

Genre: spy/espionage thriller

This is a book of layers. Layers of plots. Layers of politics and cultures. But mostly, layers of human character. Yes, it’s a spy thriller and there is certainly suspense in this story, but it is so much more.

I’d seen “Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy,” with Alec Guiness years ago and sensed that Le Carre’s style was more introspective than Ian Fleming’s action oriented 007 thrillers. I was not prepared, though,
...more
Jim Leckband
Jul 16, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I played my drum for Him, pa rum pum pum pum
I played my best for Him, pa rum pum pum pum,
rum pum pum pum, rum pum pum pum,

Then He smiled at me, pa rum pum pum pum
Me and my drum.
Titles reveal much about a book once you sit down and think about it. Some are obvious (One Hundred Years of Solitude), some are obscure until the end (The Crying of Lot 49) and some make sense only when you compare the title reference to what is happening in the book, say like East of Eden. "The Little Drummer Girl"
...more
Jim
Nov 19, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: spy
Having read several of John le Carré's works, I feel that his particular forte is creating for his characters environments that have an amazing amount of stress. He ratchets up drama by putting his characters in extremely difficult situations and then continuing to crank up the stress level. Of his novels that I have read, the previous epitome of these super stress levels was The Spy Who Came In from the Cold. However, I think the stress in The Little Drummer Girl tops even that work.

The title c
...more
Craig
Jun 28, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Set in 1970s Western Europe and spots in the Middle-East, this is a relatively fair, even-handed and perceptive fictional depiction of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict with two main characters propelling the narrative; Kurtz, an experienced Israeli intelligence agent and his team hunting for a ghost-like Palestinian terrorist known only as Khalil whose bombs have left several prominent Jewish targets dead in Western Europe. Secondly, there's Charlie, a young and aspiring British actress whose lo ...more
Mike
Sep 27, 2017 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
You expect a certain amount of sexism in a John le Carre novel. Rightly or wrongly, it's usually the kind that you can dismiss by saying, that was just what it was like back then. This is not that kind of novel. The eponymous character is a woman who defines herself by the men who capture her: "She hardly cared. 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." Or using sex as a m ...more
Simon Mcleish
Dec 03, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: owned
Originally published on my blog here in July 2001.

This novel is a departure from the spy stories which were the norm for le Carré, and a more successful one than The Naive And Sentimental Lover, because more along the lines of his usual writing. It is about a spy infiltrating an organisation, but not the KGB or the British secret service - this is a Palestinian terrorist cell intent on attacking Jewish targets in Europe. The infiltrator is a British actress, Charmian (known as Charlie), who has
...more
Stephen
Jul 03, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The plot revolves around the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, rather than Le Carré's familiar milieu of the cold war. That said, he does kinda fit his plot into his familiar cold war devices - and this is essentially a story of espionage. This initially caused me a few reservations, as I'd expected it to be less like his previous novels than it appeared on first flush - there's an analogue for Smiley, and even for his occassional cadre of misfits; he returns again to England-on-the-wane than. But d ...more
Karen
Mar 15, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: novels
Where does reality become fiction? Where does fiction become reality? Can they exist together? The spy novel genre is not usually one that I choose to read. I was impressed, though, with Le Carre's wealth of knowledge with the inside workings of the world of espionage. How does he know so much and in such detail? On the one hand, I applaud the story's intricacies, the slow reveal of each and every plot detail. At times, I had a hard time hanging on to the intended growing suspense. I felt like I ...more
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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
More about John le Carré...
“Everyone who is not happy must be shot.” 22 likes
“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)” 7 likes
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