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The Russia House

3.9  ·  Rating details ·  18,841 Ratings  ·  284 Reviews
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 from his years in British Intelligence, le Carré tracks the dark and devastating trail of a document that could profoundly alter the course of wor ...more
Paperback, 431 pages
Published 1989 by Knopf
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Darwin8u
Jul 19, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: aere-perennius, 2013
"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:
...more
Jake
Mar 19, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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, w ...more
Robert
Jan 03, 2009 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
...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 opin
...more
Jim
Nov 20, 2010 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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 writin ...more
Calvertjones
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 secrets ...more
Hilary Mak
Jul 28, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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  ·  review of another edition
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.

Lobstergirl
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
...more
Lesley
Feb 25, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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 w ...more
wally
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, everywhere...so 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.
Chris
Sep 07, 2015 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: audio, mystery-spies
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.
Brent
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.
Gram
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
...more
David
A good companion piece to A Perfect Spy. Barley Blair and Magnus Pym share many similarities —and, I’ve just realized, Aldo Cassidy may be a “brother” here as well. As is Le Carré’s wont, he employs a narrator who is, like Christ encouraged the disciples to be, in the world but not quite of the world. The narrator may be a bona fide member of The Circus, but he is also in some way detached from full conformity to its norms. The protagonist, then, is always seen (at least partially) from a vantag ...more
Craig Pittman
Dec 13, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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."

Th
...more
Morris Graham
Oct 12, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I had difficulty at first with the main character. He was an unlikely spy, recruited first unwittingly by the KGB's disinformation agency, then by British intelligence, then the CIA. A book publisher with failed marriages, a drinking problem, a womanizer who used women and then discarded them, a businessman who operated his publishing house in the red. You might say, a loser who becomes everyone's pawn. I had difficulty becoming invested in the story until about page 95, mostly because I found t ...more
Stephen
Jan 12, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
D.T.
Aug 13, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A beautiful Russian woman brings a manuscript to a book agent at a Russian book fair to forward to Barley Blair, a UK publisher. The manuscript is not a creative work, rather, it contains detailed information about Soviet nuclear capabilities. When the agent can't find Barley, he turns the documents over to the British authorities. They recognize the value of it and find Barley and send him on missions to find the author of the manuscript and to verify that its contents are accurate.

This was a r
...more
Chip Masters
Dec 27, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The Russia House is the kind of top notch spy thriller we've come to expect from the great John Le Carré. That is to say it is a compellingly readable and suspenseful procedural that exposes the dirty, deceptive world of espionage tradecraft in all its conspiratorial and ambiguous glory. The bureaucrats are officious, the case officers are ruthless, the analysts are cynical, the assets are coerced, the targets are idealistic, and everyone is an alcoholic.

Written and set in the years when the en
...more
Carolina
Jul 11, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: review
Mais um excelente thriller de espionagem ao bom estilo de John Le Carré. Aqui, os espiões não andam armados de gadgets saídos de histórias de ficção científica, mas de inteligência e das capacidades de observação e manipulação. Durante todo o romance há um intenso jogo de influências, mentiras e meias verdades. Ninguém é realmente honesto e todos camuflam as suas verdadeiras intenções nas entrelinhas.
Quando, nos fins da Guerra Fria, chega a Londres informação sobre o armamento soviético, há que
...more
Alistair
Jul 14, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
this is a spy novel set at the end of the cold war and beginning of perestroika . it is brilliant on the grey men in the intelligence services and their thought processes and on the smoke and mirrors of spying and trust . the world weary conclusion , that the bluff and counterbluff between Russia and the West were essentially empty , seems to ring true .
the scenes in Russia were great , although the Ruskies seemed a little bit stereotyped or perhaps absolutely everyone there really drinks and is
...more
Chris
Jan 05, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Strangely, it's closest to a thriller in genre but there were no swerves in the plotline -- you pretty much see everything coming before it happens. I don't view that as a flaw in the book, more that le Carre is offering a point of view on the world of spying. ("Spying is waiting," he writes.) For about half the book, I wished the first character we met, Niki Landau, was the main character. Barley isn't particularly likeable, but I took that as intentional as well. My only real complaint is how ...more
Paul S
Apr 19, 2010 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
My first Le Carre book, and I will read many more.

I've heard Le Carre described as "too slow"; I would say instead that he's very deliberate. I can handle deliberate if the author/narrator say enough interesting things along the way (see Nelson DeMille). And while it does feel as if it's developing slowly at times, by the time you're done it's clear that he's packed an awful lot into just 353 pages. Great characters and scene descriptions, some absolutely brilliant turns of phrase, and a solid
...more
Maureen
Jul 26, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: everyone
Shelves: novel, espionage
With his deep familiarity with both the world of spies and Soviet Russia, John LeCarre presents Barley Blair, who may be the most improbable secret agent in the history of espionage. This is classic LeCarre, both in plot and setting. After reading this book, I felt that I could navigate through parts of Moscow without a map. I recommend this book not just for the scenery, but because LeCarre's uses espionage as a canvas to paint very large pictures on the universal themes of life and death, hono ...more
Cathay
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.
Thomas
Apr 17, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
One of le Carre's best novels. A good enough thriller, but more importantly, audacious in its telling, from a Watsonian perspective -- first-person observer, with the main character not the narrator. I like that, and I like that le Carre cared about thrillers enough to experiment with form. When it comes to spy novels, you could do a hell of a lot worse than just reading le Carre and skipping everyone else.
Rosemary
Jan 23, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Smiley's People is my absolute favorite by this author, but Russia House runs a close second. When it came out, the central idea of the collapse of the Soviet Union seemed like very big stretch of the facts. Now, of course, it just seems like history. One of the most charming heroes ever created by Le Carre and one of the happiest endings.
Michael
Feb 11, 2010 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
My first experience with Le Carre - not gripping, a bit slow, some interesting character development and insights in to Russian society (like I'd know whether it was accurate or not !) - story got better towards the end and a bit of a plot/twist emerged.
I can only assume the 'Smiley' books are more gripping - to justify the reputation
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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...
“Spying is waiting.” 18 likes
“She's become a Russian again, he thought. When something works, she's grateful. When it doesn't work, it's life.” 14 likes
More quotes…