Nigeyb's Reviews > A Legacy of Spies

A Legacy of Spies by John le Carré
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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 could not have come at a more opportune time for me. Between February 2017 and May 2017 I read the entire Smiley series...

'Call for the Dead' (1961)
'A Murder of Quality' (1962)
'The Spy Who Came In from the Cold' (1963)
'The Looking Glass War' (1965)
'Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy' (1974)
'The Honourable Schoolboy' (1977)
'Smiley's People' (1980)
'The Secret Pilgrim' (1991)

...and, to varying degrees, each is wonderful. Predictably, having reached the end of the series, I was left with a sense of loss. And then, to my delight and amazement, a new George Smiley book, 'A Legacy of Spies' arrived on 7 September 2017.

I can categorically reassure anyone who loves the character and the series that this maintains the quality and the plotting that readers have come to expect. I savoured every page.

Peter Guillam, Smiley's former right-hand man, and long retired, is centre stage in this novel. As the novel opens Guillam is enjoying life at his family home in Brittany. One day his peaceful life is disturbed by the arrival of an official letter from the Service summoning him back to England in connection with "a matter in which you appear to have played a significant role some years back".

Guillam is apprehensive. He returns to a very 21st century new headquarters by the Thames where a pair of lawyers, the memorably faux-friendly Bunny, and businesslike Laura, during which the veteran Guillam uses all his knowledge to try to outfox this pair of interrogators. They want to know all about Operation Windfall (detailed in 'The Spy Who Came In from the Cold'). This protracted opening scene is John le Carré at his very best and brings Guillam slap bang into the modern world. From then on Guillam is forced to revisit his former life and consider the consequences of what happened.

If, like me, you have enjoyed le Carré’s Smiley books, then this is everything you will have hoped for and wanted. Bravo John le Carré.
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Reading Progress

September 10, 2017 – Started Reading
September 10, 2017 – Shelved
September 10, 2017 –
12.0% "This opening protracted scene is JLC at his very best. A long retired Peter Guillam returns to the new Service headquarters by the Thames where a pair of lawyers interrogate him about Operation Windfall (depicted in The Spy Who Came In From The Cold). Veteran Guillam is understandably apprehensive and uses all his knowledge to try to outfox this pair of interrogators."
September 11, 2017 –
44.0% "Still no sign of Smiley (in the flesh at least) as Peter Guillam is forced to relive his past (and parts of the plot of The Spy Who Came In From The Cold) via the files housed at The Stables safe house, whilst the awful Bunny and Laura sporadically interrogate in their nauseously chummy manner. I’m enjoying Peter Guillam getting centre stage. So far, so wonderful. Another corker from the master le Carré."
September 12, 2017 –
49.0% "My experience is that the more Smiley appears, the better the book, and yet, despite there still being no sign of Smiley yet, this is still an engrossing and enjoyable read."
September 13, 2017 –
76.0% "This book is wonderfully structured - harking back to previous books and the characters we came to know - but also in the way it melds the present day with the past. Smiley is missing in action from the present narrative but his influence remains powerful and pervasive. Splendid. I am gripped."
September 14, 2017 – Finished Reading

Comments Showing 1-10 of 10 (10 new)

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John Farebrother That's an intense reading binge.


Nigeyb John wrote: "That's an intense reading binge."

True enough, but these books are so addictive that it was a joy from start to finish


Tina Good news for you: Smiley is also in The Secret Pilgrim! Just to postpone your post-Smiley existence a bit longer....


Nigeyb Thanks Tina - that's very kind of you. Sadly, despite its omission on my list (which I will put right), I have read 'The Secret Pilgrim' (George Smiley #8) (1991)


Tina It is really good. But I'm sad that I couldn't furnish you with more surprise Smiley!


message 6: by Nigeyb (last edited Sep 12, 2017 07:20AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Nigeyb Ah well - at least we have the unexpected bonus of this book. So far, so wonderful (at around the halfway point). Thanks again.


Michael Martz I could not agree more. You've given me inspiration to re-read the series as well!


Nigeyb Michael wrote: "I could not agree more. You've given me inspiration to re-read the series as well!"

Thanks Michael - enjoy your reread


message 9: by Carol (new) - added it

Carol hmmmm. Now you've done it. I must consider postponing this book while I re-read the Smiley series! Terrific review, thanks!


Nigeyb Carol wrote: "hmmmm. Now you've done it. I must consider postponing this book while I re-read the Smiley series! Terrific review, thanks!"

I hope you enjoy it as much as I did Carol


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