28 January 2011

The Spy who Came in from the Cold by John Le Carre


Thoughts and Reflections:
It took my a long time to get around to reading this one. I continued to find books that I figured would be more interesting. Spy novels aren't really my thing and I've typically considered them as trash lit. To be honest, I picked it up purely because I wanted some thoughtless thrills. I was also hesitant because I figured there's be a lot of cold war craze and fear. I realise the literature might have been quite new and exciting in the day, but it seems uninteresting to me today. However, this book didn't have all the Russian hate, that I anticipated and I found myself pretty caught up in the story.

For about the first third, I found things predictable and was just about to put it down, which things changed a little bit. The writing style is quite simple, which, I anticipate, is to attract a broad audience. It was an easy ready and I managed it in a couple of days (just what I was after, to be honest). As the book went on, I was no longer able to predict matters and found myself increasingly caught up in the plot.

There wasn't a great deal of character development. I didn't feel any great ties with the protagonist. In fact, I felt a bit cruel sitting by being entertained by his plight without any real emotional involvement. Liz, a temporary lover of the protagonist, I found incredibly frustrating. She seemed to be dancing a fine line between naivety and stupidity. I had a hard time comprehending her actions, from her relationship with the protagonist to her involvement with the sketchy exchange trip to East Germany, despite her involvement with the Party. Though I didn't feel a great affinity to the characters (and actually a dislike for Liz), the plot was definitely captivating!

All in all, it was a exciting read. I'm glad to have read at least one spy thriller in my life time. And by way of spy thrillers, I hear this is one of the best. John le Carre certainly succeeded in getting me all caught up in the story! I don't see myself getting into the genre, but this one was certainly a great taster.

Basic Synopsis:
Alec Leamas was involved in intelligence in Berlin. After a series of losses of his agents, he is called in by head office in London. Head office creates an elaborate scheme to get at the head of intelligence in East Germany, who they believe was behind the deaths of the agents.

About the Author: 
John Le Carre is the pen name for David John Moore Cornwell, who was born in 1931 in Dorset. He went on to study German Literature at the University of Bern for a year, before going on to Lincoln College in Oxford where he studied modern languages. He taught for a time a Eton, then went on to join the Foreign Services from 1959-1964. He served as Second Secretary in the British Embassy in Bonn, followed as a Political Consul in  Hamburg. He began writing in 1961. The Spy who Came in from the Cold was published in 1963. I was pleased to discover that the author is not still writing about cold war events, but has kept current and is writing about current political situations. Link to his personal website here.

Things I Enjoyed about this Novel:
1. A nice quick and captivating read while I was sick
2. The ability of the author to keep the story from becoming predictable.

1 comment:

Tony said...

Glad you enjoyed it; although I think characterising his writing style as simple is a bit harsh. His writing is one of the things that I enjoy most - especially important in his longer books where there are sections that you have to keep reading through without completely understanding, in order to see the big picture.

An interesting review from an author's perspective here in The Guardian: