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A New York Times Notable Book
AMC Miniseries event Tuesday, April 19, 10/9c
John le Carré, the legendary author of sophisticated spy thrillers, is at the top of his game in this classic novel of a world in chaos.
With the Cold War over, a new era of espionage has begun. In the power vacuum left by the Soviet Union, arms dealers and drug smugglers have risen to immense influence and wealth. The sinister master of them all is Richard Onslow Roper, the charming, ruthless Englishman whose operation seems untouchable.
Slipping into this maze of peril is Jonathan Pine, a former British soldier who's currently the night manager of a posh hotel in Zurich. Having learned to hate and fear Roper more than any man on earth, Pine is willing to do whatever it takes to help the agents at Whitehall bring him down - and personal vengeance is only part of the reason why.
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By Darwin8u on 10-05-16
War is a racket.
"Every man has his personal devil waiting for him somewhere."
-- John le Carré, The Night Manager
"WAR is a racket. It always has been.
It is possibly the oldest, easily the most profitable, surely the most vicious. It is the only one international in scope. It is the only one in which the profits are reckoned in dollars and the losses in lives.
A racket is best described, I believe, as something that is not what it seems to the majority of the people. Only a small "inside" group knows what it is about. It is conducted for the benefit of the very few, at the expense of the very many. Out of war a few people make huge fortunes."
-- Major General Smedley Butler, 1935
After finishing le Carré's recent memoir The Pigeon Tunnel: Stories from My Life, I felt the need to climb a bit higher up on my le Carré mountain. Since BBC had recently dropped its 6 episode series of 'The Night Manager' and since it was one of the handful of le Carré I haven't read (I now have just four left: Our Game, The Naive and Sentimental Lover, The Tailor of Panama, and Absolute Friends). I felt this novel was a good place, as any, to re-start JlC. I loved it. It wasn't perfect, but it was a nice exploration of the guns for drug trade that went on (and hell, probably still goes on) with tacit approval of arms producing nations (see UK, US, etc). Like most of le Carré's oeuvre it contains bureaucratic turf battles and isolated groups and individuals fighting for ideals in a corrupted world.
The book is set in the late 80s or early 90s (it was published in 1993), so I think of this as le Carré examining the underworld we didn't exactly get to see when Oliver North was testifying/obfuscating about his role in the Iran-Contra affair. Here, as always, le Carré is focused more on the UK's involvement and private arms dealing in this book. This book has received renewed attention since the 2015 BBC adaption staring Tom Hiddleston and Hugh Laurie. The adaption moves the time frame up (lucky for the adaption, arms dealing and government complicity in this ugly economy is almost timeless) to the period right around the Arab Spring.
17 of 21 people found this review helpful
By David Schafer on 07-28-16
Good book. Get the Michael Jayston version instead
I enjoyed Le Carre's words, but personally found David Case's narration to be quite off-putting. Case puts on distinct voices for each of the book's characters but, to the audiobook's detriment, selects for the narrator (who speaks for the bulk of the time) a particularly smarmy British that sounds like the natural outcome of teaching a child to speak by exposing them exclusively and in equal parts to recordings of prohibition-era movie robbers saying "So long, coppers" and untraveled Americans imitating British accents by saying, " 'ello Gub'nah". What's more, there are a number of 2-3 second, mid-sentence pauses that undermine Le Carre's unique flair for language and long, intricate sentences. While I've not listened to Michael Jayston's version of The Night Manager, I can vouch for his work on other Le Carre titles, which was excellent. Before buying, do consider listening to Audible's samples of both versions and decide which you'd prefer.
The story itself is good.
If you're coming from the AMC miniseries, the plot differs meaningfully in a number of ways, generally in the direction of spending more time on the mind/tradecraft of a spy and less on the James Bond-esque explosions.
If you're coming from Le Carre's other novels, The Night Manager is an above-replacement-value entry, and, if it is not quite at the same level as Tinker Tailor or The Spy Who Came in From the Cold, it is certainly still a good read. While it is set in the Smiley universe, there is no required (or even helpful) context from the previous books, nor does the Night Manager give away the previous books' secrets. The characters are a mixture of great and reasonably good (Roper: great; Goodhew: grand; Eponymous Hotelier: meh, okay). The story is Le Carre's first real success in translating his style to a post-Berlin Wall world (Russia House's central Brits v. Russians conflict was dulled by perestroika and Secret Pilgrim was more a book of B-Sides from the good old days than a coherent story of its own).
Bottom Line: it's a good book, worth listening to. Maybe just buy the Jayston version...
15 of 19 people found this review helpful