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This collection of short stories is primarily for the Le Carre completist, referring as it does to characters and events from his earlier work, mainly occurring in the Karla trilogy and The Russia House, the full significance of which would be lost on a first time Le Carre reader. The structure is a little laboured, relying on Smiley's reminiscences to a graduating class of new secret service recruits to trigger corresponding memories of the narrator Ned's experiences of life as a spy which are a little too conveniently packaged into extended anecdotes. I'd imagine this creaky device would grate on the written page - it's certainly a sad retreat from the ingenious interweaving timelines of Tinker Tailor -but it's a tribute to Michael Jayston's brilliant performance that Le Carre just about gets away with it. Considering the several unforgettable character studies Le Carre had created by this point in his career Ned emerges as rather colourless and derivative, an ersatz Peter Guillam unfortunately lacking Peter's charisma. The stories themselves are undeniably entertaining but appear just a touch too neat and easily resolved to the die-hard Le Carre fan, a sort of M16 Tales of the Unexpected. They also show a tendency to recycle plot devices, character types and motifs from earlier, better novels. (A trivial but telling example is the remarkable coincidence of several of his jaded heroes in this and other later novels having tricky relationships with estranged sons who are invariably called Adrian - did neither Le Carre nor his editor notice the repetition?) Ironically, considering his reputation as the master Cold War chronicler, the fall of the Berlin Wall may have come at just the right time to prompt him to find fresh themes and settings. Michael Jayston works wonders with the occasionally threadbare material to give one of his best performances as a Le Carre narrator, which is high praise considering his many fantastic readings of Le Carre's work, and is the main reason for my high overall rating for this audiobook. He approaches the material with utter conviction and succeeds wonderfully in not only creating dozens of distinct characters but in setting a haunting tone of regret and loss that I don't think would have fully emerged from the page alone. He also deserves a medal for his sensitive treatment of what could have been an excruciatingly embarrassing sex scene in the second story, bravo!
1 of 1 people found this review helpful
A more varied and diversified story compared to Tinker Taylor of Smileys People, but still intense and thrilling. A great book!
Not a contination of the Smiley series, nor really a novel as such; more a series of vignettes neatly inserted into Smiley's back story. Most welcome in a 'hello old friend' kind of way. Michael Jayston is a brilliant narrator and seems to hit exactly the right note for Le Carre's books.
3 of 3 people found this review helpful
To call this part of the Smiley series is scraping the barrel! As others have said a set ramblings, that may or may not create a coherent whole!?
Narration as always top notch!
2 of 2 people found this review helpful