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The Naive and Sentimental Lover

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560 pages, Paperback

First published January 1, 1971

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About the author

John le Carré

394 books8,245 followers
John le Carré, the pseudonym of David John Moore Cornwell (born 19 October 1931 in Poole, Dorset, England), was an English author of espionage novels. Le Carré had resided in St Buryan, Cornwall, Great Britain, for more than 40 years, where he owned a mile of cliff close to Land's End.

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5 stars
215 (13%)
4 stars
370 (23%)
3 stars
543 (35%)
2 stars
270 (17%)
1 star
153 (9%)
Displaying 1 - 30 of 143 reviews
Profile Image for Quirkyreader.
1,536 reviews43 followers
May 3, 2018
This is another book that I can't give a rating to because it falls into the category of "What in the heck did I just read"?

So far LeCarre's straight fiction novels remind me of John Fowles's writing. And this book in particular reminded me of Fowles's story "The Magus".

Aside from being a befuddling story, it was very well written and worth giving a read. That way you can form your own opinion of the story.

Lastly, this book would be quite comfortable amongst other "cult" fiction stories.
Profile Image for John Farebrother.
114 reviews27 followers
December 11, 2017
An excellent book. Le Carré fans will be nonplussed when they read this, there isn't a spy or a civil servant on the horizon. It's the author's only departure from the genre that he has made his own, and in his own words it "isn't everyone's cup of tea, to say the least". In fact there is hardly any plot: the book deals with an encounter between an eccentric writer, his girlfriend and a businessman going through a midlife crisis. But the prose is superb: the story is told through a series of subjective implications, hints, and half-facts, which show Le Carré's descriptive skills at their finest. As such it is reminiscent of The Honourable Schoolboy, but here he gives free rein to his mastery of the English language. After the book was discredited by reviewers, he seems to have abandoned any attempt to indulge in writing prose for prose's sake, which in my view has made some of his later novels rather formulaic.
Profile Image for Larou.
330 reviews50 followers
April 24, 2013
This is not, like I have seen claimed in several places, le Carré’s first novel that is not a spy thriller (there is also A Murder of Quality, which although it features George Smiley as its protagonist is not about espionage at all, but is a murder mystery) but his first (and possibly only, I have not read them all yet) non-genre novel. It also seems the least liked of his novels, and while it would be easy to dismiss that as fans complaining that they are not getting their customary fare, I think there might be rather more to it in this case.

The basic story of The Naive and Sentimental Lover is a familiar one – it’s about a bourgeois male who is successful in his life but still suffers from its essential emptiness and finds himself seduced by the bohemian lifestyle (represented here by a married couple rather than the more customary single femme fatale) to which he eventually falls victim. And in the beginning, Le Carré’s novel does indeed look like a British retelling of Professor Unrat (by Heinrich Mann, most famous in its movie version, Der Blaue Engel, with Marlene Dietrich and Emil Jannings). Things, and the reader’s assessment of them, start to change, though; and while Aldo Cassidy, the novel’s protagonist, appears to be the most unlikable of Le Carré’s characters so far (and that is saying something), by the end of The Naive and Sentimental Lover we might still not like him much but do feel some sympathy for him, while his Bohemian temptation, the writer Shamus and his wife Helen, has been thoroughly demystified and it is not all clear who in the course of events has fallen victim to who.

In fact, very few things are clear by the end of The Naive and Sentimental Lover, and it appears that the world of everyday life, of pram fastening design and business, of married life and extra-marital affairs, of bourgeoisie and bohemia is coloured in just as many shades of grey and possibly even murkier than the world of international espionage. With spy novels, there at least is some basic conflict and some sense that things matter - even if both should get debunked in the course of the narrative, they do give it some shape. And while it is perhaps unfair to compare The Naive and Sentimental Lover to something the novel does not at all aspire to be, to me it seems that shape is precisely what is missing from it. Shape, not structure – that the novel has, Le Carré is too good (and too controlled) a writer to just go rambling, and so we get a novel that is basically divided into three parts, each of them with the emphasis of another of its three protagonists (although Aldo’s remains the central consciousness throughout). But the novel’s events, the descriptions and character portraits hang slack on that framework, like clothes several sizes too big for their wearer.

The novel just seems to lack a purpose, a sense of going anywhere – it might have been a better book if Le Carré had gone all the way and let Aldo descent into ruin and madness, but in the end, stodgy English middle-class hypocrisy wins out and Aldo basically gets on with his life much like he did before – which is in all likelihood a point Le Carré wanted to make, probably even a valid point, but not one that makes for a good novel, at least not if one stays mainly with a realistic approach.

That is not to say that The Naive and Sentimental Lover does not have its flashes of brilliance, like Aldo’s business dealings which range from the satirical to the absurd, or the half-hallucinatory excesses of Aldo’s and Shamus’ trip to Paris – indeed the novel seems to be best where Le Carré not only leaves the spy thriller genre but goes a step farther and leaves the accustomed ground of realistic fiction altogether. He always returns to the solid ground of realism soon, though, and as a result the novel becomes dreary again; I for one wish it had stayed in the exotic climates of a somewhat more modernist approach for fiction longer, I probably would have enjoyed it more then.
79 reviews1 follower
January 27, 2014
I rarely abandon books, and when I do, it is usually within the first chapter, and generally because I dislike the genre or the author's style irritates me. I persevered with this novel for almost 200 pages because I am trying to read all the Le Carres in order, and felt I needed to finish this in order to 'earn' Tinker, Tailor. However, I hated it so much that I felt I had to give up before it irrevocably coloured my view of Le Carre's work. My primary problem with the novel was that it just seemed so pointless, leading up to nothing (I know I didn't finish, but I flicked onwards and read other reviews). I have never accepted the snobiness against 'genre' fiction and in favour of 'literary' fiction, when this example has no plot! The characters are universally unlikeable, the women especially so, really emphasising Le Carre's weak female characters. The most generous interpretation I can take of this is that our 'hero', Aldo, is having a breakdown and hallucinates Shamus (a cringeworthy semi-pun) and Helen as manifestations of his suppressed wild side. I could not connect with the irresponsible Bohemians or the over privilaged rich guys, and I was just left feeling bored and irritated. Read it for completism, not pleasure.
Profile Image for Dillwynia Peter.
330 reviews63 followers
January 12, 2015
The title is typically Iris Murdoch as too the themes - how will Mr Average deal with people outside his norm. And here lies the rub because altho this book is Murdoch co-authors with Joyce, it is in fact a novel by Le Carre; and judging by the comments & reviews the masses have told him he can only write about espionage.

The book has become quite dated & is very much a product of what I consider the bleakest period in 20th Century England - the late 60s & 70s. It might all be Carnaby Street & The Beatles, but it was also claustrophobic Coronation Street and Heath & Wilson. England was missing out on the prosperity that was obvious in America and even its colonies like South Africa and Australia. It was time of watching the European Common Market & dithering about joining or not.

So, we have a man entering middle age & wondering what he is missing. The excitement of starting a new business is wearing off and life with his wife and her friends have lost their shine, with unrelenting drabness stretching to death. Enter two bohemians and our hero gets caught up in their madness. These two are in the wrong age, and so it would seem ludicrous now, but judging from authors such as Anthony Powell and Evelyn Waugh, they did exist up to the closing of the 2nd World War.

The hi-jinx are very Joycean in their hallucinogenic telling. I think current audiences would find it hard for people to behave this way on alcohol alone, but again, based on the likes of Joyce, this is not that far fetched. Shamus the writer is a complex manic depressive and narcissist, and at the climax shows how conventional, even patriarchal some of his personal views are.

The ending is somewhat of a let down, as we return to a level of suburban averageness: it is all right to play around, but one has responsibilities & must adhere to them.

This book is surprisingly autobiographical. Le Carre would divorce his wife the year of publication, and he knew a novelist very similar to Shamus: a Scotsman who wrote kitchen sink plays and novels (as discussed in the novel as very "modern", altho also very dull). He appears to be a bad boy, who died young of cirrhosis of the liver.

I was surprised the censors allowed the swearing in the book - there are some shocking 1971 words in there - and I was fortunate to have a '71 imprint, so they weren't added later.

If you are a fan of Murdoch, then you will enjoy this book, but if you are a typical fan of LeCarre, don't bother, you will givei t the one star, like others of your ilk. I for one, am pleased Le Carre wrote to suit himself and not the masses.
Profile Image for Manny.
Author 30 books14k followers
August 5, 2011
There's a passage from this book I've often wondered about:
"First there's foreplay," said Helen, speaking as though she were ordering dinner, "then there's consumation, and finally there's afterglow."
As far as Helen's concerned, then, afterglow is just an integral part of sex. But not everyone agrees. For example, Galen of Pergamum seems equally certain of his facts when he says:
Post coitum omnia animal triste est.
I find the contrast rather striking. Is it the case that some people experience afterglow, and others post coital sadness? Or do you get afterglow after good sex, and post coital sadness after bad sex? Or could they conceivably be different ways to describe the same thing?

My personal theory is closest to (b), but I'm surprised I haven't seen this discussed more.
Profile Image for Laura.
6,908 reviews565 followers
September 22, 2020
I've read 60% of this book. Even so, I couldn't finish it!

3* Call for the Dead (George Smiley #1)
3* Smiley's People
2* The Constant Gardener
1* A Delicate Truth
2* The Secret Pilgrim
3* Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy
3* The Looking Glass War
3* The Russia House
4* O Alfaiate do Panamá
5* The Spy Who Came In from the Cold
2* The Naive and Sentimental Lover
TR Our Kind of Traitor
TR A Small Town in Germany
Profile Image for Wade.
38 reviews
April 24, 2013
I haven't read any other Le Carre books and perhaps that is why I liked this book so much. It is unnecessarily long, but is undeniably gripping. It's as charming and funny as it is bizarre.
My interpretation of it is that Helen, Shamus and Aldo are the three Freudian parts of the human psyche. Shamus - wild, child like and pleasure focused - is the id. The calm, rational and balanced Helen would be the ego. And Aldo, who never takes any risks, loves his creature comforts and always minds his P's and Q's is of course the superego. The question is can each of these wildly different elements truly ever be married together? Or are they too different to even be complimentary?
Profile Image for Pascale.
1,174 reviews44 followers
July 5, 2019
A bit of a slog to read, and yet undeniably a strong and even haunting book. While the episodes covering Aldo's drunken escapades with Shamus were way too long for my taste, I never contemplated dropping the book, because of its fantastic prose and sense of personal urgency. The son of a con man (Old Hugo), Aldo has made a success of his life as an entrepreneur in the baby pram business. Unhappily married to Sandra, Aldo falls under the spell of another con artist, Shamus, a novelist who is very much a has-been by the time Aldo meets him, squatting a luxurious rural estate Aldo covets to complete his transformation from self-made man to gentleman farmer. Shamus and his gorgeous wife Helen get under Aldo's skin and he finds himself unable to deny them anything, even when Shamus drags him into embarrassing and costly scrapes. The worse Shamus behaves, the more Aldo believes in his genius. Eventually Aldo sets up the couple in some sort of a penthouse, as if they were his mistress. Yet in spite of his homoerotic bond with Shamus, Aldo does become Helen's lover. The finale takes place in a country Le Carré knows intimately, Switzerland. There Shamus performs a mock-wedding ceremony between Aldo and Helen, with some of Aldo's bourgeois friends as unwilling witnesses. Shamus then once more extracts a hefty sum from Aldo, before the new couple leaves on their honeymoon. However, the relationship between Aldo and Helen breaks down even before they reach the railway station, and finally Shamus and Helen get back together and leave Aldo to resume his pampered, empty existence. The whole thing is related as if it was an extended nightmare, and the little I know about Le Carré's dodgy father Ronald Cornwell makes me thing that this book has a lot to do with him. I can't say I enjoyed this book which is exclusively peopled with more or less repulsive characters, but it's powerful stuff nonetheless.
January 1, 2013
I have read most of le Carre's work and this is the only one I have really hated. I was aware that it was a departure from his usual spy/cold war espionage genre but I had decided to re-read all his books in the order in which they were written.
I found this book almost impenetrable. It veered around so much and was so apparently hallucinogenic it felt the way I imagine an acid trip would feel.
One of the main characters, Seamus, is one of the most unpleasantly manipulative characters you will ever encounter. He seems to be modelled on Dylan Thomas but without Thomas's genius and he is simply egotistical and thoroughly annoying. Very hard to believe that the plodding businessman Cassidy would fall totally under his spell (and that of Seamus' nympho spouse Helen who is equally unattractive).
I kept wanting to leave the book unfinished but I kept persevering hoping it would improve. Alas it did not and I finished it with the feeling that I had wasted precious hours of my time and felt quite soiled by this truly awful read.
If you want to read the total le Carre output then get it. Otherwise don't bother.
Ps I wish le Carre would give more depth to his female characters.
Profile Image for Sophie.
173 reviews6 followers
May 16, 2018
Parce que c'est un livre de John Le Carré, je me suis forcée à lire ce livre qui est d'un ennui assez remarquable.
Et finalement, j'abandonne après avoir lu plus de la moitié du livre. C'est déjà un exploit d'avoir lu 380 pages en me forçant.
L'histoire est quasi inexistante, les personnages sont déplaisants et il ne se passe pas grand chose.
Je vais plutôt me replonger dans ses livres d'espionnage.
Profile Image for Spencer Rich.
133 reviews17 followers
October 31, 2022
Actually didn't finish. This falls into the Garp/Rabbit category of middle-aged middle class dudes, their infidelities, etc. Like Irving and Updike, it's got some humor and pleasantries, but I am just not into this kind of fiction. Glad that he dove into the spy genre with aplomb.
Profile Image for Maureen.
726 reviews89 followers
August 6, 2008
The only novel that LeCarre has written outside of the espionage genre, The Naive and Sentimental Lover is an exploration of the nature of love and obsession. The main character, Aldo Cassidy, is a stolidly successful businessman. When he goes to Somerset to look at house he is considering buying, he meets a couple who are squatting there: Shamus and Helen.

Shamus is emerging as a successful novelist, while Helen's main attribute is her beauty. In a complete reversal of his usual obedience to the mores of society, Aldo falls in love with them both. While he is under their spell, he becomes enchanted with a way of life that is very different from his own.

LeCarre wrote this book after the breakup of his first marriage. There is some evidence to indicate that it is at least in part autobiographical. Although it is a departure from his usual backdrop of the world of spies, this novel explores many of the same interior themes, and stands alone as the work of a masterful writer.
Profile Image for Jeanne.
738 reviews
June 3, 2012
While totally different from le Carre's usual spy novels,he still presents interesting characters & exotic locations. He makes full use of the double entendre and the writing is filled with innuendoes...great fun. One can't help smiling at Cassidy's naivety as he befriends a pair of strange bedfellows and questions his earlier existence. What follows is an absolute romp. Very entertaining.
Profile Image for Mel Horne.
246 reviews1 follower
May 4, 2012
I read this many years ago and it has stayed with me all this time! I found it disturbing , liberating , sad and I am still not sure I understood it all ! Those Jaguar Drivers and Gerrads Crossers have a lot to answer for! I think I will have to revisit it .
Profile Image for Phillip Frey.
Author 13 books24 followers
August 7, 2012
This is such a well-written book that has nothing to do with spies, as most of le Carre's do. This book has to do with love, seduction, and the human condition. Something le Carre appears to know a lot about.
1 review1 follower
August 24, 2019
I’ve never quit a book before finishing it in my life ... until now. This is quite possibly the worst book I have ever read
Profile Image for Ross.
190 reviews2 followers
September 17, 2022
A bizarre outlier from the many books I have read by Le Carré. This might have been a pleasant change, but in this work Le Carré is not a shadow of his usual brilliance. It wasn’t easy to get through the more than 500 pages of drivel.
Profile Image for Zach Hiroms.
56 reviews
August 6, 2023
I was expecting a book about spies or even a singular spy, but to my surprise, this book had almost no mention of spies or even spying. NONETHELESS, I did enjoy this book quite a bit. I would not let the lack of espionage dissuade you from reading this entry from Le Carre.
Profile Image for Ludo.
61 reviews
November 24, 2022
Le Carre's only non spy book, tells of a threesome between a very vanilla/risk averse businessman and a couple of artists. Mirror's the author's own experiences. Very nice descriptive language, and emotionally touching, but drags on a bit.
Profile Image for Andy Pandy.
157 reviews1 follower
April 16, 2021
This book is haunting as it is just about his only non-espionage, non-thriller.

Aldo Cassidy, the main character, is presented as a straight man to the wild and crazy guy I talk about below. And yet through him a great deal about the ennui of successful career and settled life gets explored. I feel that he must be a vehicle for Cornwell to express his own doldrums of all sorts.

But it is the secondary character, Shamus, who is written to steal the show. Forgive the binaries, this is just how Shamus comes across: one of the more annoying, fascinating, fun, obnoxious, relevant, and irrelevant characters I have ever read. Never too pretentious, I suppose. More so, he is intense. Bloody heck, he only pretends to be Irish, though all the time swilling enough whiskey for an entire Dublin pub on a karaoke Friday night. He certainly has an instinct not to get himself slowed down with draught beer sloshing around in him. By the way, the name would normally be spelled as Seamus. So he is, yes, a sham. What a fecking sham. Shamus remains so even in his hilarious moments exposing the English for their self-consciousness and staid conventions. The point of him is to mess with Aldo and us.

And you know Cornwell has him saying and doing the wildest, contradictory things: squatting in manor homes up for sale, calling Aldo"lover" incessantly, liberally enjoying Aldo's largess and spending account, encouraging then discouraging the tentative dalliance between Aldo and Shamus' lady Helen, commandeering Aldo on his trip to Paris, disappearing for long periods (always reappearing with a flourish), suddenly attacking Aldo and others, even performing a marriage ceremony for Aldo with Helen at Aldo's chalet in Switzerland. Buoyant mood always comes before a huge crash in which Shamus disavows everyone and everything. Throughout the novel, Shamus acts out and Aldo tentatively copies him. Is this self expression or destruction? Not sure. Actually, yes, I am, it is more of the latter. The antics can only be written during and situated in a time before real awareness of mental health conditions. Shamus drinks like a fish on his manic highs but I don't think anyone does any drugs, strangely. Even pot. Fear and Loathing this is not.

Actually, what this is, is a novel of a twisted love triangle, of an insufferably dated and sexist tortured writer character who also says some of the wittiest and worst things I've seen: (paraphrasing) 'it's not what you give in life but what you take,' a reference to Aldo's family meals as honourary members of the family themselves, rudely naming Aldo's wife 'the bosscow,' swiping at the 'Gerrard's Crossers' and 'many too many' out there (encompassing everybody but him who work for a living and have to show up somewhere without a dubious beret and leather jacket combo- I picture a Che Guevara wannabe), an apparently rigid belief that God is embodied in a cab driver named Flaherty in County Cork or Kerry.

Cornwell writes so beautifully, imagines the human condition with such vividness, that even a bizarre, manic and yet strangely square, incomplete, story attacking the conventions of those who have jobs, homes, families, normal wardrobes - through Cassidy's inner journey and Shamus' flouting - comes off all right.

It really does, somehow. If you absolutely love Cornwell's writing, especially keeping in mind that he passed away recently, it is a must read. Because of how exceedingly different it is from the George Smiley canon, if nothing else. I believe that great writers get to be goofy like this, and get away with it, but only because they're great.
Profile Image for Feliks.
496 reviews
August 31, 2016
A surprising and pleasurable one-off read from--of all the Queen's most unlikely subjects I could name here--none other than espionage kingpin, John LeCarre. Yes, that's right. John leCarre wrote this sweet, awkward, sheepish, contemporary modern romance novel. Why? Does anyone know? Has he ever explained it? Has anyone ever asked him? Would we believe any explanation he might provide for this weird experiment?

It's rather like something one of his own covert characters might do in one of his more typical thrillers. A bestselling genre novelist --someone who's name was on everyone's lips at the time--suddenly diverts from his award-winning and cold-blooded formula to deliver some pyrrhic romantic gesture? To person or persons unknown? Maybe he did it for himself. Maybe he did it for his friends or his family or his college. Maybe he did it for his public; or to make the world a better place. He certainly didn't do it for his publisher.

But it seems to stand up for itself, thank you very much. Maybe it isn't LeC's best-selling work. It's still written from the heart, for reasons best known only to the author; and it needs no defending against anyone but his commercial-minded business partners.

For the rest of us, it is a tender, often amusing, wistful rumination on love and sex and loneliness and manhood. It goes to show what I've always stated: LeCarre is one of Britain's finest post-war novelists whatever genre he might choose to write in.

Ultimately this odd title of his, is a fun and touching remembrance to confused, drizzly England in the 60s where you could still see Bowler hats and umbrellas and those black taxis amid all the rising mods and rockers and the Sloane Rangers and all the beaded curtains and bell-bottoms and hip-hugger fashions.

I hope LeCarre had as much fun writing it as I had reading it.
16 reviews
March 23, 2023
John le Carré is my favorite writer but this book is not his best. The writing is superb, the dialogues are brilliant, but the story itself is not convincing. It is part fantasy, a bad trip or a nightmare, and in part a comment on living free, live for the art, and egoism. Some interesting characters show up, and in Cassidy (who is at the center of the story) the evil of ‘letting things happen’ as a guiding principle is painted well, but the others, especially Shamus, are too weird or too much a caricature to make an impression. Just above 3 stars.
Profile Image for Karl Marx S.T..
Author 9 books53 followers
October 24, 2012
John le Carré is best known for his disturbing and hunting spy thrillers, for its insights and exciting twist that propelled him in the company of foremost English authors. Although this one can’t be categorize as one of Mr. le Carré’s thrillers, this one still contains his exciting narratives and insightful prose that makes it readable. When I’m on the verge of convincing myself that the novel gets boring and just my respect for the author makes me read this thick novel, then I get interested again on what will happen.

The novel describes about the agony of Aldo Cassidy; a man caught between choices, between two sides of his paradoxical nature, his triumph and pain and how he enjoys his life by enjoying others company. How he assesses himself of the choices he makes about his family and its effects and how he becomes the naïve and sentimental lover. Most readers I guess would find this particular title boring. But in the weeks I’ve spend my hours on reading this one, I got to experienced living an extravagant life of a middle-aged man that I am sure I will never lived. The ending is a bit of moving that I suspect the protagonist suffers from being an unreliable narrator. Well, for a novel to make you think like that makes it just more captivating. I’m ready for more of his thrillers.
Profile Image for Dalton.
342 reviews6 followers
September 2, 2022
I’ve read the bulk of John Le Carré’s books at this point in time, but I had not heard much about The Naïve and Sentimental Lover. After some research, the negative initial reviews and the departure from the espionage genre intrigued me. I was pleasantly surprised reading this. The prose of Le Carré’s is as strong as ever here, and the characters are as morally grey as would be seen in other Le Carré’s outings. The only difference is the lack of urgency in the story. While Le Carré’s novels are not high octane thrill rides, there is still propulsion. Here, that is lacking. That’s not a major problem for me, given the fascinating and ever changing character dynamics that keep the story moving, but it could have enhanced the read. While I understand some finding the book slow and the ending unsatisfying, I believe it’s perfectly in line with other of his books and offers not only a well-thought critique of capitalism and the “middle class script,” but a compelling character study of fairly devious but always interesting figures. A bit long for what all is being told, Le Carré’s story of debauchery, marital strife, and the allure and dangers of a bohemian lifestyle more than warrants to be alongside some of Le Carré’s others great books.
Profile Image for Tom Marcinko.
112 reviews14 followers
December 10, 2012
Strangest book by this author I’ve seen so far. I knew it wasn’t a spy novel. A very British thing where the strait-laced character meets a couple of wild bohemians who change his life. I didn’t like the bohemians, didn’t see the attraction. But I liked the strait-laced guy. By turns boring, confusing, curious, insightful, and hilarious.

What a weird alternative career JLC might have had, if this book had been a bigger hit, which I assume it was not.

"…but facts about him, like facts about God, were hard to come by."

‘We haven’t spoke for a week.’
The old man rounded on him.
‘What do you mean, haven’t spoken for a week? Jesus, I went months with your bloody mother. Months.'

'Mummy hoped they would stay in Afghanistan for ever, it would serve them right for going there in the first place.'

'…sometimes the only way to punish our parents is to imitate them.'

'He appeared to have a way of handling women which caused them no offence, like Sandra with dogs.'

'Shooting on station property was absolutely forbidden, he was saying; it was doubly forbidden to foreigners.'

1,006 reviews14 followers
June 20, 2012
Errrrr! It is very difficult to know what to make of this. I am a seasoned Le Carré reader and have my own categorisation of Le Carré books. Early novels (post a Murder of Quality) are action/office spy novels with Le Carré's magical take on incompetence. Then follows the Karla trilogy and, finally, we have the post-wall thrillers with their idosyncratic heroes. This novel from 1971 has the elements of the later novels (idosyncratic hero) but with no real plot. There are no spies, no thrills and initially my disappointment was indicating that 2 stars was the way to score it. But, Le Carré's prose sparkles and the book becomes a compulsive read, even though it made no sense at all to me and irritated me beyond measure. It's Le Carré but not as we generally know him and worth a read for the sheer pleasure of his prose and characterisation. Brilliantly readable, but so unrewarding.
Profile Image for Andy Deemer.
188 reviews10 followers
September 18, 2021
Not sure that I loved it four stars… it wasn’t the easiest novel, but it was wonderful and weird and fun and rude and awkward. And yet at times I absolutely hated it; narcissistic, wasteful, meandering. But the characters were so fantastic, so wonderful. Scenes with the father are brilliant and dark - they reek of Cornwall Sr anecdotes, like sneak previews of Rick Pym in A Perfect Spy. I’m sure they’re Le Carre’s memories. I’m glad I read it, but I’m also glad I saved it for one of the last ones.
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