trying to see the world with my ears
I love Laurie's audiobook narration, i love House and Bertie and Jeeves, etc. but can Laurie write on top of all that? Yes! This is silly in a few places, but laugh out loud funny in many others - and unlike me, Lauire doesn't need to fall back on cliches. This is cleverly plotted and well-wriiten, and is great comic relief if, like me, you read too many espionage or police procedurals.
Written and set pre 9/11 but after the first Gulf war, it's in the style of a "Wag the Dog" but original. More than make laughs, this novel makes a statement.
The listen was a little violent for my cozy tastes, with action and death and detail about the guns used, but it wasn't over the top. I suppose this would give the novel a wider appeal.
Prebble delivers his usual excellent narration. The only thing that could have made this a better listen would be narration by Laurie himself. Now that he's hung up the stethoscope, I hope he picks up a pen AND audiobook microphone again.
Although this is didactic Le Carre -- a cautionary tale of war and intelligence gone corporate -- it’s also a very exciting listen. Le Carre's plot, prose, character, and dialogue are superior to any other espionage novelist I've encountered, and he’s at his best when creating ethical dilemmas (though any including defense contractors and lobbyist-types are less morally ambiguous than in some of his classic novels!)
I loved loved loved being read to by Le Carre! The narration is actually excellent once your ear tunes into him, except for one questionable production choice, an incident of which pops up in the audio sample provided: A "handler" when on a telephone echoes like bad long distance circa cold war landlines. This is not characteristic of the listen as a whole, however.
As a novel this may not stand among Le Carre’s finest, but as a contemporary espionage yarn it can’t be beat. There are some now standard le Carre characters and political stances, but what delightful dialogue, character observation and sharp turns-of-phrases. Graham Greene would have loved this entertainment.
This novel reminds me of why I love reading. Having the author tell me the story and "turn his own phrase" and "bite" his own dialogue is icing.
Greene details the mundane, human workings (physical and psychological) of a small group of MI6 workers during the detente years of the Cold War. These civil servants "listen" to Southern Africa, including apartheid era South Africa. All have to some degree or none a personal life. The main character is married to a former "contact" he worked in a South Africa township.
The novel is very British in setting and tone. An antidote to James Bond fantasy, it doesn't have even the physical action/suspense of a Lecarre. But magnify Lecarre's intense characterization and psychological tension to come close to Greene's espionage. The psychological tension builds very slowly until the last third of the novel. It's not as politicized as Greene's Quiet American, but like that novel, it concerns morality and amorality of choice, as individuals and collectivities. Irony abounds.
Don't download this for "happily ever after" mindless escapism; however, it is an engrossing listen, and to my ears, one of the best narrated audiobooks I've heard.