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The British Embassy in Bonn is up in arms. Her Majesty's financially troubled government is seeking admission to Europe's Common Market just as anti-British factions are rising to power in Germany. Rioters are demanding reunification, and the last thing the Crown can afford is a scandal. Then Leo Harting - an embassy nobody - goes missing with a case full of confidential files. London sends Alan Turner to control the damage, but he soon realizes that neither side really wants Leo found alive.
Set against the threat of a German-Soviet alliance, John le Carré's A Small Town in Germany is a superb chronicle of Cold War paranoia and political compromise.
©2013 John le Carré (P)2013 Penguin Audio
But I write for myself, for my own pleasure. And I want to be left alone to do it. - J.D. Salinger ^(;,;)^
"All power corrupts. The loss of power corrupts even more."
Throughout most of this early le Carré novel, I was convinced I would probably rate it three stars. It was interesting, but plodded at times. It seemed a little provincial, a bit dated, ended up being historically incorrect, and seemed almost like le Carré was writing a Henry James ghost story more than a le Carré thriller.
However, by the end I loved it. Chapter 17 (Praschko) right before the Epilogue (a conversation between Praschko, Turner and Bradfield) was absolutely genius. It was one of the most powerful chapters in any book I've come across that wasn't originally written in Russian.
Michael Jayston is an excellent narrator. Some years ago I heard this same novel read by the author. Jayston's performance is much superior, and he helps to bring the story alive. His English dialects make the characters extremely vivid. Jayston is a professional actor (he played the role of Peter Guillam in the excellent British mini-series Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy) and his ability to read life into the book's characters is very enjoyable.
Although not a part of the George Smiley/Circus series of novels, this story could certainly take place in that world. Occurring mostly in the British embassy in Bonn, West Germany, the story has a claustrophobic quality not unlike The Spy Who Came In From the Cold. Harking back to Le Carre's earlier books, this is as much of a mystery as an espionage story, and the intriguing melding of the two genres will be perfected in his later masterpiece, Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy. Class prejudice, bitter memories of the UK's past glories, fear of being caught in the middle between the extremes of America's mindless popular culture and the USSR's drive to dominate Europe, and simple human misunderstanding all play their part and make this story an examination of what drives an individual to make drastic and even self-destructive decisions.
Le Carre isn't known for his happy endings. However, I always leave his work with a feeling that I've come to know real people with real feelings and motivations. Their fates may not be happy, or even particularly deserved...but isn't life itself ambiguous?
i must preface this review by saying that I came to this straight after listening to the entire Smiley series and thoroughly enjoying all of its intricacies and Smiley himself is a great character and so I didn't quite enjoy this as much as i should perhaps. it is again well written, well narrated, well plotted etc and I enjoy the more cerebral spy novels without all the shooting and blowing things up. the mystery aspect and chess game maneuvering is great in LeCarre, but this one is a touch reminiscent of Forsythe's Odessa File near end, which came first i don't know. still enjoyed it but maybe i need to break from LeCarre for a bit and come back and get a little distance from Smiley, as I keep hoping he will somehow pop up in one of his cameo's.
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