A corporate lawyer from the House of Single & Single is shot dead on a Turkish hillside for crimes that he does not understand. A children’s entertainer in Devon is hauled to his local bank late at night to explain a monumental influx of cash. A Russian freighter is arrested in the Black Sea....
The logical connection of these events and more is one of the many pleasures of this story of love, deceit, family and the triumph of humanity.
©2010 David Cornwell (P)2014 Bolinda Publishing Pty Ltd.
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"Perfect voice for the master's stories"
John Le Carre writes quite amazing stories - about flawed innocents with pure intentions caught up in the mendacities of the real word. There is something about Michael Jayston's voice, the slightly jaded world-weariness, that makes it quite the perfect vehicle for Le Carre's writing.
"A good listen"
Le Carre rarely disappoints, and this one, while not one of his very best, is still a gripping yarn, with great characters and chilling realism. Michael Jayston is the perfect reader for his books, and brings the characters alive without interfering with the narrative.
"A very angry book"
Yes - see below
Brock - less mannered than the others, though still a type and probably a descendant of George Smiley.
Yes - just as good as the others.
It already has follow-ups.
Oliver Single, the hero of John Le Carré’s fourth post-Cold War novel, seems, if anything, more troubled by internal demons than George Smiley, though probably not Alec Leamas. He is damaged by disillusion as he is drawn into Single & Single and suffers, as do many of Le Carré’s heroes, from his public school up-bringing. Oliver generates in himself and many readers, I expect, considerable outrage and without even the ambiguous moral high ground of Western values that Le Carré occasionally defends in his earlier fiction. He finds himself a stranger in his own country and turns double-agent within his father’s business empire. Single & Single is in the business of investment and asset and portfolio management in the world of holding companies, usually off-shore and sometimes owned by foundations. It is the business of money and of dirty traders with smart addresses. “Everyone’s a trader”, someone remarks.
Le Carré is remarkably good at “showing”, rather than “telling”, to use Henry James’s distinction, and the interconnections between people, places, events, and activities are only bit-by-bit revealed. The significance of the shocking opening on a very hot Turkish hillside is left in front of the reader until, in time, its significance becomes apparent. There is also a good deal of narrative movement from past to present in Oliver’s mind, the former paradoxically signaled by a switch to the present tense. This device works very effectively, both in plot terms and as a way to reveal the struggles within Oliver.
Critics and reviewers often make a sound case for Le Carré’ transcending the spy-novel and the variants upon it that he, more than anyone, has gone on to develop since the Berlin Wall came down. There is real despair in his fiction and his narrative techniques are very accomplished and go well beyond generic norms. And, for a while, his characterization was quite subtle, as an interior life intersected with the protocols and plots of the thriller. However, at some point – probably before “Single and Single” – Le Carré’s characterization becomes mannered and over-formulaic, in that motifs from one novel are transferred without much modification into another novel. The hero’s decency is evident when he “pads” around a room like a big friendly bear; he has to “kill” or otherwise deal with a father or father-figure; and he is desperately sentimental about certain close relatives or friends. Oliver’s feelings for his daughter, Carmen, rise in pitch the more irresponsible he is as a father. Sentimentality is often a sign that a character wants to have his cake even as he eats it. When the main character slips into caricature (admittedly, a caricature of Le Carré’s own inimical making), other characters suffer as well and we know who someone is the moment he or she speaks. Subject and verb get dropped from too many sentences. Villains speak in an extraordinary mix of versions of English. These are balanced by honourable foreigners who have their own odd way of speaking. Women are abandoned wives or brave but rather physically-awkward comrades who abandon themselves to the foolishness of the hero (in this novel, a Customs Officer called Aggy) or landladies who hold the fort for the hero.
Quite possibly, Le Carré is so incensed by post-Cold War activities and by Blair- and post-Blair Britain, in particular, that he is looking for the most direct way to castigate it while still writing fiction. “Single & Single” is a justifiably angry book of markets being flooded by awful products with the direct or indirect involvement of the establishment.
"single but not alone"
a fine work. was a good read, even though le Caree has explored his preoccupation of the father&son mire previously and i think more successfully in some of his other novels. M. Jayston, the resident narrator of this author, just carries on, delivers the goods and getting finer with age.
"Interesting characters and a story........hurray!"
One of my favourite authors, in the top twenty to date.
The initial description of Mr Single Jnr thro the eyes of his well depicted land lady.
Oliver approaching and gaining entrance to his fathers office and explaining his presence to his fathers gatekeeper.
I felt that empathy was extracted from me for every character .... even the gangsters with the exception of Mr Single Snr. Highlights how quickly fortunes may change one way or another.
This put me in mind of "A perfect spy" ~ one of my favourites. It was delicious to slip into le Carre's world again. The Balloon man is an inspired creation.
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