You want to catch the lion, first you tether the goat.
On holiday in Mykonos, Charlie wants only sunny days and a brief escape from England's bourgeois dreariness. Then a handsome stranger lures the aspiring actress away from her pals - but his intentions are far from romantic. Joseph is an Israeli intelligence officer, and Charlie has been wooed to flush out the leader of a Palestinian terrorist group responsible for a string of deadly bombings. Still uncertain of her own allegiances, she debuts in the role of a lifetime as a double agent in the "theatre of the real".
Haunting and deeply atmospheric, John le Carré's The Little Drummer Girl is a virtuoso performance and a powerful examination of morality and justice.
©2001 John Le Carre (P)2012 Penguin
A part-time buffoon and ersatz scholar specializing in BS, pedantry, schmaltz and cultural coprophagia.
What happens when a woman loves two righteous men? Two feuding nations? A woman who is struggling with both her inner and outer world; her inner and outer dialogue. ''The Little Drummer Girl'' is the second best spy novel I've ever read, but I NEVER give first prizes. Charlie is a woman who incubates in the womb of her mind the warring ideals and pitiful trails of two imperfect people(s). We all have both angels and devils in our nature and the irony is that when we try to invent one, we end up becoming the other.
I love William F. Buckley's take:
''The Little Drummer Girl'' is about spies as ''Madame Bovary'' is about adultery or ''Crime and Punishment'' about crime. Mr. le Carré easily establishes that he is not beholden to the form he elects to use. This book will permanently raise him out of the espionage league, narrowly viewed.
Jayston the narrator, gently eases us through Le Carré's foggy, nuanced narrative. The layers and levels of this novel makes this a challenging novel to narrate, but Jayston does an amazing job with it.
I probably got twice as much out of this book, listening to it being read by Michael Jayston, as I did when reading it when it was first released, nearly 30 years ago. Back then, I saw Charlie as a silly woman who had nothing to offer but her ability to pretend that she is somebody. (Her ability to act being her little drummer boy piece.) Now I see her as a woman who has some serious needs, such as being part of a great movement, or even a small dedicated group of some kind, and to please an audience with her abilities, especially in the raw nerves theatre of the real, , and even, perhaps, to be punished or abused. It isn't simple realistic, or logical...but whose needs are?
The beginning of the book finds her in what seems to be a somewhat long standing relationship with an unpleasant and hard drinking fellow actor who physically and emotionally abuses her, as well as bullying her with his left wing politics. Her pretense of being tough is just that, and her use of lies and elaborations to create a past of sadness and disappointment reveal her total lack of dedication to both the truth and the worthiness of her real life. She is a subject who is ready to be manipulated and molded to do the bidding's of the Israeli agents who have researched and targeted her to be their non-Semitic agent amongst the Palestinian terrorists they are attempting to infiltrate. Charlie is set up using a honey trap, with an Israeli agent she believes to be a Palestinian terrorist she calls Joseph. It is Joseph who will both lure her in and control her through an emotional bait and switch.How you view Charlie,, and who in this book you most identify with, may have a big influence on just how you regard the actions taken by Charlie's handlers.
Charlie believes she is political, but what she is, is a romantic. She wants to love and be loved by a man who has a great, righteous belief and commitment, and who has an effect on the world. If she becomes part of his life, she too will be part of a larger than life story.Problem is that she wants to love Joseph, while she is pretending to have loved a terrorist from the other side. Her ongoing interior dialogues about and with both men don't help to ground her to any certainty or reality, while events keep hurtling her forward, to a future where nothing good is going to happen, and where she must ultimately face the fact that while she was risking her vary life, this was never her fight at all.
Add to this very interesting individual struggle the subplot or perhaps little nagging question of where and who the state of Israel wants to ultimately be; a moral voice as God's chosen people in the Middle East, or a military state, securing its own future, regardless of the methods and who they trample and how the world perceives them. Think it is a timely question?
I think this is a fascinating book and well worth the listen. I also love the film version, which LeCarre hated...but nevertheless, I recommend both to you. If you have ever been involved with a cult of any kind, and have undergone the subtle brainwashing techniques of certain religious groups, with their "welcome to the family," techniques, or even the pee in your pants abusive techniques of a group like of Erhardt Standaard Training, you may see something familiar in Charlie's attempts to fight off the force of personalities she comes against....and then her giving over to it and going with the flow. It is very interesting, to say the least, and leaves you with much to think about.
LeCarre sure knows his stuff, as the state of Charlie at the end makes plain.
I can't help but think about Vanessa Redgrave, while listening to this. Remembering those photos of her posing in the back of a truck, holding a Kuloshnikov, and surrounded by Palestinian soldiers, I have to think this book had to be referencing her, to some degree.
About Michael Jayston; he is so good at this narration, he tells the tail without ever becoming the source of interest. He carries the action along with subtle drama. I can't think of anyone who could do a better job. One thing worth mentioning, is that this recording, having been done so much more recently than most of the Smiley books, has a sound quality that is wonderful. There is none of that sort of recorded in a cave sound of the early Blackstone books. That clarity makes it an added pleasure to listen to, and well worth a credit!!
I've waited a long time for The Little Drummer Girl to be made available on Audible. Here it is, and I'm not disappointed. I can't imagine a better performance of the book than that provided here by Michael Jayston. Just superb, the whole package.
No, I would never consider an audio edition to be better then a print edition.
In this book, mr le carré switches from the cold war to the middle east and I love his description of this really complicated political situation.
Michael Jayston is great as always, I love his voice.
When she was in the camp taking a look at life from their point of view and feeling like she could be satisfied and useful living with these people
Never would have attempted, no time to sit and read
Again, the camp
For my money this is the best of the post-Smiley books. It is not only sophisticated in its understanding of the moral ambiguities and contradictions of the ongoing -- no end in sight -- conflict in the Middle East, it is a compelling psychological study of a young woman on the fringes of left-wing politics who is drawn -- more accurately kidnapped -- into a plot to thwart a terrorist bombing. Charlie is a theater actress of only modest success, which is to say she makes a living but only barely. She is the quintessential anti-heroine of the story. Sexually promiscuous and co-dependent, an abused girlfriend (of the cretinous "Long Al," a fellow actor), drawn to but also repelled by the brutal logic of terrorism and counter-terrorism, and finally an accidental if not unwilling savior of innocent lives. This is also a love story, counterposing Charlie and "Joseph," a Mossad operative who despite his legendary status as the coolest, toughest spy among the best of both types, is fraught with existential doubt about the consequences of meeting violence with more violence. Le Carre's prose is, as always, superlative. Little Drummer Girl stands up to anything ever written in this genre, including Graham Greene at the top of his game. Michael Jayston's narration is a perfect match for Le Carre's prose.
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