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  • A Legacy of Spies

  • A Novel
  • By: John le Carré
  • Narrated by: Tom Hollander
  • Length: 8 hrs and 29 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 1,609
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 1,481
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 1,471

Peter Guillam, staunch colleague and disciple of George Smiley of the British Secret Service, otherwise known as the Circus, is living out his old age on the family farmstead on the south coast of Brittany when a letter from his old service summons him to London. The reason? His Cold War past has come back to claim him. Intelligence operations that were once the toast of secret London, and involved such characters as Alec Leamas, Jim Prideaux, George Smiley, and Peter Guillam himself, are to be scrutinized by a generation with no memory of the Cold War.

  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • All for England

  • By Darwin8u on 09-12-17

A Decent Legacy

Overall
5 out of 5 stars
Performance
5 out of 5 stars
Story
5 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 09-27-17

A Legacy of Spies is a decent post-mortem on the events of Le Carre's The Spy Who Came in from the Cold. Decent, but not excellent. Through Peter Guillam we get a second look at the background leading up to The Spy Who Came in from the Cold. An old, retired Guillam is brought back to London to answer inquiries concerning the tragic results of the operations in the Spy Who Came in from the Cold. Unsurprisingly, this brings up the specter of the Circus mole, cold-named "Gerald" (I'm trying to avoid spoilers) who is brought down by George Smiley in Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy.

Strengths of the novel:
1) Le Carre writes interrogation scenes extraordinarily well.
For emotional reasons and simple self preservation he does not want to reveal the details of his previous operations. The interview scenes are well written. We are able to piece together events based on Guillam's answers, the questions he's being asked, and later through reports and old telegrams he reads.
2) This work is a plausible background to The Spy Who Came in from the Cold which was not a long novel.
3) The narration by Tom Hollander is very good.

Weaknesses
1) The conclusion is not thrilling. Perhaps that cannot be helped. This work is an exploration of the effects of a Circus operation. There are no international consequences at stake (no cold war) and since most of the players are very old...well, I hate to say it, but their lives aren't worth as much. They have less life left to lose.
2) The novel waits to the end to reveal when this inquiry is taking place. But given the ages
of the characters, we can guess (early in the novel) that the inquiries in A Legacy of Spies almost certainly aren't happening in 2017. It might have been best to clarify that up front.
3) As a companion piece, this novel is reworking old ground and as such it is intended for people familiar with Le Carre''s earlier work. Furthermore, this is a moral autopsy of that fictional "history." We know that the cold war ends and that nothing anyone did or might have done in those operations would have changed the outcome for the better. This leaves us sorting out people's intentions and the conflict between national (good for England) duties versus personal duties (good for this specific person.) There are no surprising discoveries on that moral front.
On the other hand, this novel shows that the irreconcilability of such moral duties is what has made the spy world an excellent source of tragedy in John Le Carre's work rather than a source of action (except for a few brief scenes) in Ian Fleming's work.

I recommend this novel to readers who enjoyed both The Spy Who Came in from the Cold and Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy and want to revisit those stories.

5 of 6 people found this review helpful

  • Different Seasons

  • By: Stephen King
  • Narrated by: Frank Muller
  • Length: 20 hrs and 15 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 1,521
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars 1,420
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 1,409

Four gripping novellas tied together by the changing of seasons. Hope Springs Eternal - "Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption": An unjustly imprisoned convict seeks a strange and startling revenge...the basis for the Best Picture Academy Award nominee The Shawshank Redemption.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Fantastic!

  • By Robert A. Raymond on 02-14-16

2 exceptional novellas and 2 good novellas

Overall
4 out of 5 stars
Performance
5 out of 5 stars
Story
4 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 08-13-17

Would you consider the audio edition of Different Seasons to be better than the print version?

Yes, but I usually prefer audio books

What did you like best about this story?

The two novellas "Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption" and "The Body" are exceptional novellas and best reason to read "Different Seasons". And of course it is no surprise that they are among the best adapted Stephen King films ('Stand By Me' and 'Shawshank Redemption.') If you enjoy those films I think you'll appreciate learning more about the characters and their stories (everything that time does not permit in a film.) Specifically, we learn more about Red's character (played by Morgan Freeman) in 'Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption.' This story is just as much about his redemption as Andy Dufresne's. In 'The Body', we get several of Gordie Lachance's (played by Wil Wheaton) stories which show his growth as a writer. And there are notable differences in the ending that make the book a new experience. The movie and the novella are very close in dialogue, tone, and overall story arc; but the concision necessary for a 1 1/2 hour film pushes for a neater story ending than we get in the novella. I'm glad to have the opportunity to learn more about Chris Chambers and the get a better sense of how much this adventure and those friendships still affect Gordie as an adult.
Since the question concerned what I liked best, I'm ignoring "Apt Pupil" and "The Breathing Method" which are good - but not the best.

Have you listened to any of Frank Muller’s other performances before? How does this one compare?

I have listened to several of Frank Muller's performances. He is uniformly interesting as a reader. Even in moments when a characterization or accent may be a bit off there is still an underlying integrity or unity to his reading which keeps the river of words flowing. Simply put, Frank Muller is smooth. His reading is smooth and harmonious. He read books over his career through the firm Recorded Books and others. Muller was in a terrible motorcycle accident many years ago. Despite severe traumatic brain injury, he survived for a half dozen years afterwards. Some of his authors (Stephen King, John Grisham, Pat Conroy and others) held a benefit and created a fund to provide for his care.
Muller was an extraordinary talent. I hadn't listened to him for years. I experienced a strange web of connection listening to 'The Body' because of the story's omnipresent themes of memory and the fragility of life: Chris Chambers and River Phoenix, Stephen King's automobile accident and Frank Muller's motorcycle accident...

Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

No, but since it divides up neatly into four stories one could easily enjoy one story at a time if the have a long car drive (it averages to about 5 hours per story/novella.)

Any additional comments?

In an afterward, King provides an entertaining discussion of the writing and publication history of these stories. He offers a rough definition (by length, using word count) of the short story, novella, and novel and explains the difficulty in publishing novellas in the current (as of 1982 but still true today) marketplace.
He has a point and it is concerning because if outstanding novellas like Dr. Jekyll and Mr Hyde or Heart of Darkness were written today, there authors would be tempted to squeeze them into short stories or dilute them with filler until they were publishable novels.
Stephen King thinks a lot about the craft of writing and his "On Writing"
(2000) is entertaining and informative.