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Publisher's Summary

Penguin presents the unabridged downloadable audiobook edition of A Legacy of Spies by John le Carré, read by Tom Hollander. This is the first novel in over 25 years to feature George Smiley, le Carré's most beloved character.

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 scrutinised under disturbing criteria by a generation with no memory of the Cold War and no patience with its justifications.

Interweaving past with present so that each may tell its own intense story, John le Carré has spun a single plot as ingenious and thrilling as the two predecessors on which it looks back: The Spy Who Came in from the Cold and Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy.

©2017 John le Carré (P)2017 Penguin Books Ltd.

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A foot note to a legacy

The entire novel reads like a wrapping up of a legacy, whether it's John lecarre's or George smiley's is not a mutually exclusive question. A legacy of spies is at stake and Tom Hollander performs rather than just narrate this book as the fans can reminiscence all that has went before.

I would recommend reading 'The spy who came in from the cold' and 'Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy' before reading this book. It's not a necessity but you will be missing the gravity and depth of the story.

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Circus Aficionados Will Love It

Spans the whole life of the Circus, from wartime SOE to the present day. At his literary best, Le Carre recalls his cast of characters, telling new stories and filling in the gaps between the familiar tales. Thrilled me, but only leaves me yearning for more.

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An exotically re-embroidered tapestry of memory and moment.

How genius-like to pick up a majestic piece of one's work and then work back into it with such finesse and skill so that the newly worked area appears not only seamless but adds to the brilliance.
Wow.
All the old magic is there beautifully developed into a modern tale where elements such as " what is any of it for?" and " what can an older person make of a committed life"-all elements blended together so movingly.
How powerful the reality is that any series of events in any life, let alone a spy's life, is manipulated by and affected by the jealousy, ambition and thwarted love of others.

Tom Holland settled in and by the end, the brilliant actor that he is, helped to make this an an exemplar for all literary audiobooks.

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  • nicole
  • 09-10-17

New life into a favourite series

There's a reason you won't find many spy thrillers in my reading list and it's this simple, I started reading John le Carré in my teens and where as in other genres or cross genres, I could usually at least give you a top ten, in plain unadulterated spy thrillers, no one else has ever measured up. This is up there with this author's best. Not only a new tale but one that weaves around so much of what has been left out of the earlier Smiley adventures. Despite being completely gripped by the story, I wanted to cheer when I heard more information on this character or that characters adventures and perspective. This book breaths new life into one of my favourite series.

There's an amazing performance by the narrator too and with all the different accents and locations that's no small feet.

I do recommend listening to this series in order but you have a choice here between the brilliantly narrated separate books or the alternative of purchasing the collection of really great radio adaptations by the BBC. (The Complete George Smiley Radio Dramas: BBC Radio 4 Full-Cast Dramatization which, at the time of writing this review, is also available to purchase on Audible UK.) I honestly don't think there's a wrong answer here, with the exception of a Murder Of Quality, which I stuck to the radio play for,as it's not the strongest of the series, I went for both.

11 of 11 people found this review helpful

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  • JOHN
  • 09-10-17

Brilliant

Fans of Le Carré will love this. The story is gripping and the narration by Tom Hollander is perfect. It is hard to believe that Le Carré is 85.

6 of 6 people found this review helpful

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  • R Talbot
  • 09-10-17

Gripping

A thought provoking somewhat melancholic quest for understanding. Gripping in the intensity of lies and truths. Tom Hollander's narration is magnificent.

5 of 5 people found this review helpful

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  • Trevor
  • 10-02-17

Would still have preferred Michael Jayston

And so we say goodbye to George Smiley, the greatest of fictional spymasters. His final bow, like his whole personality, is undramatic: in the end, like all good soldiers, he simply fades away.

A Legacy of Spies is clearly intended to round off neatly the whole Smiley canon. The plot is less labyrinthine than in many of le Carré’s novels but the author takes the opportunity to contrast the dusty anonymity of the antiquated old Cambridge Circus premises with the brash ‘in your face’ brutality of ‘Spyland beside the Thames’ as metaphors for the old world of George Smiley with its arcane jargon and the new, shiny, digital spy world of ‘Bunny’ and the appalling Laura. He also takes the opportunity, through Smiley, to question whether so much that was done in the secret world during the cold war actually achieved anything at all. There is, of course, no mention of Brexit but Smiley also states that everything he did was not exclusively for England but in the hope of “leading Europe out of her darkness and into a new age of reason.”

Le Carré’s ear is as accurate as ever but much of the narrative is in the form of reports and memos (which Guillam is obliged by his interrogators to re-read) which, for me, did not quite work – at least in audiobook format. Brilliant though Tom Hollander’s narration is I would still have preferred Michael Jayston, who has read so many le Carré titles, if only for continuity. I know that Jayston is now in his eighties but this would have been entirely appropriate as in A Legacy of Spies Peter Guillam - whom Jayston played in the iconic BBC production of Tinker, Tailor - is now elderly and long-retired.

4 of 4 people found this review helpful

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  • nigeyb
  • 09-14-17

An immensely satisfying conclusion

An immensely satisfying conclusion to the George Smiley series that is very well narrated by Tom Hollander.

The clever plot manages to reference many of the classic Smiley books and plotlines, and also to drag them into the 21st century. This means we learn more about earlier stories and also what happened to some of the characters, not least Karla (in passing).

Although Smiley himself is not physically present for the majority of 'A Legacy of Spies' his shadow touches every page.

Timing-wise this new George Smiley book by John le Carré could not have come at a more opportune time. Between February 2017 and May 2017 I read the entire Smiley series...

'Call for the Dead' (1961)
'A Murder of Quality' (1962)
'The Spy Who Came In from the Cold' (1963)
'The Looking Glass War' (1965)
'Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy' (1974)
'The Honourable Schoolboy' (1977)
'Smiley's People' (1980)
'The Secret Pilgrim' (1991)

...and, to varying degrees, each is wonderful. Predictably, having reached the end of the series, I was left with a sense of loss. And then, to my delight and amazement, a new George Smiley book, 'A Legacy of Spies' arrived on 7 September 2017.

I can categorically reassure anyone who loves the character and the series that this maintains the quality and the plotting that readers have come to expect. I savoured every page.

Peter Guillam, Smiley's former right-hand man, and long retired, is centre stage in this novel. As the novel opens Guillam is enjoying life at his family home in Brittany. One day his peaceful life is disturbed by the arrival of an official letter from the Service summoning him back to England in connection with "a matter in which you appear to have played a significant role some years back".

Guillam is apprehensive. He returns to a very 21st century new headquarters by the Thames where a pair of lawyers, the memorably faux-friendly Bunny, and businesslike Laura, during which the veteran Guillam uses all his knowledge to try to outfox this pair of interrogators. They want to know all about Operation Windfall (detailed in 'The Spy Who Came In from the Cold'). This protracted opening scene is John le Carré at his very best and brings Guillam slap bang into the modern world. From then on Guillam is forced to revisit his former life and consider the consequences of what happened.

If, like me, you have enjoyed le Carré’s Smiley books, then this is everything you will have hoped for and wanted. Bravo John le Carré.

4 of 4 people found this review helpful

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  • JEREMY
  • 09-11-17

Absolutely wonderful

Perhaps it's because I too am old like Peter Guillam? This book draws all of Smileys world together. The prose is exquisite and Tom Hollander is a triumph.

4 of 4 people found this review helpful

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  • Ishmael
  • 09-11-17

Very Clever very LeCarre

Would you listen to A Legacy of Spies again? Why?

Yes I would listen again, the clever way it answers questions you never thought to ask. Setting earlier stories in a wider context.

What was one of the most memorable moments of A Legacy of Spies?

The realisation that we had only reading a very small contained parts of Smiley's war.

What about Tom Hollander’s performance did you like?

Great pace. Really took you back to a time when we all did not have access to immediate information from the internet or mobile devices and relied on what you could see and feel.

Did you have an emotional reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?

Just made me reflect how little things have changed, and the debt we owe to those who came before us whether we agree with them or not.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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  • Ms
  • 09-08-17

Welcome return

Brilliant tense and engaging revisit of old loved characters from the Smiley series. More importantly a chance to review the actions, values and motives of the past. Wonderfully written, as always, and tTom Hollander is outstanding narrator. Spent all day listening and will do so again soon.

5 of 6 people found this review helpful

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  • GT
  • 09-18-17

Dull story told in a dull voice

What would have made A Legacy of Spies better?

It would have been far better written 'in period' and not retrospectively.
The 'modern' spies are childish, idiotic and unconvincing.
Also, applying modern legislation to historic events is not only improbable by factually flawed and inaccurate.
'An Officer and a Spy' by Robert Harris is written in period and far more enjoyable for the immersive experience.

Has A Legacy of Spies put you off other books in this genre?

I shan't read any more books by John Le Carre who I have decided is not for me. His stories are quite boring with very little happening and when it does happen, the description is matter-of-fact and unconvincing. I have read, The Russia House, The Night Manager, The Constant Gardener, The Spy Who Came In From The Cold, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy and The Tailor of Panama. They are all rather dull and a struggle to listen to.

Would you be willing to try another one of Tom Hollander’s performances?

No - Tom Hollander's voice is full of cynicism, smugness and sarcasm. He also drops his sentences from time to time - trailing off the last word or two so you can't hear what he has said. His range is also limited, making the identification of different characters more difficult. his voice is so dull, I found myself not listening to him and thinking about other things.
The book might have come to life is someone like Saul Reichlin had read it but even he would have struggled to make the modern characters believable.

What character would you cut from A Legacy of Spies?

Bunny - what an idiotic name for a high powered lawyer working for MI5/MI6? Also Laura, who is so unbelievable - sounding like an opinionated University student. The character Alex is also unlikeable and totally unconvincing as a 'master spy' with a short Irish temper!

Any additional comments?

I only read this because it was written by Le Carre and had it been written by an unknown author, it would be panned by the critics. There are far better 'spy' novels out there so don't waste time with this one.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • Darran/Melinda
  • 09-14-17

Great story and great narration

This is an excellent novel brought even more to life by Tom Hollander's narration. I liked Michael Jayston's narration on the previous books, but Tom's performance telling the story from the perspective of Peter Guillen was superb.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • Roderic
  • 01-15-18

Excellent Reprise of Cold War Characters

Very well written, as one expects from Le Carre, and a welcome return of some well known characters. The book gives interesting depth to the character of Peter Guillam. However, the modern day spies are drawn fairly harshly and are a bit caricatured.

The narration is excellent.

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  • Ben K Lodhia
  • 01-10-18

Up to standard

Always a masterful story with Le Carre. You are there with him on every page.

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  • Alison Ferguson
  • 11-27-17

Total mastery

Goes beyond tying up the loose threads of Smiley’s life to tussle with an examination of personal and collective responsibility in the murky worlds of politics and intelligence gathering. Add in a fascinating and spell binding structure and then top it off with compelling narration - total mastery!

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  • Judith Cresswell
  • 10-01-17

Captivating in every sense. Le Carre at his best.

Loved it. Tied up loose ends . Took me back to those Cold War days , now gone and confirmed Smiley as a European. Masterful conclusion.

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  • Prudence A. Greene
  • 09-13-17

Excellent narration

Hollander is brilliant and interprets Carre with the correct cool distain and intelligence. A wonderful catch up with dear Peter and George.

1 of 2 people found this review helpful