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The Honourable Schoolboy

A George Smiley Novel
Narrated by: Michael Jayston
Series: Smiley, Book 6
Length: 20 hrs and 27 mins
4.5 out of 5 stars (795 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

As the fall of Saigon looms, master spy George Smiley must outmaneuver his Soviet counterpart on a battlefield that neither can afford to lose.

The mole has been eliminated, but the damage wrought has brought the British Secret Service to its knees. Given charge of the gravely compromised Circus, George Smiley embarks on a campaign to uncover what Moscow Centre most wants to hide. When the trail goes cold at a Hong Kong gold seam, Smiley dispatches Gerald Westerby to shake the money tree.

A part-time operative with cover as a philandering journalist, Westerby insinuates himself into a war-torn world where allegiances - and lives - are bought and sold.

Brilliantly plotted and morally complex, The Honourable Schoolboy is the second installment of John le Carré's renowned Karla trilogy, and a riveting portrayal of post-colonial espionage.

©2011 John le Carre (P)2012 Penguin

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  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
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  • Darwin8u
  • Mesa, AZ, United States
  • 07-27-12

Conrad's Ghost Floats & Haunts this Sad Spy Novel

Well sport, this was a messy, sometimes uneven AND occasionally even a plodding novel but I absolutely loved every single word of it. Le Carré is often compared to Graham Greene, but the only real literary comparison for this novel is Joseph Conrad. I was wondering why I kept thinking of Victory and Nostromo, and why I was overcome with this desire to read The Secret Agent? Conrad's ghost floats and haunts almost every page of this wonderful, beautiful, and an ultimately sad spy novel.

27 of 28 people found this review helpful

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Patience Pays Off With Le Carre!

If you want a super hero and action that defies belief turn to the Reacher, Gray Man, John Rain or Mitch Rapp series. I've enjoyed all of those and more. But I find Le Carre's Smiley series more than clever and even challenging.

I know reading this seems more like plodding at times, but in the end I found every moment, each conversation and every event has a purpose in this series. Indeed, even the remotest characters are used masterfully.

Take your time and let Le Carre introduce you to real spycraft!

12 of 12 people found this review helpful

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    4 out of 5 stars
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I wish the story grabbed me more...

Would you consider the audio edition of The Honourable Schoolboy to be better than the print version?

Yes. No. I don't know. Mr. Jayston does a great job reading a book that isn't my favorite JLC book.

What was the most interesting aspect of this story? The least interesting?

Anything to do with George Smiley was interesting and engaging. Jerry Westerby is a great character but his part of the story just doesn't grab me. I may need to give it another go someday, but it won't be soon.

What about Michael Jayston’s performance did you like?

He's got a great handle on the characters and his Smiley is a great impersonation of Alec Guiness.

Was there a moment in the book that particularly moved you?

When I realized Smiley has the ability to be an uber-jerk. I didn't get it from reading the book.

Any additional comments?

The Honourable Schoolboy a byzantine and (maybe) overly long novel that takes almost a full day to listen to. It doesn't move like a bat out of anything but it does have lots of character development and a lot to say about how the world works, not all of it complimentary. It's a story that hasn't been translated into a dramatic form, except for the recent radio version with Simon Russel Beale (I've heard rumors that there was a version in the early 80s, but I haven't tracked it down), probably because of the complex nature of the story. Some folks think it's the best JLC book out there. I don't, and I think the novels on either side of this one are much better. JLC at his worst is better than many authors at their best. His command of the English language is immense and his stories are always thought provoking.

9 of 9 people found this review helpful

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  • Jonathan
  • CHARLESTON, SC, United States
  • 01-01-13

An Honourable Effort

If you could sum up The Honourable Schoolboy in three words, what would they be?

Two. Smart. Dickensian.

What was one of the most memorable moments of The Honourable Schoolboy?

I have always loved the beginning, the Typhoon Saturday in the Hong Kong Press Lounge.

Which character – as performed by Michael Jayston – was your favorite?

Smiley and Guillam. Of course, Jayston played Guilliam in the original BBC series of Tinker Tailor, and has an advantage.

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

Sure, but that would be a tall order.

Any additional comments?

In the same way that Alec Guinness was probably the greatest casting choice in history as George Smiley, Michael Jayston's reading of Le Carre's works is nothing short of brilliant.

5 of 5 people found this review helpful

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enjoying Smiley series

aside from the mystery/thriller aspects of the series I'm very much enjoying the writing style as I've mentioned previously. I don't normally do series as they tend toward diminishing returns as you go along and in general the 1st is usually the best as it is usually something new. But thus far I've liked all the books and though they get a bit convoluted at times and the politics get a bit confusing keeping track of, I like many of the characters and each novel is basically a stand alone though Tinker does in a sense lead into this one. But what i again find myself mentioning is the writing, though it may not be Nabokovian or Melvillian in its use of language, there is some nice writing and lines stand out with a beautiful metaphor that reveals itself in a nice picture; and there have been a sentence and a chapter that I thought were laugh out loud funny. Very colorful speech and attitude. British and European authors have hidden depth in nearly every sentence.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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Le Carré at his best

What a great 1970s spy novel. While Viet Nam rages in the background, Smiley’s crew teams up with the CIA to unravel the story of a possible key asset in the Far East, and ultimately bring him in, if possible. Narrator Jayston once again captures the characters - and especially George Smiley - perfectly. No one else could read a Smiley novel like he does.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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    4 out of 5 stars
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George Smiley is incredible, with subtle strength.

If you could sum up The Honourable Schoolboy in three words, what would they be?

Taught, subtle and exciting--I need several more than three words.

What did you like best about this story?

The atmosphere is so rich that I thought I was putting on weight.

What does Michael Jayston bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you just read the book?

Michael Jayston offers the flavor of the British voice with all it's subtle flavor and life. I find having his performance and colour a treat I can't bring on my own.

Was there a moment in the book that particularly moved you?

Several moments stand out I recommend having Michael read it for you so you will find your own special moment.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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Fabulous

Where does The Honourable Schoolboy rank among all the audiobooks you’ve listened to so far?

I've been unable to get through John Le Carre for years, but decided recently (after watching Tinker tailor with Gary Oldman) to bite the bullet in audio book form. This one is a winner, but the narrator helps; its as gripping as a play or a movie. Yes the plot is complex, scenes are long and very descriptive, but he writes so well, it keeps you enthralled once you gather the patience for the long haul. His writing reminds me of JK Rowling, powerful characters, incredible imaginative powers and beautiful language. Highly recommended if you like your spy books meaty!

What other book might you compare The Honourable Schoolboy to and why?

JK's latest Cormorant Strike - powerful writing.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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  • Linda
  • Bowie, MD, United States
  • 08-14-18

Middle Book of Three About Russian Mole

This book is not for the faint of heart or someone who can’t follow a story when it jumps back and forth. It is essential that you have read the first book in this Russian Mole set of 3 Smiley stories. If you have not read the earlier books, you will be lost from the beginning. Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy sets the story for the finding of the Russian Mole in The Circus. This story carries on with lots of intrigue and a truly unexpected ending. Jerry Westerby is a spy and poses as a newspaper journalist all through the story. He is the honorable schoolboy. The stories about George Smiley are superb. LeCarre is a tremendous writer and he nuances the locations so you feel that you are in the ‘dirty fog’ with him and his group. The story is set mostly in Hong Kong, some into Cambodia to locate a missing CIA operative, and Saigon. This book is shared with The Cousins (US spy men). Both the Brits and USA want to capture the guy they think was helping Carla with information. It is a daunting book, 611 pages, but worth it. I found myself thinking about it when I wasn’t listening to the excellent audible presentation by Michael Jayston. His portrayal of Smiley and the other characters truly brings the book to life.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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Pretty good

While the plot is really convoluted (like real life in the intelligence world i suppose) this novel is extremely unique in its handling of spies in the Vietnam War, particularly journalists who are also intelligence operatives. May frustrate some fans of the author's earlier work, but a worthy story if you give it a chance.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful