Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy

A George Smiley Novel
Narrated by: Michael Jayston
Series: Smiley, Book 5
Length: 12 hrs and 49 mins
4.4 out of 5 stars (2,254 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

The inspiration for the major motion picture Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, starring Gary Oldman and Colin Firth.

The first novel in John le Carré's celebrated Karla trilogy, Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy is a heart-stopping tale of international intrigue.

The man he knew as "Control" is dead, and the young Turks who forced him out now run the Circus. But George Smiley isn't quite ready for retirement - especially when a pretty, would-be defector surfaces with a shocking accusation: a Soviet mole has penetrated the highest level of British Intelligence. Relying only on his wits and a small, loyal cadre, Smiley recognizes the hand of Karla - his Moscow Centre nemesis - and sets a trap to catch the traitor.

The feature film adaptation of Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy is directed by Tomas Alfredson (Let the Right One In) and features a cast that includes Gary Oldman as Smiley, Academy Award-winner Colin Firth (The King's Speech), and Tom Hardy (Inception).

©2011 John le Carre (P)2011 Penguin

What listeners say about Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy

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  • Overall
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Le Carre remains the gold standard

I read this novel years ago, but when I saw the movie, I knew I would have to listen to the audiobook. I really liked the movie, but by the time I'd finished the audiobook, it was clear to me (once again) that movie-making is really an exercise in making compromises. As I listened to George Smiley slowling peeling back the many layers of deception, many of which the movie barely hinted at, I found myself completely drawn again into the story in that way that only a great novelist can do. As Smiley walks the cat back, the tension builds slowly but inexorably toward exposing the bane of all counterintelligence operations, the dreaded mole.

While the movie was excellent, two main characters, Percy Alleline and Toby Esterhaze, were completely miscast as simpering morons. That said, Gary Oldman and Colin Firth nailed Le Carre's main characters so completely that as the audiobook played, I did not have to imagine what George Smiley and Bill Haydon looked like. I already knew.

It's been said before, and I agree, that Le Carre is not a great spy novelist, but rather a great novelist who happens to write about spies. The reader did a superb job. His rendering of George Smiley's understated voice was spot on.

34 people found this helpful

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the best

Can't get enough of this author. My favorite of the Smiley trilogy. Very good narration.

20 people found this helpful

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Viscous and Bottomless but Great

This is the only book I've ever encountered in which I could never really keep straight the endless characters but never felt that such confusion impinged on my ability to understand the gist of things. Despite the profusion of characters and backstories, the narrative is terse and economical and the author has an expert grasp on pacing and tone. Moreover, the language of the novel casts knowing darts outward from the ostensible spy story toward enduring themes of love, society, democracy, friendship, and institutions in ways more effective than most "deep books". The reader was the best ever. I have already replayed this novel as background music, which is a first for me.

23 people found this helpful

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Good book

Any additional comments?

I re-listened to this after many years in preparation to watching the movie. It was as good as the first time. Not sure who narrated it then, but I was pleased with this narrator, same or not. The narrator does a good job with the many characters. I can't judge whether his accents for them (Scottish, Hungarian, etc) are perfect, but they sound right to me. He is obviously British which works well for a British spy novel.
It is a typical LeCarre spy story. Well written with an intricate plot.
A very good listen.

3 people found this helpful

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Challenging for the mind

Any additional comments?

Keeping all the characters strait was a challenge. I tried to read this book but was getting hopelessly lost. After listening to the book I was able to go back and finish reading it ...enjoying it a second time. I also moved on to the Honorable School Boy (the follow up book) Both good books with engaging stories.

7 people found this helpful

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The Best

This is the absolute best audiobook I have listened to. I love the print book and have read it many times. The narrator could not have been better.

2 people found this helpful

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Can't miss this Cold War classic

This book has a sentimental significance to me as my dad (a WWII veteran) was an avid reader of LeCarre and all things Cold War. I put off listening for all these years, until having seen all of the televised adaptations and known the story in its general components. I'm glad I finally listened, though. The book delivers on its promise as the cornerstone of the genre. It's such an interesting combination of sharp and blunt - the meticulous details and razor-sharp storytelling, and the blanket of ambivalence and moral grey area that the story inhabits. So good. The narrator is spot on. An extremely satisfying read in my opinion.

2 people found this helpful

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Spy story that really holds your interest

While its set in the "old days" of the cold war, this Le Carre novel's subtext about the inner motivations of cold warriors, what makes them tick, their doubts, their cynical calculations and justifications, is really refreshing.

This is not a battle between "good" and "evil" as we see so often from the jingoistic media these days, but a battle between flawed but determined opponents playing out a convoluted struggle for power and control.

I enjoyed it very much.

2 people found this helpful

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What a Ride!

If you could sum up Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy in three words, what would they be?

Intriguing, suspenseful, satisfying

What was one of the most memorable moments of Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy?

Jim Predeaux's recounting of his experience in Czechoslovakia to Smiley.

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

Haven't listened to any before

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

No, not until near the end.

2 people found this helpful

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Loved it!

Would you listen to Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy again? Why?

Yes, would definately listen again because I enjoyed the story and would probably pick up more details know that I know the main characters. The narration strikes the right balance, not beening too theatrical but keeping the story moving.

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

Yes, but due to the time, it was stretched out over a delightful weekend.

2 people found this helpful