I have just finished Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy by John le Carré. Tonight, I am watching the movie, exciting times!
In the end, I enjoyed the book, even though it felt like a bit of a slog initially; trying to navigate a dense plot and ensemble cast of characters with no idea which snippets of information might end up being crucial. I’m also rubbish at remembering character’s names– at one point, I even considered making a chart.
The novel is low-key in tone and full of antiheroes, nakedly flawed–miserable about their love lives, failures and friendships even as they heroically serve their nation. Le Carre does nothing to glamorise espionage but what he does achieve is so much greater; a glimpse into its mundanity, futility and humanity. When the mole is finally outed, there is a pervading mood of anti-climax and distaste — a trusted and liked colleague proved as a liar and the fickleness of our ideological systems and loyalties pointedly exposed:
“[The mole] was more than his model, he was his inspiration, the torch bearer of a certain kind of antiquated romanticism, a notion of English calling which– for the very reason that it was vague and understated and elusive–had made sense of Guillam’s life till now. In that moment, Guillam felt not merely betrayed but orphaned. “