Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy

Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy

Book - 1974
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"Somewhere at the very highest levels of British Intelligence there stands a double agent, a 'mole,' implanted deep in its fabric, perhaps decades ago, by Moscow Centre. He can only be one of five men--brilliant, complicated men, proven in action--who have worked closely together through the years, respecting and depending on each other, despite the central imperative of their profession to trust no one. Of these five, it is George Smiley, perhaps the most brilliant and complicated of them all, who is tapped to dig out the mole and destroy him. And so Smiley embarks on his blind night walk, retracing path after path into his own past--its aliases, covers, sleights of hand--burrowing into the dust of unresolved episodes."--Publisher.
Publisher: New York : Knopf; [distributed by Random House], 1974
ISBN: 9780143189848
Branch Call Number: LEC
Characteristics: 1 v. (various pagings)


From Library Staff

When his handler is accused of treason, British spy George Smiley is also dismissed from his agency. To clear his name and prove his loyalty, Smiley takes a job from Oliver Lacon, the Permanent Undersecretary to the Foreign & Commonwealth Office, in an attempt to identify and capture the real... Read More »

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Jan 27, 2021

If you like a book about a bunch old guys talking about all the amazing things they have done. This book goes nowhere very quickly after about the first six pages. Don't waste your time

Jan 07, 2021

‘Tinker, Taylor, Solider, Spy’, as a storyline, represents numerous things, organisationally, environmentally, culturally, socially, psychologically, politically and literally. All of which, by in large, have been well described and critiqued by many deeply educated reviewers and academics. However, I find it helpful, in attempting to render one’s own definitions, to attempt to dissociate oneself from any form of legacy analysis or historic stereotypical orientations. Personally, my initial impressions of reader engagement remain with this, the third book, in suggested reading order, of John Le Carre’s spy series. This storyline writing reflects the author’s immediate demand for one to be attentive and alert to the necessity for imbibing a thick (detailed) description of events. That is to say, the author needs the reader to not be too quick to assign meaning and significance to what one is learning or interpreting from the author’s written oration. At least, this is true before the reader has understanding of both the context, perspective and cultural grounding of the protagonists involved.

Also, the reader, given this is 2021, now, must attribute meaning and significance with the tacit understanding that events, culture, society and political landscapes described in this story related to nearly fifty years hence. Perhaps, situationally, one must take a moment to remind oneself of the impact of the differences between now and then. This references a cross-spectrum of intensified communication interconnectivity, the massive expansion of the globalisation of trade, finance and politics, and the impacts of technology, which were entirely absent or unrealised during the 1970s. Specifically, I am referring to present-day commercialised, criminal and sovereign digital strategies and capabilities to penetrate private, public, civil, commercial, state and local institutional information system integrity - hacking.

Notwithstanding this, excluding digital security integrity and related system compromise strategies, are the massively increased levels of satellite coverage which pervades and informs the security agendas of major world powers, now, as opposed to then. During the 1970s, and prior to the end of the cold war with the collapse of the Soviet Union (1991), spy-craft, and sovereign distrust and discord, followed and reflected the legacies of the assassination of JFK, the Cuban missile crisis of 1967, the US Watergate scandal, the Vietnam war, and numerous other politically salient international events of social and cultural alarm.

Furthermore, the reader, assuming one is not born and bred within the well educated and socio-economically situated mid to upper class of United Kingdom society, must account for British cultural mores, attitudes and patterns of behavioural norms of acceptability and socialisation. Additionally, unlike New Zealand, which remained, in relative geographic terms, isolated from the European intensity of WW2 – we were never really threatened by German invasion, for example; contrastingly, Brittan in the 1970s remained vulnerable, compromised and scarred. Also, nor was New Zealand held to be a likely target of Soviet-era, nuclear first strike attack, as Brittan was.

Thereby, the perceived need, and the exigent explicit and implicit demands upon British, sovereign security services was intensely elevated, and likely, appropriately paranoid. Therefore, the reader must, in my humble opinion, maintain a high degree of patient, schooled and reflexive engagement with the fabric of this novel and its placemen within confines of British intelligence services culture of the 1970s. Finally, the United Kingdom, as a society, does reflect a heavily-layered, social hierarchical structure, reinforced through educational institutional involvement and socio-economic background.

Jan 09, 2020

If you were looking for a James Bond/007 movie script wannabe, this is not it. If you understand the paranoid Cold War mentality this book depicts, the story becomes more pertinent.

Uncertainty, moral ambiguity, and betrayal: The book is loosely based on the real life story of Kim Philby, a Brit double agent who spied for USSR for nearly 30 years. An estimated 25 major missions were blown by Philby due to the passage of information to his Russian handlers, and numerous men killed. Philby was a close associate of Nicholas Elliot and James Angleton, the latter being the head of the CIA counterintelligence until the mid-1970s. Angleton spent years at the CIA hunting for moles like Philby. The Secret Service of these countries were riddled with double agents. Reference for this information is “A Spy Among Friends” by McIntyre.

The meandering plot of the first third of the story only adds to the entertainment, while the background of English class distinction, delusions of world domination and alcohol excess contribute to the malaise. Additional commentary on the insanity of that era can be found in The Honorable Schoolboy, set in the last days of Nixon. If you need a visual version, the BBC miniseries with Alec Guinness is far superior to the movie with Gary Oldman.

Jun 20, 2019

3.5 whatever that means

I should know by now that I don't much like spy stories - maybe Eric Ambler a bit in the 70s & 80s, but then his heroes were always amateurs who stumbled into the game. The professionals, people who build lives of deceit and destruction are hard to write with a conscience, and therefore hard for me to root for or care about.

And yet, here I finished Le Carre's 400 pages of paranoia, and it was not a slog. The plot: a hunt for something not quite right, and perhaps a chance to make up for something very wrong. The characters full of seething inner torments.

I imagine that folks who do enjoy spy stuff will quite like this. So, add a star if cold war sleuths with hidden mail drops looking over their shoulder to see if they've been followed sounds fun. Subtract one if that sounds too dreary. Otherwise, I guess 3.5; not bad, really.

Jan 19, 2018

I loved the story and the way you stay with Smiley as you venture through the mystery. You do visit Jim, but he's just waiting for Smiley to show up. It makes for a good intense story that is fun to fall into. Will be reading more of John Le Carre in the near future, and the further adventures of George Smiley.

Jul 14, 2017

For those commenting on the pacing... the British classic method for developing a murder or mystery plot is almost always the same. It takes three chapters before the "event" occurs. It is the same with Agatha Christie and others who follow the classic model. We, in Canada, are more used to the American model - BANG! Event in chapter one.

Nov 23, 2016

really a classic !
take your time to read into it, you will enjoy it all.

Apr 01, 2016

Much too slow in developing, gave up on it!

mvkramer Feb 05, 2015

I know, I know, it's a classic - but I could not get into it. There are only so many times I can read a scene of shadowy men talking in drawing rooms. For a book that is supposedly a spy thriller, nothing really happens.

Feb 01, 2014

I've read it three times now, and expect to read it again sometime. As Dickens was to the 19th century novel, Le Carre was to the novel from 1960-1980, when the cold war was at its peak, in all its paranoid glory. If you can read the chapter in which Guillam breaks into the room in which the log books are kept, and not feel a terrible unease, then you don't remember the cold war.

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Feb 08, 2012

pandalovebug thinks this title is suitable for 13 years and over


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Feb 01, 2012

"I have a theory which I suspect is rather immoral," Smiley went on, more lightly. "Each of us has only a quantum of compassion. That if we lavish our concern on every stray cat, we never get to the centre of things. What do you think of it?"


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