February 24, 2009

The Spy Who Came In From the Cold by John leCarré

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Someone in book-bloggerland coined the term "dick-lit" and The Spy Who Came In From the Cold by John leCarré fits the bill. The men are men and the chicks dig them. Everyone is referred to by their last name, except for the big boss who goes by Control. They live off whiskey and cigarettes. Every conversation has a double meaning: "The banana's in the suitcase," "The turkey's on the lose." Okay I made that last bit up but you get my meaning.

Alec Leamas has one last job before he can 'come in from the cold' (that phrase gets worn out in this book). He just wants to hang up his spying hat and retire. The last job is a tricky one, to eliminate the heartless East German named Mundt. That's about all I can say... really I spent most of the novel completely lost.

I don't think the spy genre is my genre. I felt very little connection to Leamas. He hides his true character behind a mask of indifference. I could never figure him out. I also had a hard time following what was going on. Who was double crossing who? However, there is no doubt that this is really well written. LeCarré paints a grim picture of the spy business- no debonair James Bond with the cheesy one liners. LeCarré is saying that right and wrong in the spying game is irrelevant. I think the ending (as disappointing as I found it) drives that point home.

I could give John leCarré another chance at some point. The writing itself is worth the reading. Can anyone recommend another leCarré book to me?

8 comments :

  1. lol, "dick lit".

    I've never been very interested in spy novels... maybe I'll be surprised someday, but I'm just now drawn to them.

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  2. I like books like this, but I've never read an of leCarre's work.

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  3. SpyLit really isn't my genre either. Years ago I tried reading this very same book when people were raving about the author, and I must admit that the experience left me...in the cold.

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  4. I tried to read the Tailor of Panama and couldn't get through it, unfortunately. Thanks for the review though.

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  5. I just picked this up the other day and now I'm second guessing that. Doesn't sound like my thing at all.

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  6. The term "dick-lit" made me chuckle, too. I love how your reviews keep it real.

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  7. The only positive thing I can say about le Carre's writing is that I learned the word "intaglio" from one of his books. I recall spending most of my time wondering what the point of the story might be. It was phenomenally depressing.

    "Dick lit" is a term that has been around for quite some time, btw. I'd heard it long before my blogging years, via a writing group.

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