Book Review: A Legacy of Spies by John Le Carre

Title: A Legacy of Spies

Author: John Le Carre

Genre: Fiction, Spy Thriller, Espionage, Mystery

Publisher: Viking

Published: September 5, 2017

Page Amount: 265 pages

Goodreads Summary: Peter Guillam, staunch colleague and disciple of George Smiley of the British Secret Service, otherwise known as the Circus, is living out his old age on the family farmstead on the south coast of Brittany when a letter from his old Service summons him to London. The reason? His Cold War past has come back to claim him. Intelligence operations that were once the toast of secret London, and involved such characters as Alec Leamas, Jim Prideaux, George Smiley and Peter Guillam himself, are to be scrutinized by a generation with no memory of the Cold War and no patience with its justifications.
Interweaving past with present so that each may tell its own intense story, John le Carre has spun a single plot as ingenious and thrilling as the two predecessors on which it looks back: The Spy Who Came in from the Cold and Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy. In a story resonating with tension, humor and moral ambivalence, le Carre and his narrator Peter Guillam present the reader with a legacy of unforgettable characters old and new.

Why Read: There’s something otherworldly and entrancing about John le Carre. I can’t precisely put my finger on it, and I have to say – it’s part of what drives me back to reading his books. They aren’t pieces of literature I can speed-read. Quite to the contrary rather. I find myself wrapped up in his words and rereading pages to ensure I’ve understood what’s happening. And… and I love it.

Review: It is difficult to say why I find John le Carre so enticing, there are so many reasons floating around that I struggle to make them concrete. His characters, for one, are incredibly well formed, sometimes over a lifetime of books. George Smiley, his main character, barely makes an appearance in this book, and yet his presence is somehow in the back of your mind the entire time. It’s almost like what it would be like to read about a flesh and blood person, even though I’m well aware it’s just a fiction.

Another reason why this is such a great read, as with all his books, is that it takes time and energy. This isn’t a book for before bed. It’s a book that demands your attention, because the world of spies and the Cold War is complex. Things aren’t what they seem, and most of the time, it’s hiding a dirtier truth that people have tried again and again to bury under the rug. Legacy of Spies does a really brilliant job of coaxing out both my love of the Cold War and slight disturbed sensation about reading about the calculating manipulation of people that spies do.

Don’t get me wrong, I love it. Le Carre has a way of writing about such events that it seems real, the books feel incredibly nonfiction. It’s a style that he’s adapted in all of his books, but this is a rounding out – a reminder that the Cold War may be over, but that all the skeletons in the closet still remain. It’s one of his shorter reads, but if I’m being honest, I wouldn’t recommend reading it unless you’ve read its two predecessors that are directly linked. There’s three books to add to your TBR already!

Rating: 5/5 Stars

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