A Legacy of Spies
I got this book in the mail yesterday, and I’m already halfway through reading it. It is John le Carré’s 25th book, but it is the first time that two previous novels have been referenced in such a comprehensive way.
The Spy Who Came In From The Cold
You could say this was the film that really got me started on reading spy novels. Richard Burton’s portrayal of Alec Leamas was so low-key that I wondered why he even agreed to do it. However, the sombre B&W film made a great contrast to the colourful James Bond films circulating at the time.
Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy
The 1979 TV miniseries captured my adult attention in a very unexpected way. Alec Guinness as George Smiley put Star Wars‘ Obi-Wan Kenobi into a different setting and slowed the pace down to a crawl. It was like reading the book in real time.
As always, the tension was high and the payoff sudden and unexpected. The book was even better.
In the recent film of the same name, Peter Guillam was played by Benedict Cumberbatch, the only shining star in an otherwise murky ‘who-dun-it’. A Legacy of Spies has Peter as the assistant to George Smiley being summoned to the Circus to review the case files from Leamas’ time forward and to answer a few awkward questions.
Here’s the plot summary as printed on the inside of the dust jacket:
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 for its justifications.
John le Carré
John le Carré – real name: David Cornwell – was born in 1931 and attended the universities of Bern and Oxford. He taught at Eton and served briefly in British intelligence during the Cold War. For the last fifty-five years, he has lived by his pen. He divides his time between London and Cornwall.
What more can you say about a man who has given us a peek into the ‘real’ workings of the world of spies? Without him, we would believe that what they do is glamorous and exciting. In truth, it’s scary and dreadful. I think I know what that is like.
This is what I wrote in Goodreads (along with 5 stars): ‘The past is now an open book: this book. The questions that remained from “The Spy Who Came In From The Cold” and “Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy” have now been answered. I am so grateful.’
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