For the longest time, le Carre has been on my reading list. Why? Rachel Weisz. People, since way back when I watched The Mummy in 10th grade (please stop laughing at me), I have had a girl-crush on Rachel Weisz. She was so good in The Constant Gardener! John le Carre wrote that.
Anyway, I’m so glad this wasn't like the time I tried to read Robert Ludlum (of The Bourne Disappointment) after loving the movies. This book is a classic of old-school spy fiction, and it’s reminded me of how much I enjoy that whole genre. I went through a short phase during which I read a bunch of Graham Greene and Eric Ambler books. I really don’t know why I stopped.
Spy is an exceptional book because, and I hope I’m not giving too much away (BUT IF YOU’RE CONCERNED TURN AWAY), it’s totally un-triumphant, even beyond the cynicism you tend to find in other spy novels. Le Carre is writing about corrupt cold-war intelligence bureaucracies that uphold ideologies that are, on both sides, hollow and brutal. What effect does living a life molded by the demands and constraints of service to those bureaucracies have on a man? What is the role and what are the limits of redemption in such a compromised life? This book is haunted by ambiguity: towards heroism, towards patriotism, even towards love. It may be a short book, but it’s definitely not a light read. Oh, and obviously: it's really, really twisty and exciting.