200 Word Book Review: John le Carre’s The Spy Who Came in from the Cold

The Spy Who Came in from the Cold
 

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.

 

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