Monday, January 22, 2007

Tinker with My Tailor as I Spy

Several weeks ago, I picked up a copy of John le Carre's great spy thriller Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy at the Wheaton Library Bookstore. While I'm not one to often read spy or espionage thrillers, occasionally I don't mind one or two of these as fluff tomes on the bedside stand. They're something I can read as I'm drifting off to sleep and not feel bad about missing something or having to go back and re-read and capture all the important bits. I've heard that le Carre's works are must-reads if you've ever read Ken Follett, Tom Clancy, or Alistair McLean. Noting that, I figured for 50 cents, I could read le Carre.

Very simply put: I didn't even finish this book. It's not even a keeper; in fact, it's back in the pile of books to go to the library bookstore the next time I take a trip up there.

If you've stuck with me beyond that last sentence, perhaps you're asking why I didn't finish TTSS? After slogging through 136 pages, I had yet to grasp what the plot was. None of the characters stood out in any extraordinary way, save John Priddeaux. At no point was there a "thrill factor"--nothing that made my heart beat faster or eagerly turn pages or even be surprised by a twist in the plot I had failed to see coming. For all the hype around le Carre I have to say that frankly, I find Agatha Christie's writing far more interesting and exciting.

The problem with le Carre's TTSS is, I was never sure if it was a spy thriller or a commentary on the politics within the British intelligence community during the Cold War. If the former, it was poorly plotted and written. If the latter, it was dull as dust in the desert. Regardless of what this book is or isn't suppose to be, I finally quit because it simply wasn't worth it. Out of five stars, I give this one a zero.

I still want to see the movie starring Sir Alec Guiness, though. I'm hoping that will at least redeem le Carre's work.


Liseysmom said...

Oh wow!! Timely post!! We were supposed to read le Carre's The Constant Gardener for book club this past weekend. The general agreement of our group was the we had a very hard time staying with it. In fact, "slogging through" was a phrase used by more than one person.

And we all agreed that Ralph Fiennes was the only reason we'd watch the movie...

JMK said...

I saw The Constant Gardener and it was a slog! I didn't realize it was based on a le Carre novel; no wonder why I didn't like that movie. Ralph Fiennes is fine, but even his Fineness didn't redeem it. If you haven't seen it, don't bother.

I also have a copy of le Carre's The Spy Who Came in From the Cold, but now I'm rethinking whether I'll read it after TTSS and your comments on TCG.

Liseysmom said...

If even Ralph cannot redeem it, then I will not even bother. Thanks for the tip - it is now OFF of my queue on Netflix!!

JMK said...

Lisey's Mom: Glad to be of help. The subject of le Carre's novel is timely and pertinent, but the importance of the message got lost and wasn't as impactful as it could have been. Unfortunate, really.