TINKER, TAILOR, SOLDIER, SPY – THE HONOURABLE SCHOOL BOY – SMILEY’S PEOPLE

I read these three John La Carre′ novels in one volume, 950 pages. They are also known as the Karla novels. Tinker, Tailor and Smiley’s People were well represented in their BBC productions, 1979 and 1982. The novels give the remaining 10-15 percent of each story. I recommend reading each.

The Honourable School Boy is the middle volume of the trilogy, and it tells what happened to British Intelligence after Tinker, Tailor: George Smiley’s stewardship of the Circus plus a successful mission. I like George Smiley; I liked reading it. There is spy craft on each page – plotting, method and engaging. They suggest espionage as it is, not the hyped swirl Hollywood crap – James Bond to gadget-thriller of the month from one studio or another. 

In the end of Smiley’s People there is character development (realization), mostly by the reader. George Smiley appreciates his marriage to the always unfaithful Ann has been ruinous to him personally and professionally. Because of her others have taken advantage of him. This realization nags him through the novel and arrives in his consciousness late. Any human being would wonder about such a marriage, and how it was fitting into life or changing it. George Smiley is sentimental and weak, and weakness is an admission most of us do not like to make, especially at the end of a career, near the end of life.

The writing in these three novels is laced with Britishisms that keep the reader going: “barking mad,” “authority without responsibility.” There are others, but I cannot forget a paraphrase of President Lyndon Baines Johnson’s statement about J. Eager Hoover: I’d rather have him in my tent pissing out, than outside pissing in. 

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