John le Carré’s espionage thriller can definitely carry it’s weight, but for once I think I prefer the film to the book. This is the third book in a row (of five) which have absolutely nothing to do with my challenges, but I wanted to read them.
Overall Tinker, Tailor, Solider, Spy was well written and the story was interesting, but if I hadn’t seen the film I would have had very little idea about what was going on in the story. Le Carré, pen name of David John Moore Cornwell, definitely has a way with words and there were a few turns of phrases which struck me as extremely well written or beautiful, specifically the fourth and sixth quotes below.
This is a very short review, clearly, but I wanted to end it by saying why I thought the film was better than the book. The film took le Carré’s characters and made them real, added the emotion you can tell is there in the book but is hard to see because it is a mostly male character driven book in a hard field where emotions are hidden. The one scene in the film which I believe really shows this is when Guillam forces his male lover to leave because homosexuality was frowned upon (if not illegal at this point) and Guillam needed to be beyond reproach. This was new to the film, but there are similar instances throughout the novel. I did appreciate the openness and sexual fluidity of le Carré’s characters, especially as he wrote this in 1974 just as Thatcher was rising to power and the crackdown on illegal and illicit (homosexual) acts was coming.
Recommendation: If you like suspense/thriller novels check it out it is definitely a classic, but if not, skip it. Although it’s well written and the story is intricate, the pace is slow and I wasn’t impressed.
Opening Line: “The truth is, if old Major Dover hadn’t dropped dead at Taunton races Jim would never have come to Thursgood’s at all.”
Closing Line: “The gun, Bill Roach had finally convinced himself, was, after all, a dream.” (Whited Out.)
Additional Quotes from Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy
“Out of date, perhaps, but who wasn’t these days? Out of date, but loyal to his own time. At a certain moment, after all, every man chooses: will he go forward, will he go back? There was nothing dishonourable in not being blown about by every little modern wind. Better to have worth, to entrench, to be of one’s own generation.” (29)
“‘There are always a dozen reasons for doing nothing,’ Ann liked to say—it was a favourite apologia, indeed, for many of her misdemeanours—’There is only one reason for doing something. And that’s because you want to.’ Or have to?” (89)
“Great, so how do you spot a reservation when thirty teenage butterflies are mating in your stomach and the sweat is like a secret rain inside your shirt? Never, he swore, never had he had it this bad.” (196)
“Sitting is an eloquent business; any actor will tell you that. We sit according to our natures. We sprawl and straddle, we rest like boxers between rounds, we fidget, perch, cross and uncross our legs, lose patience, lose endurance.” (237)
“Roy Bland was at Leeds University talent-spotting, said Sam, and not available.” (269)
“There are moments that are made up of too much stuff for them to be lived at the time they occur.” (398)