The Looking Glass War


Book Reviewer
(A George Smiley novel)
Penguin books .
A review by Granny.

I spent a lot of time, when reading this book, trying to decide who the ‘hero’ was. By the time I had reached half way I had decided that there wasn’t one. Just a collection of disparate characters lumped together to provide the narrative. This book was originally published in 1965 and would have been, for that period, an insight into the machinations of, the then, different Security Services.
Part one deals with ‘Taylor’s run‘. A likely hero I thought. Not to be I’m afraid.
Part two, ‘Avery’s run‘, sees the arrival of Avery, who on being called into the ‘Office’ one night finds himself short of cash. His wife grudgingly gives him 10/-. Maybe he will take on the challenge ? Up to a point he does, then after an adventure or two settles nicely into the background to make way for……
Part three, ‘Leiser’s run‘. Leiser, a WW2 Jewish resistance fighter, is brought back into the fold to carry out an assignment. The fact that his war was 20 years in the past brings lots of problems.
This book is basically about the internal squabbles and interdepartmental one-upmanship that was then, and probably still is, at the centre of the Security Services.
The plot, by today’s standards, I found not very convincing. I know the book was originally published in 1965, so therefore must be somewhat dated, but it didn’t hold my attention as I expected it to. Some stories can stand the test of time and be great to read again, but this book doesn’t, in my opinion, reach that standard.
I’m sure that those readers who have followed John Le Carré over the years will find this book a pleasant stroll through past memories. It was the 60’s and the ‘Cold War’ was at it’s height.
I was confused that this book was A ‘George Smiley’ novel. Although George Smiley does occasionally come into the tale he doesn’t seem to carry any weight in his appearances. His only contribution seemed to be a few hints and suggestions near the end of the book.
I don’t think this book will be challenging ‘Tinker, Tailor, Soldier Spy’ as one of the greats.
I give this book
2 mushroom heads
There is a more informative review of this in wiki: The Looking Glass War - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The Penguin edition of this book is probably just using the Smiley name just to promote the book, to people who might have only heard of smiley through film or television.

With John-le-carre books it's best to read them in the order in which they were written, I find.

For example, the recent film; Tinker, Taylor, Soldier, Spy wasn't promoted as part of the Trilogy, often referred to as "The Quest for Karla". Even though carre didn't write a book of that name, the other two being, The Honourable Schoolboy and Smiley's People. I suspect the film makers were hedging their bets there, and not committing themselves to futher films, in case this film flopped. Yet reading all three of these books is the only way to reveal Smiley properly...

I preferr Carre's, A Small Town in Germany from this pre-Karla books myself.

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