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A Perfect Spy Mass Market Paperback – April 1, 2000


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Product Details

  • Mass Market Paperback: 688 pages
  • Publisher: Pocket Books (April 1, 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0671042750
  • ISBN-13: 978-0671042752
  • Product Dimensions: 6.6 x 3.9 x 1.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.6 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (109 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,156,623 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Le Carre's new novel overshadows The Spy Who Came in From the Cold and his other bestsellers. The author's intense feelings, linguistic artistry and stinging wit draw the reader into the story of Magnus Pym, traitor. Epic in scope and length, the narrative moves backward and forward in time, recording crises-ridden events from the viewpoints of numerous characters. Primarily, the revelations are in an epistle Pym addresses to his young son Tom. The writer is holed-up in a remote country cottage where he tries to explain his crimes to the boy before pursuers find him. For years a trusted agent in British Intelligence, Pym has been giving England's and America's vital secrets to a contact in Czechoslovakia. Now Jack Brotherhood, the spy's mentor in the honorable organization, sadly agrees with colleagues that Pym is guilty. The proof is his disappearance, coincidental with data gushing from CIA computers and sent by U.S. agents to their opposite numbers in London. Determined to minimize the damage of Pym's treachery and create a coverup if possible, Brotherhood takes charge of a team searching for the betrayer. As the lives of everyone involved in this netherworld of espionage become tragically immediate to the reader, Le Carre again masterfully chronicles the dangerous game-playing world of international espionage. 350,000 first printing; BOMC main selection.
Copyright 1986 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From Library Journal

Le Carre's latest commences with the sudden disappearance from his posting and family in Vienna of elegant British master-spy Magnus Pym. The narrative immediately splits and alternates: one voice, dubious, insistent, tells of the diligent and urgent race among ex-agent wife Mary, co-worker Jack Brotherhood, and ubiquitous Czech agent "Sergeant Pavel" to find the possible defector; the other voice (Pym's own), ruminative, wry, relates the colorful history and amoral motivations behind the successful spy. By the time the two voices converge in the present, the comprehensive character Pymas seen by others and by himselfstands alone, ready to carry out his decision. Not a spy novel in the usual sense, then, but a skillfully manipulated, complex, and probingly written study spiced with lively anecdotes. To be savored. BOMC main selection. Rex E. Klett, Anson Cty. Lib., Wadesboro
Copyright 1986 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

More About the Author

John le Carre was born in 1931. His third novel, The Spy Who Came in From the Cold, secured him a worldwide reputation, which was consolidated by the acclaim for his trilogy: Tinke, Tailor, Soldier, Spy; The Honorable Schoolboy, and Smiley's People. His novels include The Little Drummer Girl, A Perfect Spy, The Russia House, Our Game, The Taileor of Panama, and Single & Single. John le Carre lives in Cornwall.

Customer Reviews

I highly recommend this book, if like me, you enjoy a non-linear story.
T. Mazerolle
I found the plot too difficult to follow and there were too many characters.
Mrs. I. S. Young
At the end of the book I wondered why I wasted so much time in reading it.
S L Rao SLRao

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

43 of 48 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on January 29, 1999
Format: Audio Cassette
This is the finest book I have ever read. I first read it about 8 years ago, and read it again a few years later. Nothing else he has written comes close to eclipsing the brilliance of this work. What is the secret of this masterpiece? The secret is... almost every sentence written has greater meaning and greater significance than the simple words that form them. The text is oozing with innuendo, suggestion and ambiguity. The characters are vivid and almost walk of the pages. This book induced one of my favourite quotes, ascribed to Ricky: "Ideals are like the stars. We cannot reach them, but we are enriched by their presence" Well, I was enriched by this masterpiece.
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51 of 59 people found the following review helpful By Doug Vaughn HALL OF FAME on December 29, 1999
Format: Hardcover
This book is so much more than just another espionage thriller. It is really a character study of the central figure and a very satisfying psychological investigation into the anticedents of a spy's character. Magnus Pym was the perfect spy because of the way he was raised; specifically, the way he learned to perceive the world as he came to understand his father - a con man of great charm (based on Le Carre's own father) who always acted as though truth was whatever he wanted it to be at the moment. Maybe the title actually refers to the father and not to Pym. Perhaps?
Le Carre's use of language is always a pleasure, and here it is put to excellent use in recreating the world of Pym's past. The main plot of finding the missing Pym becomes less important than the subplots - often involving past events - and the overall structure of the novel is less driven by unknown outcomes than is a typical 'spy' story.
One is left with a great sense of sadness after finishing this book but no disappointment. Very original and very satisfying.
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35 of 40 people found the following review helpful By Matthew Culbreth on February 20, 2001
Format: Mass Market Paperback
Whew. It literally took me three years to read this book. I would start the book and quit reading by page 80, 90, sometimes 100. I never had the resolve to get past those first few chapters.
"A Perfect Spy" is as close to an autobiography as I think we'll get from LeCarre. While his later "Single and Single" touched on the same things, I greatly preferred "A Perfect Spy". It's a much darker, much more emotionally draining novel than "Single".
What a sad, disappointing, mesmerizing, depressing, ultimately satisfying novel LeCarre has written for us.
It's too tough to talk about the book without giving some spoilers, so all I'll say is that the story picks up gradually. The first bit is a bit tough, in my opinion, because of the flashbacks to the Magnus's childhood. Keep reading. It becomes clear later why you are spending time there.
What a story. I had a previously enjoyed "Tinker, Tailor" the most of his books, but I think "A Perfect Spy" might replace that. I'm off to finish the rest of the Karla trilogy now, but I'll always be thinking of Magnus, and how wonderfully he was written.
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31 of 38 people found the following review helpful By ransome22 on February 16, 2003
Format: Hardcover
It seems that nary a used book sale is complete without a copy of A Perfect Spy holding court on crowded shelves with works of obscure fiction. Having often come across it during my own browsing, I finally picked up a copy (for free) to see if I had been missing out. I intend no harm with the statement, but the book was worth the price. I now see a measure of reason behind the myriad discarded copies.
One might call this work a genre-bender as it is less a work of fictive espionage than it is a psychological profile of the protagonist, Magnus Pym. It is, at its core, an extended work in character development. At the beginning of the novel, spy Pym takes up residence in a seaside home to write his memoirs, and his disappearance causes a flurry of panic within the American and British intelligence communities. The grand majority of "the action" has already taken place, however, and is cryptically recounted in hindsight as Pym explores the influence of his father's business shenanigans upon his own character, chosen vocation, and penchant for deception. His style is so cryptic at times, and clarification from le Carre so wanting, that the reader can easily be left behind searching for clues as to time and context. It is a task to keep one's bearings as the narrative often shifts from past to present with little warning, while minor characters not seen for chapters surface suddenly with little hint as to where they were last seen. The name Wentworth, for example, surfaces within the first 100 pages then largely disappears for the rest of the novel until assuming a major role at the very end. There are some 150 to 160 major and minor characters in this book, some of which appear in both Pym's reminiscing and in the narrative present.
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31 of 39 people found the following review helpful By Billyjack D'Urberville on October 4, 2005
Format: Paperback
This book is not only the best of many fine efforts by LeCarre, but one of the best novels in our language in the latter half of the 20th century. It is as smoothly and perfectly made as LeCarre could have made it, but it is not "an easy read." For one thing, I do not know what a "read" is, except that it is a bizarre term that came into vogue about 20-25 years ago along with the "minimalist" school of American fiction, "micro stories," the decline of independent booksellers, the "nobody reads anymore" mantra, etc. Its use implies that a book ought to be something easy enough for time between planes, otherwise it's too difficult for attention. If the lack of ease or difficulty of a first reading of major literary fiction has become a factor, this is unfortunate for those plagued by it. Time was, the reader might be expected to put in some effort too, although this is doubtless a surprise to many who, by no fault of their own, had a bad generation of English teachers who, like their students, had their brain synapses deadened by visual media since babyhood.

Having made the claim for this book's greatness, it is admittedly almost as difficult to defend this position straightforwardly as to locate the essential story in this dense and backward winding plot. The main constraint is this: I respect amazon.com's guide rule about writing a review that does not give the plot away. And the primary rich experience for the reader here, on first reading, is digging out the essence of the plot and meaning as the narration of father and son winds forth and back. And the great meanings here do not become apparent until the end. Admitedly for us Americanos, there is some thick Brit slang to slog through here, too.
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