on October 22, 2012
Many people who dislike Le Carre's post cold-war novels seem to mention, as their primary complaint, that they miss the characters brought to life in his earlier books. As a younger reader who started reading his work after the fall of the Berlin Wall, I have no such qualms, and in fact find his more recent body of work much livelier and less repetitive than his Smiley books. While all of his post-Russia books are worth reading, I especially enjoyed 'Our Game' and his most recent "Our Kind of Traitor'. But the absolute pinnacle is this book, which I have reread a couple of times and always confirms this judgement.
Le Carre quite simply nails it. Pine is a completely sympathetic hero, somebody who is capable of being "almost ill with desire" when catching the scent of a woman recently emerged from her bath, recognizably weak when retreating to his principles rather than doing what he knows is right, etc. And the bad guys, in contrast to a Dick Tracy cartoon, are also completely understandable, and many of us, given the chance to live the way they do, would jump at the opportunity. In this sense, the book is not about Roper vs. Pine, but rather about succumbing to craven desire vs. living up to your principles, and this is indeed an interesting struggle.
Of course, the struggle would be dull if the writing weren't masterful, and Le Carre engages all five of our senses in describing the worlds the characters inhabit. This book feels true in every detail.
on February 6, 2009
I consider myself a John le Carre aficionado, and this is, hands down, my favorite thus far.
We anticipate that his espionage and political threads are strong and tightly drawn. However, what is the true joy of this novel is the emotional depth of le Carre's hero, Jonathan. Driven by retribution and revenge, we get a man (as opposed to an automaton) with heart and soul as well as the obligatory skills of a spy.
In THE NIGHT MANAGER, le Carre's prose is poetry, as exemplified when Jonathan, caught in an act of espionage, makes love to the anti-heroine (whom he covets, but thus far has never touched) by telling her: "I'm obsessed by you. I can't get you out of my head. I don't mean I'm in love with you. I sleep with you, I wake up with you, I can't clean my teeth without cleaning yours as well and most of the time I'm quarreling with you. There's no logic to it, there's no pleasure to it. I haven't heard you express a single thought worth a damn, and most of what you say is affected bilge. Yet every time I think of something funny, I need you to laugh at it, and when I'm low it's you I need to cheer me up. I don't know who you are, if you're anyone at all. Or whether you're here for the beer or because you're wildly in love with Roper. And I'm sure you don't know either. I think you're a total mess. but that doesn't put me off. Not at all. It makes me indignant, it makes me a fool it makes me want to wring your neck. But that's just part of the package."
Trust me, it works. And if you don't get it, then seriously, you just don't get le Carre.
on September 21, 1998
This is eerily familiar to anyone who knows the businesses of private banking, international arms dealing and covert export licensing by governments. Originally recommended to me by a senior security source in an international bank, this was one of those rare and riveting occasions when a fictional account of a subject grew more and more recognisable on closer reading. A military intelligence researcher recently confirmed this view, telling me that "if this had been written as a textbook, Her Majesty's Government would have tried to ban it". For each fictional character there is a real counterpart out there; certainly for anyone who knows anything about the real post-Cold War agenda for western governments there is some jarringly accurate analysis of motive, mechanism and personality politics. Whether you read this as simply a thunderingly good story to rank with Le Carre's best, or as a "roman a clef" which reveals the real personalities behind British political administration, it is un-put-downable. (Fun game for parties of international bankers/arms dealers: How many real-world characters can you identify?) I now issue this as a textbook to employees embarking on careers in banking, as a morality tale about the perils of money laundering. Others should simply enjoy, and wonder how much is true!
on April 25, 2016
Although I'd seen the TV series I thoroughly enjoyed this novel. Set earlier than the TV Series it contained more back story and different locations The characters were more complex. Despite knowing the type of ending I still found the tension building and had to put it down several times because my heart was pounding. So well written. What a master yarn-spinner this man is.
on March 18, 2016
Contrary to some commentators, John Le Carre has not lost his ability to tell a wonderfully thought provoking story, even if the Cold War is over. The most brilliant aspect of this gripping story is the delightful detail of the author's brush when describing characters. Particularly significant are the English government characters, and the Secret Service operatives. Not surprised that if had to be made into a six hour series, there is just too much detail to be crammed into a movie-length feature. The twists and turns of the plot keeps the reader enthralled from first to last. Very clever, and very absorbing.
on August 5, 2011
*The Night Manager* is one of the most literate and intelligent spy/'thriller' novels I have ever read. I have read only one other LeCarre novel, *The Little Drummer Girl*, and comparisons are very apt, for a number of reasons.
WARNING: PARTIAL `SPOILER' FOLLOWS:
"Drummer Girl" was written before "Night Manager;" (LeCarre's 10th and 14th novels, respectively) and, although certainly itself a literate and intelligent bit of storytelling, in my view does not possess the level of excellence of the later work.
Both books have the same plot! Or, more accurately, the same macro plot, which goes as follows:
1) Both novels feature an intelligence organization, and a lone individual-an `outsider,'-who, at the outset, has nothing to do with the intelligence organization.
2) The intelligence organization recruits the outsider as an agent to be the point man in an operation both difficult and dangerous.
3) An elaborate, fake, `back story' is created, a false history intended to deceive the target of the operation, a Palestinian terrorist organization (and its chief planner) in *Drummer Girl*, and a criminal organization (and its leader), engaging in widespread drug sales and illegal arms trading (and murder, when necessary), in *Night Manager*.
4) The successful execution of a plan which results in the outsider/agent being recruited into the target organization.
5) A follow up plan, in which the planted agent engages in activities intended to sabotage, cripple, or destroy the target organization and its leader.
6) The successful execution of this follow-up plan. ,
In my view, *The Little Drummer Girl* would have profited from additional editing; as much as 10% to 15% could have been cut. I think the novel is somewhat overwritten; its narrative at points is too densely layered and overly opaque in a number of respects. But still, even with what I think are these (relatively mild) flaws, the novel is quite good and well worth reading.
The relative excellence of *The Night Manager* can, with respect to the earlier novel, be simply expressed: most of the problems of *Drummer Girl* are not in evidence in this later work; the narrative is `cleaner' and the plot tighter than the earlier book, but characterization, and the excellent prose style for which LeCarre is justly famed, are in no way weakened. Indeed, I found the near obligatory "love affair," between the hero and the villain's girlfriend quite believable in human terms; the slow realization on the part of the girl of her precarious and-despite the wealth and lavish attentions that surround her-"cheap" status, and her growing affection and love for the hero (Jed loves Jonathan!), very well done indeed. Before the book comes to its nicely managed climax, the reader really feels (and this is obligatory in all melodramas of this type) that he/she SERIOUSLY WANTS the bad guy to get whopped, and the two lovers to survive and thrive in each other's arms.
And the reader is not disappointed!
Jonathan Pine, sometime hotelier, soldier, killer, lover and agent, is swept up in a complex international intrigue. Weapons for sale is the pivot around which money, power and even romance impinge on Jonathan's life. The many roles, varied and useful as they are, leave him with no particular purpose in life. Until he encounters "the worst man in the world". The prompt is Sophie, who might have been a lover, but who belongs to Freddie Hamid. Freddie is aligned with Richard Onslow Roper, of Nassau, the Bahamas. The name and location are almost a slap in the face, since the Caribbean island-nations are host to shady firms. Little or no taxes and even less government supervision make it possible for the unscrupulous to engage in many forms of chicanery. Drugs and weapons loom large in that realm.
Left at loose ends by the fall of the Soviet Union, British Intelligence services need a fresh cause. If nothing else, all those bureaucratic structures and their personnel need to turn their expertise to new tasks. The problem is that the Cold War enabled influential people to develop links through the various spy networks. How many wealthy aristocrats are now involved in picking up the pieces to further enrich themselves? And which ones are doing so? Pine, picked up by one of the new spin-off intelligence organisations is set to learn answers to these questions. A faked murder sends him to unreachable places with a new identity. It puts him in a position to penetrate the Roper organisation. Throughout this tale, Pine is driven by the ghost of Sophie, who was found beaten to death in Egypt. Even in the backwoods of Quebec, hiding from authorities and maneuvering to complete his mission, he is beset by the image of her in his mind.
LeCarre's style is well applied in this tale of international wheeling and dealing. He exhibits a well-versed familiarity with the places described. It's his characters, however, that give this story its richness. From the intelligence bureaucrats through the "heavies" Roper employs as his protectors and fronts, to Pine and the women his life touches, there are no false images conveyed. The author portrays them effectively and consistently with no distracting or invalid diversions. Which is not to imply any of them are shallow or above credibility. Although the conclusion is unexpected, especially given the circumstances, the "spy novel" author has brought a new facet to intelligence writing. It's a captivating book and well worth either the established LeCarre fan or someone taking him up for the first time to have in their collection. [stephen a. haines - Ottawa, Canada]
on March 13, 1997
This book is an excellent sythesis of the latest research and writings of the specialists in the field of US Mexican relations. It is just enough for the non specialist to enjoy and frankly, for a specialist such as myself in this period, I found it well worth reading too. It reads well and can be read in a couple of days at most.
While I have had for even longer a copy of Alan Knight's massive synthesis I admit that I have yet to read that one all the way through. Just the footnotes alone could take a day.
If you want a good sort out of the major players on both sides of the border this is for you. Ronald Atkins' Revolution once was the "one book if you're having only one", but that one is long out of print. This is an even better one.
on September 25, 2001
Mr le Carre seems to blow hot and cold, one good book, one pot boiler. The Night Manager definitely falls into the former category. Jonathan Pine is the manager of a hotel in Switzerland, formal, correct, impeccable. But, like all le Carre's characters his placid exterior hides a multitude of depths. His mission is to bring down the "worst man in the world." Roper, the millionaire, gun runner, invulnerable friend of government ministers, philanthropist, doting father. Pine must infiltrate, seduce, outwit and destroy the empire that Roper has built. The tension is maintained perfectly and the everyday manner in which the characters go about their deadly business makes the book all the more riveting. If the final denouement is slightly disappointing, as if perhaps the author found himself in a cul de sac with no way out, overall, the story holds together wonderfully. And let's face it, at least he didn't finish with, "And then Jonathan woke up."
on March 8, 1998
The author has done a good job in presenting the facts and history leading up to the American intervention into Mexican affairs during the early part of this (20th) century. This book details the American air of superiority as well as Pancho Villa's reason's for raiding Columbus, NM. This is a great book for anyone interested in that period of Mexican-American history