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A Small Town in Germany Mass Market Paperback – February 26, 2002

3.7 out of 5 stars 42 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Review

The New York Times Exciting, compulsively readable, and brilliantly plotted.

New Statesman Brilliant, unforgettable...a masterpiece.

The Sunday Times (U.K.) John le Carré is at the peak of his form.

About the Author

John le CarrÉ 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: Tinker, 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 CarrÉ lives in Cornwall.
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Product Details

  • Mass Market Paperback: 338 pages
  • Publisher: Scribner; Reprint edition (February 26, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0743431715
  • ISBN-13: 978-0743431712
  • Product Dimensions: 8.3 x 5.4 x 0.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.4 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (42 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #810,713 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Mass Market Paperback
When Leo Harting, a German employee of the British Embassy in Bonn (the titular small town in Germany), goes missing with confidential files, London sends Alan Turner to investigate. With anti-British sentiment at a fever pitch in Cold War West Germany, Harting's disappearance takes on significant importance. Is Harting a communist? A neo-Nazi? As Turner pursues his investigation, it soon becomes clear that Harting was a fixture about the embassy, known to all and yet completely unknown. Moreover, Turner comes to the realization that Rawley Bradfield, head of the embassy, is not interested in helping Turner, despite his assurances to the contrary.

"A Small Town in Germany" is my first John Le Carre novel. It won't be my last. Le Carre's reputation as a master of the spy-thriller is well-founded. Publically, writing as the "anti-Ian Fleming," Le Carre concentrates on plausibility (in fairness, Fleming's early books were more plausible than the films). The plot of this book is single-minded: Turner's tenacious search for Harting and his conflict with Bradfield even as events are straining German domestic stability and international relations. Indeed, instead of a lengthy chase novel with Turner trading shots with Harting through the streets of Bonn, Le Carre writes of Turner's more realistic battle with a distracted bureaucracy as he pieces together just who Harting is, and why Bradfield felt compelled to keep him around for so long. Le Carre is quite careful to obscure the truths of his plot. The answer as to why Harting has vanished and how this relates to the unrest in West Germany is surprising, and speaks to Le Carre's gift for misdirection.

While this novel is plot driven, Le Carre allows his characters to grow.
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Format: Mass Market Paperback
This might be Le Carre's most ambitious and best written book. It contains a host of well drawn characters and the clever plotting typical of all Le Carre's best work. As with his other good books, Le Carre uses the spy novel format to investigate matters well beyond the usual formulas of thrillers. This book is set in Bonn, in the late 50s or early 60s. Almost all the action takes place within the British embassy. The latter is depicted as a microcosm of British society, with its class, ethnic, and religous divisions, its repressions and emphasis on maintaining British prestige. This book is an allegory and devastating critique of British national policy in that period. Le Carre shows the insularity of British society, its inability to deal with reduction to a second-rate military and economic power, and its preference for preferring shabby deals maintaining British prestige to concrete achievements.
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Format: Mass Market Paperback Verified Purchase
I first picked up A SMALL TOWN IN GERMANY in the late 60s, but, finding it too slow, couldn't finish. My appreciation of John le Carre having increased over the years, I recently gave it another go.
The book is set in the then West German capital of Bonn during the heyday of the Cold War. The British Embassy is beset with a number of mysterious disappearances: a document trolley, a tea machine, an electric fan, and some cups from the Caf. Oh, and a twenty-plus year employee named Otto Harting and a Top Secret "Green File". Meanwhile, on the other side of the embassy fence, a West German industrialist, Karfeld, is inflaming the populace with nationalist speeches, advocating stronger ties with Moscow, and undermining Bundesrepublik support for Britain's entry into the Common Market.
Has Harting bolted to Moscow? The Foreign Office in London dispatches its troubleshooter, Alan Turner, to Bonn to ferret out some answers.
Like le Carre's other books, A SMALL TOWN IN GERMANY is short on action and long on character and plot development. For these very reasons, my appreciation of his later books, especially TINKER, TAILOR, SOLDIER, SPY and SMILEY'S PEOPLE, both featuring the author's most famous hero, George Smiley, lead me to think that my literary tastes have matured over the years, at least when it comes to trashy novels. If the reader of this book squints, he may perhaps see in Turner's dogged pursuit of the puzzle pieces a forerunner of the Smiley character, though the latter is infinitely more subtle and imperturbable. And Turner is not above slapping a lady in his quest for the Truth. Such conduct would be anathema to George, always the gentleman.
That Turner never endears himself to the reader is perhaps the novel's greatest shortcoming.
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Format: Paperback
No Smiley, no Karla, Moscow Centre is only an unconfirmed shadow over the horizon as Le Carre takes his scalpel to a British mission under siege in Bonn somewhere in the undated late 50s/early 60s. The most visible threat is a rabble-rosuing demagogue who is stirring up German passions with talk of a Germany that is being trod all over by its conquerors (a tactic used in fact very successfully by an up-and-coming politician after the First War - I think his outfit was called the National Socialist Party!)
Among the usual undercurrents and tensions of the British mission - basically a for-export version of Whitehall, with all its petty intrigues and shallow secrets - there is mounting tension over an upcoming rally, the unexplained murder of the librarian of a British library that is actually a German library and the solicitiousness of a police chief whose concern rings as true as a shark's regard for a school of minnows. Against this backdrop they struggle to deal with, and keep quiet, the disappearance of a low-level staffer and some oh-so-critical files. London's man Turner starts cutting to the heart of the matter and finds that he needs no enemies outside the mission - the ones inside would do him nicely!
Sprebly plotted and with a *genuine* twist at the end, this is one of Le Carre's absolute best - it's Le Carre for those (like the present writer) who were intimidated by The Little Drummer Girl in infancy and never dared again!
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