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Smiley's Circus: A Guide to the Secret World of John Le Carre Hardcover – October, 1986


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Product Details

  • Hardcover
  • Publisher: St Martins Pr; 1st Us Edition edition (October 1986)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0312730144
  • ISBN-13: 978-0312730147
  • Product Dimensions: 9.5 x 6.5 x 1.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #443,288 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

4.8 out of 5 stars
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This is a genuinely amazing book.
R. W. Rasband
The book contains plot summaries, timelines, descriptions of all the characters and a glossary of Circus terms.
No Pilikia
So uch fun to read if you are a leCarre fan!
Bernadette Hackett

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

11 of 12 people found the following review helpful By R. W. Rasband VINE VOICE on July 18, 2000
Format: Hardcover
This is a genuinely amazing book. It lists and analyzes all the characters in the novels, gives a detailed history of the Circus, and provides absorbing commentary on who did what to whom in the books and what that says about Le Carre's most important themes. I've never seen anything like it, and that includes books about writers who have devoted followings like Conan Doyle or Tolkien. And Monaghan's book is lucid and readable as well. He really should update this to include "The Russia House" and "The Secret Pilgrim."
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful By perch1 on June 27, 2004
Format: Hardcover
The first time I read John le Carre's novel 'Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy', I had to make a chart to keep track of who was who. I didn't mind, because the intricacy of his world is part of its beauty. I *did* mind that I couldn't figure out what the spy jargon meant. I've now read the seven Circus novels multiple times, but instead of a chart I keep David Monaghan's fantastic guide next to me when I do. It's indispensable for the jargon definitions alone (but how did he find out what a "mailfist job" is?). More pleasurably, he identifies every character --even unnamed ones like "narcotics agent"-- and captures the personality of each in just a few sympathetic lines from hints sometimes spread out over several books.

Monaghan maintains le Carre's own skeptical voice, treating all the information as if it were friendly but not completely reliable office gossip. For example, after noting that Ricki Tarr, though reckless, is nevertheless loyal and competent, Monaghan wonders almost sadly if the boy was hired back after the Haydon case. Going into great depth in the pages on George Smiley, he tries to sort out which crimes can be laid at Smiley's feet (Jerry Westerby's murder--probably) and which can't (Liz Gold's murder--probably).

One sees that in le Carre people are largely viewpoints: "Mrs Pope Graham considers Norman to be sensitive but for Smiley he is a grubby little voyeur." Nevertheless facts are facts: Prideaux digs up his gun on Tuesday, not Sunday, no matter what else the novel may say.

Readers sometimes complain about le Carre's overly complex plots, especially in the Circus novels. This guidebook can loosen the "very clever knots," but first-time Circus readers must beware. Any entry can contain a monstrous spoiler.

Monaghan clearly loves le Carre's work. I do, too, at least through 1980. I doubt I would keep going back to it if not for the help of this meticulously crafted, thoughtful, and well-written book.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
The books is an excellent companion book to the novels of John LeCarre that feature George Smiley. It gives nice background and helps to put the various characters and places into some order. It has one major weakness and that is it doesn't cover the works involving the Circus and Smiley after "Smiley's People" - The Russia House and The Secret Pilgrim are two big holes. Perhaps someone in the future can help fill them in?
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Background and detail annotations to the characters, events and places mentioned in John LeCarre's books about spies starring George Smiley.
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By Glenn Boyd on September 20, 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
If you have read any of the Smiley stories, you need this by your side; it not only clarifies but is a great addition to your LeCarre library.
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