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Smiley's People Hardcover – April 5, 2001

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Hardcover, April 5, 2001
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 328 pages
  • Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton Ltd (April 5, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0340733756
  • ISBN-13: 978-0340733752
  • Product Dimensions: 1.4 x 6.3 x 9.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (104 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,631,848 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


'Smiley's People has all the le Carre touches' Sunday Telegraph An enormously skilled and satisfying work Newsweek An achievement of subtlety and power of which few novelists would be capable. It is the best single thing le Carr has done Financial Times

About the Author

John le Carre was born in 1931. He attended the universities of Bern and Oxford and later taught at Eton. He spent five years in the British Secret Service.

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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.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

48 of 48 people found the following review helpful By Michael K. Smith TOP 500 REVIEWER on July 22, 2002
Format: Hardcover
This is the last volume in a trilogy which, without any doubt, the best spy story ever written in English. _Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy_ began it with the story of George Smiley's uncovering of the mole in British Intelligence HQ, known as "the Circus." _The Honourable Schoolboy_ -- which largely stands alone from the first and third books, and is a superior piece of work by itself -- tells of Smiley's first steps toward revenge against Karla, head of Moscow Centre and his personal enemy for nearly thirty years . . . only to be denied the fruits of his own success by political machinations at home. _Smiley's People_ brings everything to a very satisfying conclusion, via the discovery that Karla has an unsuspected human side, which makes him vulnerable. As always, Le Carre's development of his characters is masterful and his dialogue and descriptive passages make it clear why, at his best, he is considered an exceptional stylist. The pace of the action in the early part of the book is purposely rather slow, drawing you in, making you pay attention to what's happening and thinking about what secrets might be behind it all -- just as one imagines George is doing. But as the story develops, the pace picks up, until the last quarter is nearly a headlong gallop toward a triumphant final chapter. Unreservedly recommended.
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21 of 21 people found the following review helpful By D. S. Thurlow TOP 100 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on June 28, 2011
Format: Paperback
The Cold War ended a couple of decades ago, but John LeCarre's classic spy novel, "Smiley's People", is still an astonishingly good read. It is actually the concluding piece of a superb espionage trilogy that begins with "Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy" and continues with "The Honorable Schoolboy." The rather dense plot of "Smiley's People" will likely make more sense if the novels are read in sequence.

As the story opens, a former agent of the British Secret Service is found horribly murdered outside London, after making contact with his old employers. George Smiley, once head of the Secret Service, is summoned out of an unhappy retirement to make sense of the mess. What he discovers is a secret so important to an old adversary that it was worth killing for.

With official license renewed, the patient Smiley follows a faint trail of clues across Europe and his own history in the Cold War. He will call upon old friends and comrades for information and assistance, while trolling the sad wreckage of his own personal life. At the end of the trail may be the opportunity for the supreme act of professional revenge on a Russian spy master, or a deadly ambush...

LeCarre has a unique writing style, intermingled with a cynical take on the espionage business, that requires close attention from the reader. His hero, George Smiley, is almost the antithesis of the James Bond stereotype. However, the patient reader may find that George Smiley's own considerable gifts for his craft can make for a very compelling story. "Smiley's People" is very highly recommended to fans of espionage novels in general and those of John LeCarre in particular.
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15 of 15 people found the following review helpful By Joseph Boone VINE VOICE on October 13, 2007
Format: Paperback
Smiley's People is the final installment of the trilogy that tells of the struggle between George Smiley, British spy extraordinaire, and Karla, his Russian counterpart. George is called out of retirement to investigate the death of a Russian defector from his earlier days at the agency. As usual the trail is absolutely Byzantine, but it leads him toward an opportunity that could finally bring his nemesis Karla down. I won't reveal any more of the plot because novels like this depend too much on the specific twists and turns for their entertainment value.

To some extent, it's a waste of time reviewing the third book in a trilogy. If you haven't read them, you should really read Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy and The Honourable Schoolboy before even thinking about this book. If you have, and liked them, you want to know how the story ends and you'll read Smiley's People regardless of the reviews. If you didn't like them, then even glowing reviews probably won't be enough to get you across the finish line. For the few people on the fence, here's my two cents.

Le Carre' is an undisputed master of the spy novel and in many respects he's on the top of his game here. Of the three books in the trilogy, this was by far the easiest and most straightforward to read. It's the only one that uses a classic third party narrator perspective and the story is relatively simple (for a spy novel). I found the story and many of the characters interesting.
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23 of 27 people found the following review helpful By IMHO on July 1, 2011
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
`Smiley's People' is, of course, one of the best spy novels ever written, and a must read for lovers of the genre. That said, it's the weakest of the Karla Trilogy. While certainly less confusing, confounding, and imposing than `The Hounrable Schoolboy', it's also less engaging. It certainly feels less brilliant than `Tinker, Tailor, Solider, Spy', a novel, I would argue, that is the best spy novel ever written. This was a book that was written when the character George Smiley was already a literary star; it is not a book, however, that made him a literary star, and the result is a story that artificially parades out a litany of Smiley's `people' like the contrived movie star guest appearances on a bad sitcom. Worse, the story, while still composed of that le Carre brand of believability, is by and far the flattest of the three novels. If you've read the first two, then this is a definite buy, but it's not a stand alone novel, and is definitely not the best place to buy in to the Smiley novels. Yes, the prose is still le Carre strong, but his remaining attributes (the subtlety, the moral nuance, the Dickens-esque characters and Dickens-esque gray) feel a bit phoned-in, a bit forced, a bit of an accidental caricature of itself. In all, a little too self-serving.

That said, the Karla trilogy is to spy novels what the Earth is to the planets, and I'm not sure how much higher praise can come. John le Carre successfully defined himself against the ostentation of Ian Fleming during the prime of the latter's career, but amazingly, he is still defined against the plethora of outright horrid novels breeding like weeds in the genre (Have you read a Vince Flynn? He makes Tom Clancy look like Flaubert).
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