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40 of 41 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Is It Good vs. Evil, or Evil vs. Evil
Mr. Le Carre wrote this book about the Middle East in 1983, and it is as timely a novel now as it was then. Charlie, a modestly talented British actress goes to work for Israeli intelligence to try and locate a secretive Palestinian agent. Indoctrinated with a false background of having a romantic affair with the agent's brother, she plays the role with such...
Published on September 24, 2004 by Bucherwurm

versus
27 of 31 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A difficult book to evaluate
I enjoyed this novel quite a bit, but I'm not sure if I should be embarassed to admit it.

Le Carre is said to know something about intelligence operations in the real world, but the plot seems a bit implausible to me. Everything hinges on Charlie, even though no one knows what she will do, or even what she believes. I can't believe that governments would...
Published on August 17, 2004 by Alex Strasheim


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40 of 41 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Is It Good vs. Evil, or Evil vs. Evil, September 24, 2004
By 
Bucherwurm "bucherwurm" (California United States) - See all my reviews
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Mr. Le Carre wrote this book about the Middle East in 1983, and it is as timely a novel now as it was then. Charlie, a modestly talented British actress goes to work for Israeli intelligence to try and locate a secretive Palestinian agent. Indoctrinated with a false background of having a romantic affair with the agent's brother, she plays the role with such determination that she begins to believe this fictional experience. At various points in the novel the reader begins to wonder if Charlie will remain an Israeli spy or begin to identify with the Palestinians.

Le Carre skillfully develops the philosophy of the opposing sides. The Palestinian and Israeli characters all feel the righteousness of their cause. Each feels that they are on the side of justice, and even human love, to oppose those whom they feel are motivated by purely evil intent. There is never a consideration of whether the end should justify the means. Anything goes when justice is on your side. You are left with the feeling that there is no resolution to this conflict.

JLC is known for his slow, detailed exposition of plot and character. You read over 100 pages before you get a glimmering of what is probably going to happen. There are some thrills in this novel, but don't expect this to be an edge of your seat ride. The first part of the book involves a bombing in Berlin, and the author, in an updated introduction to the book, admits that maybe he should have shortened this section somewhat. I rather like the book's pace, seeing the development of the characters, and the gelling of the Byzantine plot. He's a skilful, intelligent writer, and that's just fine. One outstanding section of the book involves the chief Israeli agent, an expert manipulator, jousting with a British intelligence officer. The description of the pompous, controlling Brit is priceless, and the two characters' verbal fencing is immensely funny.

This almost 500 page book could have been written in 200 pages by the typical mystery hack, but I enjoyed every word of this fine novel.
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36 of 39 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Few old men, no cardigans, but still Le Carre, May 17, 2004
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This is a Le Carre novel for people who don't want to read of old men in cardigans sitting in dingy offices piecing together intelligence reports. The characters here are youthful, sexy, passionate. There are bombs and there is bloodshed. There is a hint of sophisticated sex, and there are lovers seeking comfort in each other's arms. We are a long way from George Smiley's Circus, but the novel is filled with the same brooding atmosphere as Le Carre's Karla novels.

We meet Charlie, an out-of-work young bohemian actress with a somewhat violent boyfriend. She is recruited and offered a part in an Israeli secret-service production: she plays out the role of lover to a terrorist and is then sent out into the field to trap the terrorist's brother. As usual, Le Carre's style is to develop characters slowly and indirectly. For instance, rather than read that Charlie's boyfriend is violent, we just read what he tells Charlie as he bosses her about: "Carry my bag. Men don't carry bags, see".

Also following his formula, Le Carre sets his characters in a dark joyless world. Amazingly enough, he manages to infuse lively Greek islands with the bleakness of the Yorkshire moors. Charlie is not happy on Mykonos and is easy to recruit.

The novel is somewhat dated. There are no suicide bombers, there is no infatida. The Palestinian terrorists and their allies are sophisticated Marxist socialites, a common portrayal in the 70s and 80s. But it works as a story, as character development, and as a snapshot of the Palestine-Israel conflict in the early 80s.
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20 of 21 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Le Carre at his best, December 21, 2003
By A Customer
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I cannot believe there are no reviews on this wonderful work. John Le Carre is a gifted author and this, in my opinion, is his absolute best work ever. Written more than 20 years ago, his cautionary tale of espionage and terror in the Middle East- and played out on a world stage- will grab you from page one and enthrall. It is as timely and topical today as when it was first published. I re-read it after 9/11 and was amazed at how little changes in the Middle East, and how those events impact us in the West today. But beyond the topical interest- this is a strikingly beautifully written story, a love story, an espionage story, that stands as Mr Le Carre's most luminous work yet.
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27 of 31 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A difficult book to evaluate, August 17, 2004
I enjoyed this novel quite a bit, but I'm not sure if I should be embarassed to admit it.

Le Carre is said to know something about intelligence operations in the real world, but the plot seems a bit implausible to me. Everything hinges on Charlie, even though no one knows what she will do, or even what she believes. I can't believe that governments would conduct business that way, not if the stakes were high.

The book functions best as a romance. Charlie's pretty appealing, in a sexist way: A beautiful, smart, talented woman who is more or less waiting for a man to come around and mold her; she's Kim Novak in Vertigo. That's the problem -- her appeal is rooted in her plasticity, and in the way she responds to abuse by redoubling her efforts to please. When I responded to the character I was simultaneously entertained and, I'm afraid, a little diminished.

Politically, the book is sort of puzzling. In the novel (I don't mean this to be a comment on reality in either direction), the Israelis don't have much justice on their side, but they are decent and compassionate people. The Palestinians, conversely, seem to have legitimate claims, but their national champions are bloodthirsty monsters.

It's an odd juxtaposition which tends to produce a sense of balance for the reader, but whether or not it has any basis in reality is something I'll leave to people who know more about the region. My guess, though, is that both sides are shortchanged pretty substantially, in different ways.

On one hand, we have the Jewish conspirators, puppet masters of consumate skill, manipulating everyone with whom they come in contact. They control everything secretly, using methods so subtle the rest of the world doesn't even know it's being led. On the other hand, we have the passionate and violent Arab terrorists, primitive and sensual, extraordinarily beautiful, but lacking a nuanced sense of morality. The noble savage incarnate. Offensive stereotypes all around, in other words.

But having said all of that, I enjoyed reading the book. I've just finished it, and I'm sorry it's over. As entertainment it works, but if you think about it too much it's not so sturdy.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars haunting, September 19, 2001
By A Customer
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This is absolutely one of the best books I have ever read and over the years still stands out as one of my all-time favorites. I became a fan of Le Carre after the Smiley books, but this one - a non-Smiley work- is my favorite. I first read this nearly 20 years ago while in college - one other reviewer here noted that she sympathized more with the Charlie character when she was in her 20s than in her 30s, and I think that may be because when you're young you tend to be more radical and more open to and moved by the fact that atrocities are committed daily in other countries. However I disagree that Charlie is less likeable with time. I read this book again after the tragic bombing of the World Trade Center towers, and now in my late 30s no longer relate to the radical Charlie's political stances- but a shared belief system is not required to enjoy this book or to understand why Charlie became an agent for the Israelis. In fact that is what makes this book so extraordinary- why would a radical young woman who is anti-Zionist do that? At the heart of it is a need for acceptance, a cause, and a love story. Her actions run counter to her pre-espionage political activities, and the void those filled and that the agent runner supplants is at the heart of this book and probably many real life espionage stories.
At any rate, this is a beautifully crafted novel of espionage that shows both sides of the tortuous unresolved Middle East conflict, beautifully illustrating these while introducing you to some unforgettable characters. Charlie while central, is not as strong a character than the characters of Gadi and Kurtz, who are the book's anchors. The characters and setting linger with you long after you have finished this book- in my case, years- I never forgot this book. I have always been disappointed by Le Carre's works since then as his dialogue and ability to flesh out both characters and story seem less evident in more recent works. But this book stands among his best and is well worth reading- again and again.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One of his best . . ., June 4, 2006
Kurtz. What a character! Le Carre, who conjured up George Smiley, gives us Kurtz, a man of smarts, wit, and contrast. The genius of Le Carre is the richness, the sheer life force of his characters. Kurtz, Charlie, Gadi and even Khalil are no mere 'cutouts' a la Tom Clancy.

The Little Drummer Girl details an Israeli operation using an anti-Israeli Brit, an innocent, as bait(to catch a lion, you must first tether the goat). Yes, the novel could have been shorter, but then we would be deprived by the beauty of Mr. Le Carre's prose, his precision, his mastery of English.

Who would have thunk it: after the trilogy of Mr. Smiley and his beloved London, the author has a delicious ace up his jacket.

I found the treatment of Jews and Israelis to be fair, for he explores the spectrum of Israeli thoughts; and, perhaps unwittingly, the dogmatic contrast in Arab thought. He misses the religious conflict at force, but this novel was written before Jihad became a household world, and at a time when the Israeli-Palestinian conflict was looked at in a purely 'secular' dispute of two peoples: not as a religious conflict with daily extension throughout the globe.

Relish this book.
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Can a fallen woman sink?, February 9, 2001
This is a question Charlie writes to a friend, asking about herself. To find the answer you can't go straight at it, you have to take a roundabout route, look at it from all angles, explore various depths and peel away the layers of complexity. It's a Le Carre novel afterall! At the time of asking the question, Charlie was falling in love with Joseph, so maybe that is what she meant. There's another possibility. Although she didn't know it, she was about to fall into a world far removed from her cavorting, drink laced, sun drenched days with her actor friends on Mykonos. A world of international terror - pitting the Isrealis and Palestinians against each other. A world of intrigue, suspicion, passion and violence and a world where - having sunk into it - her acting skills would save her and her love for another would prevent her from drowning.
Le Carre, we all know, knows how to create compelling characters, and here is one of his most complex and well developed characters. Wealthy family, private school education, middle-class English. Rebellious, promiscuous and radical - perhaps in response to her upbringing or just to be fashionable. Not someone we like at first, but as time goes on we see her as caring, funny, and someone who just wants to please others. We start to understand her a liitle. She becomes a convincing, effective and ultimately deadly double agent for the Israelis, yet remains sympathetic and affectionate towards her Palestinian friends. We get to see yet another side to Charlie - a little girl lost, in over her head and having to resort to whatever means she can to save herself from going under, someone in a mess and we feel terribly sorry for her. A 'tour de force' in the exploration of human emotions, and not just Charlies - but our own also.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Simultaneously humanistic and horrifying, October 5, 2012
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Charlie's transformation from small stage actress to counterinsurgent operative is chilling. She uses and develops her acting skills and her psyche in order to be inserted by the Mossad into the Palestinian camp to trap a terrorist bomber. This heavily complex and convoluted story becomes a study of the chameleon-like minds and motives of both professionals and amateurs operating within the intelligence community on both sides of the conflict. At the same time the author brilliantly illustrates that there is nothing glamorous about being in the spy business. Who are the good guys and who are the bad becomes strictly a matter of perception, politics, and philosophy here. Absolutely first-rate entertainment with a theme that is as valid and topical today as when it was written.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Spy novel about terrorism ... and love, March 26, 2002
By A Customer
This review is from: Little Drummer Girl (Paperback)
The Little Drummer Girl to me is LeCarre's best work. The book is about an English actress, Charlie, who is recruited by Israeli spys to help find and stop a Palestinian bomber and his network. The novel's overriding theme is the motivations of various people who are willing to do anything for their cause. LeCarre is a master of characterization; these people seem so real it is hard to believe this is fiction. To me, Charlie is every bit as memorable as George Smiley, LeCarre's best-known and much-loved creation. In fact, she may be more remarkable in that LeCarre, a man, has revealed this woman's heart so well. Females turned off by the macho spy novel genre should take note: This is also a very moving love story.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Ambiguous and Ambivalent, May 3, 2001
By 
A. Ali "Harkonnen" (Minneapolis, MN USA) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
All of the Le Carre novels involve the theme of betrayal and exploitation in some subtle manner. This is one where the main character, as actress, has to betray and exploit herself. She - and by implication, we as readers - never know what is authentic and what is artifice in her. Le Carre demolishes the distinction. For this very quality she is taken on by the Israeli secret service, who need to construct an elaborate but plausible facade. Like all Le Carre's other novels there's an ambivalence about what is right and wrong. The characters are complex, ofttimes confusing in their motives and unsure of the efficacy and rightness of what they're doing. What makes this book unusually troubling is Le Carre's exposure of the fakeness and schism in the soul of western man.Is there anything bona fide and clear about us? Is life for us just theatre?
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The Little Drummer Girl: A Novel
The Little Drummer Girl: A Novel by John le Carré (Paperback - June 28, 2011)
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