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The Mission Song: A Novel [Kindle Edition]

John le Carre
3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (104 customer reviews)

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Book Description

Abandoned by both his Irish father and Congolese mother, Bruno Salvador has long looked for someone to guide his life. He has found it in Mr. Anderson of British Intelligence.Bruno's African upbringing, and fluency in numerous African languages, has made him a top interpreter in London, useful to businesses, hospitals, diplomats-and spies. Working for Anderson in a clandestine facility known as the "Chat Room," Salvo (as he's known) translates intercepted phone calls, bugged recordings, snatched voice mail messages. When Anderson sends him to a mysterious island to interpret during a secret conference between Central African warlords, Bruno thinks he is helping Britain bring peace to a bloody corner of the world. But then he hears something he should not have....Building upon the box office success of le Carre's The Constant Gardener (like THE MISSION SONG, built around turmoil and conspiracy in Africa) and le Carre's laser eye for the complexity of the modern world (seen in Absolute Friends' prediction that the Iraq war would be based on phony and manipulated intelligence), this new novel is a crowning achievement, full of politics, heart, and the sort of suspense that nobody in the world does better.

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. Bestseller le Carré (The Constant Gardener) brings a light touch to his 20th novel, the engrossing tale of an idealistic and naïve British interpreter, Bruno "Salvo" Salvador. The 29-year-old Congo native's mixed parentage puts him in a tentative position in society, despite his being married to an attractive upper-class white Englishwoman, who's a celebrity journalist. Salvo's genius with languages has led to steady work from a variety of employers, including covert assignments from shadowy government entities. One such job enmeshes the interpreter in an ambitious scheme to finally bring stability to the much victimized Congo, and Salvo's personal stake in the outcome tests his professionalism and ethics. Amid the bursts of humor, le Carré convincingly conveys his empathy for the African nation and his cynicism at its would-be saviors, both home-grown patriots and global powers seeking to impose democracy on a failed state. Especially impressive is the character of Salvo, who's a far cry from the author's typical protagonist but is just as plausible. (Sept.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Bookmarks Magazine

The Mission Song, John le Carré's 20th novel in a career spanning nearly half a century, most famously in The Spy Who Came in from the Cold (1964), receives mixed marks. Critics who enjoy the novel praise le Carré's intricate plotting, atmospheric settings, and his ear for dialogue—all the trademark riffs of the undisputed master of the Cold War thriller now setting his sights on new enemies. Those who detect a misfire here focus on the torturous complexity of the story and a confusing structure. Bottom line: Readers of le Carré will recall why they gravitated to his work in the first place; first-timers might have difficulty with the sometimes improbable twists and turns that impede a good spy story.

Copyright © 2004 Phillips & Nelson Media, Inc.

Product Details

  • File Size: 523 KB
  • Print Length: 352 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 0316016748
  • Publisher: Little, Brown and Company (September 1, 2006)
  • Sold by: Hachette Book Group
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B000MAH6C8
  • Text-to-Speech: Not enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Not Enabled
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #233,647 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
64 of 67 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars 4 1/2 Stars...Caught in a Tug-of-war November 1, 2006
Since the days of "Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy" and "The Little Drummer Girl," I've followed le Carre's novels with heightened interest. Of late, however, he's lost me with an unfocused style. I picked up "The Mission Song" with skepticism.

Thankfully, I found here a story of undeniable appeal. The first-person narrator, Bruno Salvador, is an interpreter with an uneven marriage and on secret assignment with the British. His personality is more naive, more humorous and satirical, than most of le Carre's protagonists, lending the novel a lighter tone that still manages to make scathing remarks about western politics. The Bush and Blair administrations both get low marks here, and high-minded, white colonization is shown to be a greedy and violent proposition. Bruno, caught in a tug-of-war between his native allegiances and his British ties, must face the truth and consequences of his assignment. Is one secretive coup really intended for Eastern Congo's good? Or is there a more self-seeking motive behind the financial investment of the nebulous Syndicate?

Although we the readers never really doubt the motives of all involved, it's hard not to be swept along with Bruno's romantic (somewhat thinly drawn) and politic questions. This is a conflict that could relate to African scenarios two centuries ago or a decade in the future. It's a timeless tale, told with unflinching social remarks, while still remaining an entertaining story. Le Carre remembers to treat us as fiction readers, and not simply as a gathering of politicos. Once again, my interest is renewed, and I look forward to his next project.
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32 of 34 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars occasionally exciting, often tedious February 5, 2007
Format:Audio CD
In Le Carre's latest thriller, an expert interpreter of various African languages learns of a nefarious plot involving the Congolese government. At first I was intrigued with the fact that the protagonist Salvo is an interpreter. Nice twist, and I have some experience in both interpreting and in African language study (Swahili). But the narrator is so obsessed with his status that it becomes both distracting and annoying. Consider, for example, the following excerpts from the book: "I profession a top interpreter of Swahili," "the code of your top interpreter is sacrosanct," "Never mistake, please, your mere translator for your top interpreter," "my top interpreter's ear," "your top interpreter responds without premeditation," "Salvo the top interpreter is there beside them," and there are many more. I mean, Come on!

A major portion of the book (maybe a third) takes place at a meeting of Congolese elites and European mercenaries making plans. The meeting drags on forever, and with the exception of a brief interlude of torture, it gets pretty tiresome. No action, no interesting suspense. In fact, it reminds me of many meetings I've attended (some of which have taken place in Africa); but that doesn't make it interesting writing. The plot doesn't really pick up until the last third of the book. At that point, it moves along at a decent clip.

The prose is okay but nothing special; I made the mistake of listening to this audiobook immediately after Jumpa Lahiri and before Margaret Atwood, two masterful wordsmiths. Lastly, some information at the end of the book leaves the reader feeling that much of the book was completely futile, which felt totally unsatisfying. All in all, the book had its moments and some interesting twists and turns along the way, but I was unimpressed.
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17 of 19 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Philip Caputo's review says it all (almost) March 11, 2007
"The Mission Song" is a great book, somewhat along the same lines as "The Tailor of Panama". John le Carré depicts the harsh reality of some of the human species' least admirable traits, presenting them as seen through the eyes of loveable but misguided and idealistic individuals. And despite the tragedy of the situation he maintains a positive and often humorous tone.

I was planning on writing a full review of "The Mission Song", but after reading the wonderful review by Philip Caputo of the Washington Post (see above under Editorial Reviews), I figured that it would make more sense to simply recommend that review.

"... corporate giants that know no boundaries, moral or geographical", remarks Mr. Caputo, and he's hit the nail on the head. One wonders sometimes of our future, when all of the raw materials have been plundered and the environment destroyed.

I do have a few remarks about the audio version of "The Mission Song", read by David Oyelowo, a British actor of Nigerian descent. When I started listening to this book I was thinking, "what a poor reader, it sounds like he's half-asleep!" Very dull and almost monotone, especially at the very beginning.

It turns out that this was an intentional technique. Bruno "Salvo" Salvador tells the story in the first person, and at one point he remarks that he is proud that he has made his English as characterless as possible, so nobody will think he's trying to sound upper-class or as if he belongs to any particular group of Englishmen. Furthermore, once you get to the end of the story you realize that there is a good reason why Salvo tells the story in a rather tired and depressed voice.

But the amazing thing about David Oyelowo's reading is the dialog.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
1.0 out of 5 stars A boring book
I am a great fan of LeCarré and have read all his books, many of them more than once. But the Mission Song is without a doubt his most boring work by far. Read more
Published 1 month ago by Brandon Jones
3.0 out of 5 stars too much slow detail
Well constructed story and told in an interesting manner. But it was slow and tedious for me. Way more detail on Congo and Africa than could hold my attention. Read more
Published 1 month ago by Kent Holland
5.0 out of 5 stars Psychological thriller
This is a psychological thriller. It does require concentration, paticularly in the beginning, because of the numerous characters to keep track of. Read more
Published 2 months ago by Nancy Bell
4.0 out of 5 stars In good John le Carre style
In good John le Carre style, this novel truly encourages you to think differently about how our world operates. Hard to put down, rich characterizations and just wonderful stuff.
Published 5 months ago by Kay, Colorado
3.0 out of 5 stars Three Stars
very wordy but an interesting story
Published 7 months ago by RGA
3.0 out of 5 stars From subtle to vulgar, from nuance to overt
The world has changed and so has Le Carré.

He has moved from the subtle to the vulgar, from nuance to overt. Read more
Published 9 months ago by Rod Raglin
Salvo the twenty-nine year old love child of a Catholic Irish missionary and a
Congolese woman is inspired by his mentor to train as a professional interpreter
He is a... Read more
Published 9 months ago by annasophie
3.0 out of 5 stars required reading
its ok. boring. i was required to read book in interpreting. i stuck in this group as long as i could then finally had to quit
Published 13 months ago by Amazon Customer
5.0 out of 5 stars mission
What can I is pure Le Carre. Great plot, extensive vocabulary, intrigue, and as always, a great plot twist. I have not read a bad Le Carre book.
Published 13 months ago by T. C. Bowers
4.0 out of 5 stars Interesting Story
I wasn't sure what to expect from THE MISSION SONG since it's my first Le Carre novel, and I was a little surprised. It's almost a lazy read. Read more
Published 18 months ago by GAE-LYNN WOODS
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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.

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