Customer Review

169 of 189 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars 3 1/2 Stars...Now I Know Why, October 22, 2008
This review is from: A Most Wanted Man (Hardcover)
Years ago, I was awestruck by the power of Le Carre's books, from "The Spy Who Came in from the Cold" to "The Little Drummer Gi rl." Later, I found myself caught up in the problems of "The Night Manager." I loved the moral complexities, the character depth, and the astute dialogue.

Since then, few of his novels have held me in quite the same way. They often seem vague, floundering, with no real direction. "A Most Wanted Man" has glimpses of that old Le Carre, though never as focused or riveting as in those earlier years. This time around, we are drawn into the mystery of a young man from Chechnya who's shown up in Germany. He bears marks of imprisonment and mental instability, and yet he seems to have valuable connections in the German banking industry. He receives pity and mercy from a banker and a female lawyer, while being hunted by shadowy figures from past and present. Along the way, Le Carre makes some biting commentary on the state of affairs in the modern Western world.

As expected, we are given in-depth looks at character and setting here, as well as the emotional and political structures that rise and fall around our desire for democracy. It's an interesting story, if not a bit windy in places. It was more cohesive than some of his recent efforts, but still lacked that beating heart that seemed to pulse in his earlier books--even faintly. I kept waiting for that resuscitation to happen here, but it never quite did so. After a few books of his that have showed this same lifelessness, I wondered why.

I went to Mr. Le Carre's website the other day and found this quote from him: "nothing that I write is authentic...Artists, in my experience, have very little centre. They fake. They are not the real thing." I strongly disagree with this statement. Most of my favorite authors connect with me through fiction because they ARE authentic. They find that center and get to the heart of the human condition, without flinching. I think Mr. Le Carre's cynicism has robbed him of his empathy and replaced it with justifiable anger and fear. Yes, his books contain those emotions, but they stopped having a beating heart last decade...and now at last I know why.
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Tracked by 3 customers

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Showing 1-10 of 17 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Feb 26, 2009 7:27:59 PM PST
Blackbag52 says:
Great review. I think I will pass on this one and instead go for his earlier work. Thanks :)

Posted on Mar 2, 2009 12:43:29 PM PST
I agree. The language is great, but Le Carre seems to have lost it ... or is steadily losing it. This is superficial; the Mission Song was terrible though I still liked Absolute Friends and thought that it was rather good!

Posted on Mar 14, 2009 4:22:39 AM PDT
[Deleted by the author on Mar 14, 2009 4:23:01 AM PDT]

Posted on May 31, 2009 7:46:46 PM PDT
One knows from the outset that things will end badly. The relationships are unconvincing. Give this one a pass, folks.

Posted on Apr 6, 2010 5:10:59 PM PDT
Just got through with it and would recommend a pass also. The spycraft that made LeCarre compelling was passed by by the likes of Clancy and others. Just the same, I wouldn't put Clancy in the same league with LeCarre at his prime. LeCarre, though, had to, perhaps unconsciously, go to the new formulas that he is not up to speed with. He did an admirable job of attaching his style and tremendous power of character and setting but he's not a real player in these times. Grafting the Cold War onto the world today can't be done. The spy came in from the cold already, The weatherman should be using satellites by now.

Posted on Apr 21, 2010 4:00:03 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Apr 21, 2010 4:03:57 PM PDT
Corozand says:
I found this book much easier to get into than the constant gardener (which I gave up on) and absolute friends, which I thought was just okay. I disagree that because LeCarre is disillusioned with American international tactics and European cooperation he has "lost it". I thing his position has merit and find his books to still be enjoyable though not easy reading. I don't know why everyone is so surprised by the ending, as soon as the Martha character came on the screen the ending became nearly a foregone conclusion. Mr LeCarre is not happy with Americans and his position isn't likely to change anytime soon. I'd have preferred a happy European character only involved conclusion but LeCarre is using his books to make statements and who are we to judge, the man could drop at any moment. He's old you know

In reply to an earlier post on Apr 21, 2010 5:58:18 PM PDT
Eric Wilson says:
Corozand, I don't have any problem with LeCarre's disillusionment, and in fact I agree with much of it. I have a problem with his lack of empathy for his characters. If he wants to write biting treatises of society without telling a good story at the same time, he should write nonfiction.

Posted on Feb 26, 2011 8:56:59 PM PST
I must agree with Mr. Wilson. Mr. LeCarre retired at the same time as George Smiley.

Posted on Jul 29, 2011 11:58:02 AM PDT
Picky Reader says:
I just finished reading this book and am sorry I wasted any time on it. I hadn't read Le Carre since his early successes, so this was a real disappointment. I've never been a fan of devil ex machina endings; this one was as poorly handled as anything by Neal Stephenson. Moving on...

Posted on Oct 8, 2012 4:17:17 AM PDT
R. Chandler says:
I´ve been having a hard time reading this book. It has seemed as if something is missing. Now I know what, "a beating heart."
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