Saturday, December 29, 2012

Review: The Honourable Schoolboy

John le Carré’s Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy was a long, slow slog through a lexicon of Cold War spy jargon. The sequel, The Honourable Schoolboy, is ten times more enjoyable. For one thing, the plot to atmosphere ratio is weighted to the plot side. Instead of being almost all atmosphere, there is an exciting espionage story involving drug runners, Hong Kong tycoons, glamorous ex-patriots, and the political legerdemain of wrapping up the Vietnam War.

It starts with a long but vivid section describing how the entire British international intelligence network had to be dismantled in the aftermath of routing out the mole in Tinker, Tailor. Then it really picks up and gets delightfully complicated when George Smiley sends a semi-retired operative to Hong Kong to find one Chinese informant buried in the rubble of the earlier undercover operations.

What atmosphere there is is pitch perfect. Le Carré frames the story as one of British Secret Service lore, expressed by the omniscient narrator with an ideal balance of admiration and world-weary cynicism.


Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy here on Rose City Reader

Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy on chaotic compendiums

The Honourable Schoolboy on chaotic compendiums

Smiley's People on chaotic compendiums

The Spy Who Came In from the Cold on chaotic compendiums

If you would like your review of this or any other John le Carré book listed here, please leave a comment with a link and I will add it.


The Honourable Schoolboy won the James Tait Black Memorial Prize and counts as one of my Black choices for the 2012 Battle of the Prizes, British Version, challenge.  It also counts as one of the books for the Mt. TBR and Off the Shelf Challenges, since it has been on my TBR shelf since 1983.

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