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Old 02-21-2019, 07:54 AM   #76
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For me, the nebulous part of the ending was whether or not the files were sent in time, and whether or not at least one recipient would act on them.

I must re-read the very end - I assumed the cordon of pursuers would have prevented the files getting out.
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Old 02-21-2019, 04:33 PM   #77
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The documents had gone, but Emily was still sending the images when they heard the sirens coming.

Going back to bfisher’s comment, Oakley isn’t really developed in much depth, but clearly he knew a lot of the bad stuff that had been suppressed and was convinced by Toby that steps had to be taken. He wasn’t prepared to take them himself, however, in that he gave the document to Toby.
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Old 02-21-2019, 06:40 PM   #78
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I think that Oakley represents the way that Toby had planned for his career; go along to get along and gain enough influence to change the system from within.

Quinn reveals to Toby that "Oakley was the brave chap who led the in-house Foreign Office revolt. Got up the round robin to our Foreign Secretary urging him not to go after Saddam." We know that that didn't work, and there is some implication is that Oakley's career was fore-shortened as a result (although there is also the matter of Hamburg).

I suppose that Oakley wants Toby to carry on and not be a whistle-blower so that he can in a sense carry on Oakley's career; in a sense, he is Oakley's heir.

It was interesting to me that Oakley decided to torpedo his second career (and risk his freedom) by providing additional information to Toby in what must have been a major violation of the Official Secrets Act.
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Old 02-21-2019, 08:11 PM   #79
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That's a good point. I had forgotten the bit about the round robin concerning Iraq. Oakley certainly had encouraged Toby to stay in the system and try to change things from within, rather than from outside.

I had the impression that what pushed him over the top into giving Toby the documents was the death of Jeb, and Toby's conviction that it was murder.
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Old 02-21-2019, 08:43 PM   #80
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Yes, it seems to have given him pause ("Oakley’s face was a lot less certain than his tone").
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Old 02-22-2019, 12:23 AM   #81
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I finished the book tonight. Reading through the comments here, I've been repeatedly thinking, Oh, was that in the book? Who knew?

Because I was totally, utterly, completely bored. I could not keep the characters or events straight, nor did I care enough to try. I just wanted to get it over with.

The book lost me in Chapter 2--I had no idea how it connected to anything in Chapter 1; it went on forever (in the audiobook, it lasted nearly THREE hours!). After that slog, I never regained any interest in the story.

The only bit that sparked any real reaction for me was the scene at the end when Emily and Toby are sending the files to the news outlets--it reminded me a bit of the end of Three Days of the Condor, when Robert Redford has told the story of the CIA's screw-up to the NY Times, with Cliff Robertson saying "How do you know they'll print it?" and Redford insisting (but not entirely sure), "They'll print it."

I've read only one other Le Carre novel--The Little Drummer Girl, many years ago, which I don't remember. But clearly I must not have liked it enough to read any of his other books, till now. I won't read another.
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Old 02-22-2019, 12:34 AM   #82
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I've read only one other Le Carre novel--The Little Drummer Girl, many years ago, which I don't remember. But clearly I must not have liked it enough to read any of his other books, till now. I won't read another.
That's actually too bad, though I sympathize. The Smiley books are actually quite good (Spy Who Came In From the Cold; Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy; etc.) and I enjoyed them when I read them. Which is why I was so thoroughly disappointed in this one.
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Old 02-22-2019, 07:38 AM   #83
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It's a pity that you didn't enjoy the book more Catlady, but I can see that, especially if you hadn't read anything much by le Carré, the confusion about just what was going on could be difficult.

What was it that disappointed you CRussel?
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Old 02-22-2019, 09:07 AM   #84
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One of my favorite genres is espionage thrillers. I liked this book and found it entertaining. I hated the abrupt end. I also thought it was too heavy-handed and polemic. I think that he has made this book shout his own personal view too much.

I can understand why Charlie would not like this one as much as previous books. I prefer the Smiley books too. The moralizing here is front-and-center. The typical action scenes that one might find in this genre take place behind the scenes. This book is so much about the moral dilemma that once Toby makes his decision to be a whistle-blower the book simply ends and you don’t know his fate.

Another interesting observation about this book is that I think it’s his first novel that is Brit versus Brit. The bad guy in this case is the government. It’s not the past model of the British government is the good guy fighting outside ideologies as the bad guy like west versus east. I think he is disgusted with the US and UK governments and in his opinion the greed of capitalism left behind by the modern, post-Cold War world and wanted to make that clear.

I thought this interview was interesting. “There is anger [in the book], there is frustration, and there is impatience, particularly with the Brits,” he said.
https://www.bbc.com/news/entertainment-arts-22452335

Last edited by Bookworm_Girl; 02-22-2019 at 09:12 AM. Reason: Fixed link
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Old 02-22-2019, 11:28 AM   #85
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I can understand why Charlie would not like this one as much as previous books. I prefer the Smiley books too. The moralizing here is front-and-center. The typical action scenes that one might find in this genre take place behind the scenes. This book is so much about the moral dilemma that once Toby makes his decision to be a whistle-blower the book simply ends and you don’t know his fate.
I read my share of espionage thrillers back in the day--I used to devour Helen MacInnes books--and I greatly prefer moral dilemmas to action scenes, but here I simply didn't care about what was going on or the people involved. Why not have Toby as the POV character throughout, with the story unfolding as he discovers it, instead of diffusing the impact with so much focus on what was going on with the other characters?
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Old 02-22-2019, 02:32 PM   #86
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I read my share of espionage thrillers back in the day--I used to devour Helen MacInnes books--and I greatly prefer moral dilemmas to action scenes, but here I simply didn't care about what was going on or the people involved. Why not have Toby as the POV character throughout, with the story unfolding as he discovers it, instead of diffusing the impact with so much focus on what was going on with the other characters?
Thanks for the reference to MacInnes - hadn’t heard of her.

Maybe he thought he was building suspence? I’ve followed a number of authors where the actual writing goes downhill over time.

For example, I thought Elizabeth George’s Inspector Lynley series becomes more convoluted after book 10 or 11. I initially stuck with them, but after a while, the characters were so out of character it seemed like she had forgotten who they were.

It’s interesting that in Bookworm_girl’s link to the BBC interview with Le Carré says he has written books he barely remembers now. He’s written 24. There’s probably a lot of pressure for authors to keep churning them out past their best, and many readers who stick with them out of loyalty.

Last edited by Victoria; 02-22-2019 at 03:29 PM.
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Old 02-22-2019, 06:00 PM   #87
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It's a pity that you didn't enjoy the book more Catlady, but I can see that, especially if you hadn't read anything much by le Carré, the confusion about just what was going on could be difficult.

What was it that disappointed you CRussel?
Well, as I said earlier in the thread, I found it very disjointed. Now, with le Carré, I expect a certain amount of that, but this was way past where I could enjoy it. Also, frankly, it was rather too close to reality. Yes, I get it -- this was very autobiographical. But in this day and age, that's not really what I want out of a book.

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, I found none of the main characters appealing. That's really a non-starter for me. If I'm reading historical fact or fiction, there don't have to be characters I like -- there are just characters/people who are what they are. But if I'm reading fiction, I have to like at least SOMEONE in the book, or I give up.
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Old 02-22-2019, 11:33 PM   #88
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Oh dear, I can see why you felt disappointed. I liked Toby and Emily very much and really wanted it to come right for them, though I fear it didn’t. But perhaps even they didn’t appeal to you for some reason.

I think you listened to the book, as did Catlady, and I suspect the complexities of the plot would be made harder by that, rather than having a book where you could flip back if necessary.
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Old 02-23-2019, 01:08 AM   #89
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Oh dear, I can see why you felt disappointed. I liked Toby and Emily very much and really wanted it to come right for them, though I fear it didn’t. But perhaps even they didn’t appeal to you for some reason.

I think you listened to the book, as did Catlady, and I suspect the complexities of the plot would be made harder by that, rather than having a book where you could flip back if necessary.
No, I read it. The audible version was read by the author, and that's rarely a good thing. Plus I've had enough experience with le Carre's writing to know it can be a bit hard to follow, so eBook seemed like the right thing for the first pass. If I'd enjoyed it, the plan was to do a second pass with the Audible book, but I obviously never got that far. As for Toby and Emily? Emily was OK, I did kind of like her, but I never thought much of Toby and didn't see how anything good could come to him, even very early on.

I voted for the book, and was quite looking forward to it. Ah, well. Maybe Dickens will be better.
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Old 02-23-2019, 07:51 AM   #90
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A couple of random comments, to show I can be as disjointed as le Carré.

I'm still thinking about Toby's survival and I now think that it hinged on whether or not a recipient acted on the files. If the files got out, Toby needed to be produced, as the lesser of the two evils for the bureaucracy. Dead Toby would compound the situation, giving more weight to the evidence.

I liked the jumping around in time, place and POV. For me, it added to both the tension and the interest in teasing out the plotline. I thought it quite effective.

I also give le Carré credit for tackling the problem of today, terrorism and extranationals, rather than refighting the Cold War. He'd done that. It's more interesting and more creditable for me that he moved with the times.


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Maybe he thought he was building suspence? I’ve followed a number of authors where the actual writing goes downhill over time.
I think series always eventually go downhill; the ideas get played out, the characters get stale, the continued action gets increasingly absurd. I think standalones have more life to them, as in this case.

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Finally, and perhaps most importantly, I found none of the main characters appealing. That's really a non-starter for me. If I'm reading historical fact or fiction, there don't have to be characters I like -- there are just characters/people who are what they are. But if I'm reading fiction, I have to like at least SOMEONE in the book, or I give up.
I don't have to like characters; that's a matter of indifference to me. I want them to be interesting and consistent. That's enough.
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