John Le Carre is one of the best known writers of spy thrillers today. The recent successful, award winning film and TV adaptations of his works ‘Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy‘, ‘A Most Wanted Man’ and ‘The Night Manager‘ have cemented his place as a genius of the genre. The latest adaptation of his work, a film version of ‘Our Kind of Traitor‘ starring Ewan McGregor and Stellan Skarsgard has brought new attention to the novel it’s based on.
The novel centres on Gail, a London barrister and her boyfriend Perry, an Oxford Don as they are sucked into the world of the British intelligence service. After meeting a Russian money launderer by the name of Dima (Skarsgard) on a holiday in Antigua, Perry and Gail become ambassadors for the Russian and his vulnerable family’s safety as Dima tries to get out of the Russian underworld and into the genteel British life he imagines for his family.
As the only other Le Carre novel I’ve read is ‘The Night Manager’ I couldn’t help but compare it. ‘Our Ki
nd of Traitor’ is a lot less busy and, to be frank, a lot less happens. There’s a very clear path in this novel as they are working towards a very clear end. In ‘The Night Manager’ Jonathan is simply trying to catch Roper in the act in such a way as to destroy his operation for good, an opportunity he is more than happy to lie in wait for. However, in this novel the story centres on Perry and Gail’s struggle to get Dima and the children away from danger. There is a set of steps they have to follow and they focus on taking each new challenge as it comes.
The novel’s main strength comes from the placement of the ordinary couple at the heart. This isn’t the story of some incredibly patriotic ex army man, or experienced spies in the heart of the intelligence community. Gail and Perry are an ordinary, albeit fairly upper class, couple who just want to protect innocent children who have already lost enough. Their compassion and heart makes this so much more than a cold, spy novel. The fate of the world isn’t threatened, there’s no big villain set on taking over the Western world. Instead, there’s nothing more at stake than a handful of innocent lives, and yet, that’s enough to give the novel a sense of fierce justice and a desperation that is refreshing. This novel is a good example that writers don’t need to to create an evil villain set on world domination and mass murder to have an atmosphere of high stakes and panic. This relatively low scale story still makes the perfect realistic thriller.
All in all, I did love the book though, it was an easy, compelling read that I finished in 2 days with no trouble. I’d thoroughly recommend it to anyone who is a fan of spy novels or thrillers, or has just heard of Le Carre’s reputation and wants to sample some of his work.
Guest 4 years agoWow talk about a lot of BS. I tried to read it and kept wondering when will the story start. Boring and going nowhere. Too much detail on nothing interesting.
Guest 5 years agoIs this the end?
Guest 6 years agoThe author is a master story teller. His skill is best at weaving parallel themes into a taut narrative that keeps the reader strongly engaged. His use of the English language is second to none.