The Honourable Schoolboy (George Smiley Series)

The Honourable Schoolboy (George Smiley Series)

by John le Carré

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The Honourable Schoolboy 4.1 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 28 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
You have to read it to make the transition from Tinker Tailor to Smiley's People. However, it's not about Smiley and it's not about his battle for Karla. It's about his battle to focus the Circus and the effects that espionage has on the people who engage in it. The story is long, it's difficult to slog through but you must in order to fully appreciate the final story in the trilogy. Worst of all, the most difficult part of the story is the beginning. Fight through it though. It's ultimately worth it though you most likely won't understand why until you get about 1/2 through Smiley's People.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is a great book but it can't be comfortably read on a Nookcolor because the font size is either too small or too big. This is entirely the fault of Barnes&Noble and their ridiculous limited font size settings. If B&N allowed the choice of font size (by point size, for example) then everyone could read at their chosen level. As it stands B&N is missing sales by not providing the kind of accessibility that many people buy a Nookcolor for in the first place.
kraaivrouw on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
It used to be that this was my favorite of the George Smiley books. I liked the reporter angle, the exotic Hong Kong setting, the intricacies of running agents, the tragedy waiting to happen throughout. This time I enjoyed it, but less so than the other two books. In some ways I think this is le Carré throwing everything he knows at the wall in hopes that it will stick. It is a testimony to his skill that it all does. In other ways it's almost too tainted with the Vietnam War, although that is not its subject matter it permeates the entire construct and makes things feel a bit dated.There are great moments in this, but they tend to be the smaller quiet ones - the reporters' bar on a rainy day, Craw visiting his little ship, the plane ride into Pnomh Penh. Don't get me wrong, all the big sweeping moments are good, too, but somehow didn't catch me as much.A good middle book between two excellent ones.
conformer on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
John le Carré writes in stealth mode; his novels, especially the George Smiley books, take forever to ramp up, but by the time you reach the meat and potatoes of the story, you don't even realize that you've blown through 500 pages. However, in contrast to the slick and sublime Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy; this sort-of sequel seems bloated and purple in comparison. Le Carré himself has bemoaned how Alec Guinness' television portrayal of Smiley unduly influenced his future characterizations, as well as the disparity in real-world research that differentiates the books. Le Carré actually toured South Asia in the 70s and got caught in the crossfire, a fact that is reflected in the deep and rich descriptors of the region.The Honourable Schoolboy is more cinematic than its predecessor, less intellectual and insightful, and with slightly more intrigue. With the focus of the protagonist shifted from Smiley to field agent Jerry Westerby also comes a feeling of detachment, as if you're watching the story play out through second-hand eyes. It's also fairly long, and just about killed me in the middle where there's a lot of back and forth but not a whole lot going forward.Good, though. A rock-solid story from a postmodern master.
uvula_fr_b4 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
The second book in the Karla Trilogy (which includes Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy [1974] and Smiley's People [1979]; all three books were collected in omnibus form as The Quest for Karla in 1982) and the sixth novel featuring John Le Carré's "fat spy" George Smiley, The Honourable Schoolboy is a quietly gripping, intelligent spy thriller that gradually furthers the struggle of Britain's foreign intelligence service (MI6, here styled "the Circus") against Smiley's opposite number in the Soviet Union's KGB, Karla, after Smiley's pyrrhic victory in rooting out Karla's highly-placed Soviet mole within the Circus in Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy. The Honourable Schoolboy unfolds largely through a series of multiple flashbacks (more accurately, flashbacks within flashbacks within flashbacks within -- you get the idea), recounting events during the final year or two of the Vietnam War; much of the action, when it finally starts, occurs in the then-British colony of Hong Kong and Vietnam, and is carried forward in a somewhat haphazard fashion by a reserve operative of the Circus, the "honourable schoolboy" (the adjective is deployed here in at least two senses) of the title, Gerald "Jerry" Westerby, the son of a self-made newspaper baron (in both senses of the word) and a disillusioned foreign correspondent attempting to write a book, who is tasked with bringing Karla's banker, the reclusive Hong Kong tycoon Drake Ko, to book, so as to undercut Karla's scope of operations. That's it, and the proceedings could have, in lesser hands, been a deadly dull affair; however, despite the relative paucity of conventional thriller-type action, I found The Honourable Schoolboy a riveting affair, and was sorry to come to the book's end. Le Carré deftly walks a fine line between presenting a by-the-numbers textbook case of practical espionage and a compelling psychological thriller salted with flavorful instances of local color and action. Smiley himself has arguably even more interest and power here than in Tinker, Tailor due to his being presented solely through the eyes of the other characters (call it the Gatsby effect). Jerry, a big, good-natured, slightly shabby, somewhat apologetic "lad," thinks he more or less knows what drives Smiley -- something close to a religious devotion and faith, but to the Circus itself rather than to the nation as a whole or to Western capitalism or to, well, religion -- but, ultimately, Smiley and, indeed, Jerry himself, are unknowable in the way that we all are, even to ourselves. If I liked Honourable Schoolboy somewhat less than Tinker, Tailor, the difference in my enjoyment levels was very slight, and probably due to the fact that Le Carré allowed more air into Schoolboy's narrative than he did into Tinker, Tailor's. If the reader is beguiled with the illusion that there are more quiet moments in Schoolboy than in Tinker, Tailor (a subplot about a budding romance between Smiley's aide-de-camp, Peter Guillam, and a young female employee of the Circus, carried over from Tinker, Tailor, is particularly amusing and welcome, if too subtle to be properly termed comic relief), these nominal lulls only serve to make the climax more climactic, more wrenching: the emotions that the reader will likely feel at book's end are a rich melange that preclude simplistic feelings of joy over victory or depression over defeat, and superbly bait the hook for him to proceed to the last book of the trilogy, Smiley's People.
magentaflake on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
enjoyable read. Again, like Tinker, Tailor, I found it difficult to get into but soon was gripped by the twists and turns of the plot. Couldn't put it down.
name99 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A very impressive John Le Carre. Like the best Alan Furth, what's interesting is not so much the story but the evocation of mood, in this case the mood of South East Asia in the wake of the American defeat in Vietnam.Highly recommended.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
A book worth reading !
glauver More than 1 year ago
John le Carre' turned to the East, specifically the then British colony of Hong Kong, for the setting of his second book in the Karla trilogy. He continued the story of George Smiley and his battle with the Russian spymaster Karla. However, he added another plot that followed Jerry Westerby, a down on his luck aristocrat, newspaper reporter, and sometimes agent for Smiley and the Circus. Jerry had been a minor character in Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy but in Schoolboy he became the spiritual descendant of Alec Leamas of The Spy Who Came in From The Cold. The result was a novel with a bad case of schizophrenia; it could have been two separate books. Anther problem was that the book was half again as long as Tinker Tailor. At times dozens of pages go by without any progress in the plot as le Carre' holds forth on the collapse of British and American power in Southeast Asia. His writing is never less than brilliant, but the story of the operation becomes confused and diluted, This is still better than 999 of a thousand spy novels, but for John le Carre' it is only a qualified success.
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Nryven More than 1 year ago
This represents one of a number of novels that le Carre wrote. Initially he discounted any possible experience he might have had with British intelligence, although the reality was unmistakable. The consistency of the books and the reality of events and particularly physical places was unmistakable. Eventually, having retired, he admitted that he had worked in security. This stands out as probably the most honest evaluation of the lifestyle and mentality of someone who works in that field, up to and including the admission of the constant and lingering paranoia of the survivors.
greester More than 1 year ago
I love the way you're plunged into the murky, ambiguous, unapologetic, and frequently funny world of George Smiley, et al.
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Ausonius More than 1 year ago
David John Moore Cornwell (b. 1931), better known as John Le Carre, has written better spy thrillers than THE HONOURABLE SCHOOLBOY (1977). Think of THE SPY WHO CAME IN FROM THE COLD and A SMALL TOWN IN GERMANY. THE HONOURABLE SCHOOLBOY is an average fictional portrayal of a tired, uncertain, no longer great Britain carrying on in the mid-1970s Rudyard Kipling's "great game" against Russia of the glory years of Queen Victoria. That game has been portrayed deftly and in several hundred fewer pages in Kipling's KIM than in Le Carre's 1977 ho hum tale of Brits versus Russkis in Hong Kong and its East Asian neighborhood. *** At novel's beginning in 1973 the great Russian spymaster Karla has nearly wrecked Britain's famed secret service ("the Circus"). Playing an intelligent, conscientious but plodding Sherlock Holmes to Karla's evil genius, the UK's George Smiley is called out of retirement to plug massive leaks to the Soviets masterminded for decades by Kim Philby-reminiscent Bill Haydon, a mole risen high within London's Circus. Smiley outs Haydon, his wife Anne's cousin and sometime lover, clears up the mess caused by Karla and works to learn whatever lessons he can by "backtracking" Karla. What had Karla been up to that caused mole Haydon to take such desperate measures to keep it from being discovered? *** In a few weeks, on the basis of plodding intelligence work by a small trusted core of Smiley devotees and overseas field agents of the Circus, Smiley finds that Karla has funneled the huge (for Karla) sum of $500,000 to a trust fund in Hong Kong. Is the USSR planning to use that largest remaining gem of the once mighty British Empire to launch operations against Red China? What is the role of two Swatownese brothers, one a free-wheeling, amoral capitalist in the Crown Colony and the other possibly a high ranking Soviet mole in China? This is what THE HONOURABLE SCHOOLBOY is about. *** Aristocratic, womanizing, morally flawed Clive Gerald (Jerry) Westerby is "The Honourable Schoolboy," a name given to him by the postmistress of the small Italian community where he lives in retirement from the Circus. Westerby, an experienced agent, had been sidelined by mole Haydon and is resuscitated by Smiley and sent to East Asia as part of the Circus's anti-Karla effort to rehabilitate itself. It takes a mere five chapters to learn Westerby's full name. *** Jerry Westerby proves a rogue elephant, impossible for his mentor George Smiley to keep from running amok. As much as anything, the sprawling THE HONOURABLE SCHOOLBOY is about the differing world views of two tired old spies: Smiley and Westerby, neither's views possessing much depth or relevance to the collapsing pro-Western regimes of 1970s Viet-Nam, Laos and Cambodia or Hong Kong, soon to be reabsorbed into China. *** A medium large theme of this novel is the bureaucratic maneuvering by which America's CIA pushes aside the British Secret Service in its own colony, Hong Kong. It is the CIA, not Smiley's Circus, that in the end takes decisive action against Karla's bad guy. This is a novel of an aging British Empire and its aging, worn down spies, being overwhelmed by legions of fresh young better paid American secret agents. THE HONOURABLE SCHOOL BOY is about flagging Britain and ground down British patriots. It is a tale about when "old men talk about themselves, studying their image in vanished mirrors" (Ch. 11). -OOO-