A Perfect Spy
ISBN: 0340937653 Global Overview for this book
1 journaler for this copy...
(19/07/22) *includes big spoilers*
I’ve read some of Le Carre’s books before, the more famous - and smaller - iconic cold war world of Smiley et al. This is a much bigger book, which feels later, and is more rueful and reflective, an end or era novel … in this case the bowing-out of the ‘Perfect Spy’ Marcus Pym, 1970’s or later I would guess in the soviet era, after the 1968 invasion (written in 1986). Pym is called a Perfect Spy by his Czech handler Axel/‘Poppy’ - and many other pseudonyms - because he is moral and loyal, but also able to betray and lie with impunity and with none or few qualms of conscience.
However, he is also a double agent, recruited by the MI6 as young high-flying national service conscript. He managed this double-crossing trick and developed his spy-craft over 30 years without being caught, much to the dismay of his British mentor Jack Brotherhood and second wife Mary. When he disappears those close to him believe in his innocence long beyond the point where his actions are undeniable. He has not defected as he was always their man!
The books starts with Pym in his own private safe house and other life as 'Canterbury’ in lodgings in a small Devon resort town, the scene of his eventual redemption. Although he is not contrite, he actually appears to be more immoral and manipulative than his conman father Rick. Pym and Rick are loosely based on Carre (David Cornwell) and father Ronnie Cornwell, respectively. In between these events is an incredible 700 page tome looking at Pym’s life and influences, several generations of his family, undercover work throughout Europe (Vienna, Bern, Berlin, Gras) and America, and a multitude peripheral characters, tales of intrigue, and anecdote. It is almost picaresque in scope, although throughout Pym is trusted and liked, even as he takes ever more irreversible steps into the a-political and a-moral world that he chooses and loves. As the proverb at start of the book says, “… a man who has two houses loses his head.”
Because this is a book group choice I felt obliged to create a physical guide (concept map) of the people and places … something I may not otherwise have done; in fact, I might not have persevered at all. I’m glad I did, for the rich overall picture of the life of a post-war agent/double-agent and the complex Pym at the centre of his own web.
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Update Sorry I released this too soon, the Cross Keys is not happy to have books ... I forget the daft list of reasons, but basically they're not book-friendly. I can send this to you (pm me) or I'll look for another place in Chester for a new crossing zone :)
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