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The Night Manager by John Le Carre

The Night Manager (original 1993; edition 1993)

by John Le Carre

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1,802213,887 (3.55)36
Title:The Night Manager
Authors:John Le Carre
Info:Knopf (1993), Edition: 1st, Hardcover, 429 pages
Collections:to read

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The Night Manager by John le Carré (Author) (1993)


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When the Berlin Wall came down, and the Cold War ended, many people speculated what the future would hold in store for writers of spy fiction. John le Carre had established himself at the forefront of that genre, and critics waited with considerable interest to see how he would react to the changed times, and the virtual removal of his literary context.

'The Night Manager' was his first novel to be published in the post Cold War era, and it demonstrated that he wasn't particularly worried about adapting to a new agenda. The book bears all the hallmarks of his previous works: that extraordinary prose style that no-one has ever managed to emulate but which seems to flow so naturally and effortlessly for him, the air of despair encompassing his leading characters and a close attention to detail that always lends his novels such a depth of verisimilitude.

The protagonist, the night manager himself, is Jonathan Pine, a former soldier with more than customary amounts of career and family baggage, who has ended up working at a luxurious hotel in Zurich where he presides over the night shift. His attention is caught when Richard Roper, an immensely wealthy international tycoon, descends upon the hotel with his considerable retinue at short notice in the middle of a protracted blizzard. Pine has encountered Roper before and has a grudge to resolve. As the novel unfolds as Pine embarks on an espionage mission to expose Roper's dubious operations, going under deep cover, with professional assistance.

While not quite up to le Carre at his best, such as in 'Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy', this remains a very effective novel, cleverly plotted and delicately layered. ( )
  Eyejaybee | Feb 4, 2016 |
I think this may be my favourite non-Karla le Carre novel, a post-Cold War spy thriller that darkly marks the transition from old-school espionage to more modern Pure Intelligence, recounting a desperate, but carefully and meticulously planned operation to bring down a wealthy British arms dealer by a small joint British/US agency known as Enforcement, while a larger, more powerful and shadowy set of players with tentacles in all levels of government and finance across the globe run their own, parallel operation, and would very much prefer the smaller operation to bugger off actually, thank you very much.

Point man for Enforcement is Jonathan Pine, ex-soldier, now Night Manager at an exclusive Swiss Hotel. The arrival of the arms deal, Richard Roper, one snowy night sparks memories of an earlier incident in Egypt which ended with a bloody murder, and inspires Pine to offer his services to British Intelligence. He is thereby recruited, trained and transformed, then pointed at Roper, and fired.

Every sentence shines, every character burns, every twist and turn, whether it's Pine's sweaty, queasy infiltration of Roper's life and affairs, or the efforts of members of Enforcement in London and Miami to protect themselves and Jonathan from political and economic skullduggery and a brutal war between intelligence agencies, is described with a cool, tight grace and emotional restraint as the principals become gradually aware of the extent of their self-deception in thinking they could wrestle even the smallest of victories against corruption on such a scale. ( )
  Nigel_Quinlan | Oct 21, 2015 |
I can’t say that I found Pine a particularly convincing character, more super-human in many ways so this novel didn’t capture me in the way some of le Carré’s have. Similarly the two women are over the top – Sophie an undeveloped creation with such an influence on Pine and then her successor, Jed, who’s just too beautiful for words. And Roper’s the ultimate villain.

Behind these characters is the more convincing part of the narrative for me, namely the corruption at the top that undoubtedly exists side by side or should that be in cahoots with the arms and drugs smugglers of the world. I did find, though, that the story was protracted with too many characters and too many side paths.

Style-wise there were high points such as the reference to old people who’d undergone cosmetic surgery, ‘but no surgery on earth could spare them the manacled slowness of old age’.

This, then, was a bit of an excursion in James Bond territory even if there is a great deal more angst than 007 ever had. ( )
  evening | Apr 20, 2015 |
As little as a year ago, I would have finished this book. It's not bad-it's well written and I'm sure it'll pick up as a good spy story. But when I really like a book, all I want to do is read - forget work, sleep, etc., just read. And I found myself choosing television when faced with the option of this book or the tv, and I decided to give up. There are just too many books out there that make me feel like there's nothing I'd rather do than read them. ( )
  carebear10712 | Dec 31, 2014 |
A slinky international thriller about post-Cold War geopolitics, crammed full of damaged antiheroes, corrupt politicians, worn-out spies, megarich drug-runners and frustratingly vulnerable women. It opens in Zurich and rapidly expands to take in detailed sketches of Quebec, the Bahamas, Miami, the Netherlands, Central America and Cornwall – so that there is a kind of travelogue element to the action, not unlike the feeling in those early Bond movies where audiences partly just wanted to see someone jetting around the world.

This world is not the world of Bond, though, or indeed that of le Carré's own earlier works – it is much murkier and more chaotic. It is harder to see who the bad guys are, since so many of them seem to be doing business with the good guys: a lot of high-up people are very willing to make excuses.

‘Not bad chaps, Rex. Mustn't be too critical. Just a bit marooned. No more Thatcher. No more Russian bear to fight, no more Reds under the bed at home. One day they've got the world all carved up for them, two legs good, four bad. Next day they get up in the morning, they're sort of – well – you know—’ He finished his premise with a shrug. ‘Well, nobody likes a vacuum, do they? Not even you like a vacuum. Well, do you? Be honest. You hate it.’

‘By vacuum, you mean peace?’ Goodhew suggested, not wishing in the least to sound censorious.

At the other end of the chain from the dodgy-dealing senators and ministers, you have the foot-soldiers of this new criminal economy – a growing multinational population of disaffected specialists.

American veterans sickened first by war and then by peace; Russian Spetsnaz, trained to guard a country that disappeared while their backs were turned; Frenchmen who still hated de Gaulle for giving away North Africa; the Israeli boy who had known nothing but war, and the Swiss boy who had known nothing but peace; the Englishmen in search of military nobility because their generation somehow missed the fun (if only we could have had a British Vietnam!), the huddle of introspective Germans torn between the guilt of war and its allure.

Attention here is on the forces of international law enforcement – those fighting arms and drugs trafficking, specifically – who have an uneasy, even adversarial, relationship with the ‘espiocrats’ of MI6 or the CIA who, in their view, are constantly asking them to turn ‘a blind eye to some of the biggest crooks in the hemisphere for the sake of nebulous advantages elsewhere’.

The prose is typically efficient and controlled. His political understanding is very deep, his dialogue is outstanding, and lightning portraits of new characters are a joy: one man has ‘a face to play cards against and lose’, while the main female lead, Jeds (a public-school abbreviation of Jemima), is characterised by her ‘jeweled brilliance and a kind of dressed nakedness’.

I love this line, but it's also a pointer to the rather limited role of women in the book: they are too sexualised and too disposable for my liking. Of course Jeds is the kind of young, hot arm-candy that very rich criminals really do keep around, and you could say her character is perfectly justified; but for me she wasn't balanced nearly enough by the rest of the female cast for me to feel able to enjoy it. I found this very disappointing – it's such a glaring hole in an otherwise masterful grip on characterisation.

I saw an old interview with Ian McEwan in The Telegraph when I was looking this book up online, where he suggested le Carré was the most significant novelist of the second half of the twentieth century. ‘Most writers I know think le Carré is no longer a spy writer. He should have won the Booker Prize a long time ago. It’s time he won it and it’s time he accepted it. He’s in the first rank.’ I love to see sentiments like that and I think it's great to see a lit-fic star talking about the qualities of a so-called genre writer. This book is more evidence of his many talents – read it quick, a TV adaptation is apparently on the way. ( )
  Widsith | Dec 8, 2014 |
Showing 1-5 of 14 (next | show all)
Is "The Night Manager" up to the best of John le Carré? The equivocal answer has to be: yes, but only where it concerns the worlds of Roper and the London and Washington agencies. Their activities are handled with total assurance and an evident and infectious enjoyment. Elsewhere, however, Mr. le Carré sometimes surrenders to the inescapably sensational nature of the espionage thriller, and also to a romanticism about women that leads to the creation of a pipe-dream fantasy rather than a character in Jed, Roper's mistress.
added by Widsith | editNY Times, Julian Symonds (Jul 20, 1993)
In his superb new novel […] he works familiar territory with the mastery of a brilliant conductor returning to a favorite symphony. […] Through every page, the almost-numb heart and mind of Le Carre's still- honorable protagonist give this novel a heartbreaking gravity.
The Night Manager also obeys solid and readable conventions. […] But in seeking to move with the times, Le Carre has produced an adventure of the most old-fashioned and predictable sort. […] Hovering over this extravagant saga is a moralising, allegorical tendency that continues to drain the energy out of Le Carre's natural storytelling gift.
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On a snow-swept January evening of 1991, Jonathan Pine, the English night manager of the Hotel Meister Palace in Zurich, forsook his office behind the reception desk and, in the grip of feelings he had not known before, took up his position in the lobby as a prelude to extending his hotel's welcome to a distinguished late arrival.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0679425136, Hardcover)

Enter the new world of espionage, where the skills forged by generations of spies during the darkest days of the Cold War are put to even more terrifying use. Penetrate the secret world of ruthless arms dealers and drug smugglers who have risen to unthinkable power and wealth. The sinister master of them all is an untouchable Englishman named Roper, the charming, unstoppable ruler of a corrupt world all his own.

Slipping into this maze of peril is a former British soldier, Jonathan Pine, who knows Roper well enough to hate him more than he hates any other man on earth. Now personal vengeance is only part of the reason Pine is willing to help the men at Whitehall bring Roper down.

From the Paperback edition.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:09:07 -0400)

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Voici, annonce de ja dans "Le volontaire de la nuit", le temps des nouveaux dangers. L'ennemi n'est plus le monde communiste, il est au coeur me me du monde capitaliste. Les riches et cyniques trafiquants d'armes et de drogue peuvent se re ve ler encore plus dangereux que les bureaucrates sovie tiques...… (more)

(summary from another edition)

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