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Our Game by John Le Carre

Our Game (original 1995; edition 1996)

by John Le Carre

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1,832205,491 (3.54)16
Title:Our Game
Authors:John Le Carre
Info:Ballantine Books (1996), Mass Market Paperback, 352 pages
Collections:Your library

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Our Game by John le Carré (1995)


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English (16)  Spanish (1)  German (1)  Italian (1)  Danish (1)  All languages (20)
Showing 1-5 of 16 (next | show all)
Liked the first 150 pages best... ( )
  Charlie-Ravioli | Jan 18, 2016 |
How could so many dislike this book? I haven't read le Carré in a long time but I remembered liking him. I remembered correctly, it appears. ( )
  Gimley_Farb | Jul 6, 2015 |
Six-word review: Runaway lovers launch ex-spy's investigative odyssey.

Extended review:

Love, loss, and post-Cold-War intrigue featuring ethnic conflict in the North Caucasus region of the Russian federation.

I didn't know quite what to expect from le Carré. I'd always assumed he was hardcore when it came to spy novels, which are just not my genre. And I think he pretty much is. But here there was also a large helping of inner human drama, moral conflict, soul-searching, and ultimately something like redemption to elevate this novel above the level of routine cloak-and-dagger action.

The novel is a suspenseful story of a former Cold War agent's search for his longtime friend and colleague, who has apparently run off with the agent's girlfriend. Tim Cranmer's own doubts and questions and his lack of commitment to any ideal create layers of subterfuge and deception that lure us on to try to penetrate the puzzle, both of the escapees' movements and of the character himself. His application of spy tradecraft in the service of a personal mission interested me more than a motivation based in politics or commerce, where the side you're on seems fairly arbitrary and everyone's up to the same thing.

The author draws us in artfully, just as Cranmer is drawn in. As he begins to care about obscure ethnic combatants in the mountainous reaches of the Caucasus, so do I. Off I went to learn more about the setting and the background action. I had to look up the Republic of Ingushetia, which I'd never heard of, and do some reading about its history and geography. And I studied a map of the eastern half of Russia for a while. Abstractions such as statistics and names on a map became real-seeming people and places as Cranmer pursued the fugitive couple. The subtle shifting of his goal as time progresses adds an intriguing dimension to the focal character.

The ending was unexpected and surprisingly satisfying. ( )
1 vote Meredy | May 5, 2015 |
This is a novel about how being a spy shapes you forever. It’s about the aftermath and what sacrificing your true identity means for the rest of your life. I was reminded of Restless by William Boyd and wondered how much of an effect this book had on his. Surely le Carre was an influence. What contemporary espionage writer is exempt?

It’s been a long time since I read one of le Carre’s more “hardcore” spy novels. The Smiley novels. The ones where hard men make hard decisions and get left out in the cold. This novel, while still perilous, is set a bit after active duty. We have handler and handled, betrayer and betrayed, seducer and seduced. Sure, it’s a bit quieter and more introspective than many a spy novel, but I think it’s more powerful as a result. The relationship between the two main characters Tim Cranmer and Larry Pettifer is the real focus. In some ways, they’re two sides of a single coin, but it’s not that cut and dried. Larry has always been contemptuous of Tim’s more staid personality and safer choices. His hedonism and arrogance make him an effective spy, but a really lousy friend. If they ever were friends. How much of either man’s personality is real? At times Tim’s third-person references made me really understand how much of a role it was for him, but Larry’s tear-away behavior made me think he thought his role all too real.

Spoilers !

Cranmer (I couldn’t help wondering what the significance of that name really was) is a man in retirement. He’s beginning a new life with a very young woman, also new. He’s inherited a sprawling estate and has been freshly relieved from his job at the “treasury”. Yeah, he’s a spy. A handler; and his handlee has also been newly put out to pasture. Too bad he’s only 30 miles away at a university, being the best terrible don on campus. Makes it very convenient to pop by for Sunday lunch. During those idyllic lunches on the estate, Larry succeeds in seducing the impressionable and sheltered Emma, Tim’s paramour. I can’t really describe her as more. She’s not really a fully-formed adult to Tim. He buys her clothes for heaven’s sake. What mature, independent woman is going to allow this? Instead Emma represents all objects of affection for Cranmer; lover, wife, child and madonna. No, Larry’s gung-ho, take-charge attitude toward the put-upon peoples of the southern Russian republics have Emma swooning at his feet and soon they’re both gone.

Larry started his career as a spy under Cranmer’s tutelage. Ostensibly, Tim feels responsible for changing Larry’s life and to some extent it’s true, but Larry has chosen his own course, serving as a double agent to Russia. With any double agent, you can’t really be sure where his loyalties lie. As the years press on, Larry becomes more and more sympathetic to the Chechen oppression and extermination by the Russians. In the end, it’s clear he and his accomplices have stolen a great deal of money from Moscow. It isn’t to feather his own nest though, but to fund a revolution against the Ossetians and their Russian overlords.

Naturally, Tim comes under suspicion as an accomplice from both his former employer and the local cops. I loved the tradecraft he devised to evade them in the immediate sense and also on the larger scale. Keeping the cops in the dark about the Office. The false identity ready to hand. The secret room in the church tower. Getting into Larry and Emma’s erstwhile safe house. Oh it was great. There is a lot of idealism and hope, danger and deceit. And of course le Carre’s writing has that lolloping grace it’s always had. He creates some great characters, sprinkles just enough back story into the main narrative and teases you with hints before giving you solid information. Altogether a really enjoyable novel that I’m ashamed took me 20 years to finally read. ( )
1 vote Bookmarque | Feb 21, 2015 |
Showing 1-5 of 16 (next | show all)
Mr. le Carré's great strength is that he is a master plotter. His premise of intelligence agents running amok since the end of the cold war is totally plausible, and the way he links his major characters through their professional roles is ingenious. After taking forever to get there, the reader comes across some 40 pages that are as taut and thrilling as any adventure story I have ever read. They just happen to consist of continuous narrative -- with no tricky flashbacks, very little psychologizing and no political lectures -- and they provide a momentum that lifts almost the entire last third of the novel. If only the first 200 pages were like that, former readers of Hotspur and Triumph (including this one) would be enthralled.
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He who thinks of the consequences cannot be brave. Ingush proverb
Who gathers knowledge, gathers pain. Ecclesiastes
If I were living in the Caucasus, I would be writing fairy tales there
Chekhov, 1888
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Larry went officially missing from the world on the second Monday of October, at ten minutes past eleven, when he failed to deliver his opening lecture of the new academic year.
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Wikipedia in English (2)

Book description
Tim Cranmer is in premature retirement in rural England where he tends his vineyard and his young mistress, Emma, and thinks about his past as infrequently as possible. Also in the neighborhood is a double agent named Larry Pettifer who once worked for Tim, and who is SO bored with country life. One day Emma and Larry disappear, and Tim sets off to find them, only to find himself pursued by his old enemies across Europe and into the black hole of modern Russia.
Haiku summary

Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0345400003, Mass Market Paperback)

--Chicago Sun-Times
With the Cold War fought and won, British spymaster Tim Cranmer accepts early retirement to rural England and a new life with his alluring young mistress Emma. But when both Emma and Cranmer's star double agent and lifelong rival, Larry Pettifer, disappear, Cranmer is suddenly on the run, searching for his brilliant protégé, desperately eluding his former colleagues, in a frantic journey across Europe and into the lawless, battered landscapes of Moscow and southern Russia, to save whatever of his life he has left....
"IRRESISTIBLE...A sinuous plot, leisurely introduced, whose coils become increasingly constricting. There is crisp, intelligent dialogue, much of it riding an undercurrent of menace. And there is a hero who does not see himself as heroic but who struggles with inner demons as much as with the forces arrayed against him."
"AS THRILLING AS LE CARRÉ GETS...The novel has the heartstop duplicity of A Perfect Spy and some of the outraged honor of The Night Manager and The Little Drummer Girl."
--The Boston Globe
--The Christian Science Monitor

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:10:37 -0400)

(see all 7 descriptions)

At Forty-Eight, Tim Cranmer is a secret servant in premature retirement to deepest rural England. His Cold War is fought and won, and he is free to devote himself to his stately manor house, his vineyard, and his beautiful young mistress, Emma. But no man can escape his past, and Tim's lives twenty miles away, in the chaotic person of Larry Pettifer: bored radical don, philanderer, and for twenty years Tim's mercurial double agent against the now vanquished Communist threat. Between the two stands an unresolved rivalry that dates all the way back to their shared boyhood at public school.As the story opens, Larry and Emma have disappeared. Have they run off together? Are they lovers? Has Larry lured Emma into some dark game she cannot understand? Setting off in pursuit of them, Tim discovers that he too is being pursued, by his former masters. The hunter becomes the hunted. Raiding his own past like a thief, he follows Larry and Emma into the minefield - physical and emotional - of their new allegiance. And as Tim advances across the moral wastes of post-Cold War Europe - the battered landscape of England after Thatcher, the lawless worlds of Moscow and Southern Russia - his dilemma deepens. Finding himself deprived of both past and future, a dispossessed loyalist, he must grapple with his own leftover humanity as the values he fought to preserve fall away, and the spectre of the reinvented Russian empire begins to haunt the ruins of the Soviet dream.… (more)

(summary from another edition)

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