Search Site
This site uses cookies to deliver our services, improve performance, for analytics, and (if not signed in) for advertising. By using LibraryThing you acknowledge that you have read and understand our Terms of Service and Privacy Policy. Your use of the site and services is subject to these policies and terms.
Hide this

Results from Google Books

Click on a thumbnail to go to Google Books.


Smiley's People (1979)

by John le Carré

Other authors: See the other authors section.

Series: Karla Trilogy (3), George Smiley (7)

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
4,174592,422 (4.16)175
Paris, London, Germany, and Switzerland are the settings for a tale of espionage in which a final, conclusive confrontation takes place between George Smiley and his Russian adversary, Karla.

Sign up for LibraryThing to find out whether you'll like this book.

No current Talk conversations about this book.

» See also 175 mentions

English (51)  Danish (2)  Spanish (2)  Swedish (1)  Hebrew (1)  Catalan (1)  All languages (58)
Showing 1-5 of 51 (next | show all)
And so we have come to the conclusion of the Karla trilogy, in which John le Carré pits quiet, self-effacing George Smiley of the Circus, the British espionage agency, against Karla, his ruthless Soviet counterpart. In the first book, [b:Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy|10073506|Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy|John le Carré|https://i.gr-assets.com/images/S/compressed.photo.goodreads.com/books/1349070201l/10073506._SX50_.jpg|2491780], we learned how Karla used a "mole" placed in the Circus decades before to threaten both Smiley's intelligence service and his marriage. An unbiased judge would probably give that round to Karla.

The middle volume, [b:The Honourable Schoolboy|18990|The Honourable Schoolboy|John le Carré|https://i.gr-assets.com/images/S/compressed.photo.goodreads.com/books/1348762526l/18990._SY75_.jpg|79986], has the two spymasters squared off against each other again, this time via intermediaries (some innocent, some less so), in an exotic locale. Count this one a draw.

So how will events play out in the final volume? Given le Carré's preference for harsh realities to sugar coated endings, it's best not to anticipate, but just go along for the tension-filled ride. Of course, with Smiley that tension more often takes the form of a chess match than a horse race, but it is no less thrilling for that.

Having learned of a potential crack in Karla's personal world through the Russian émigré community in Paris, the supposedly retired Smiley turns to old Circus colleagues to create a snare that will finally put an end to Karla. Smiley's strategy requires the use of the ailing Connie Sachs' prodigious memory, Toby Esterhase's spycraft and connections, and Peter Guilliam's current location in Paris, as well as Oliver Lacon and Saul Enderby's grudging bureaucratic support. There are, as always, keenly described new characters including my favorite, the marvelous feisty, resilient Madame Ostrakova, who sets all the pieces in motion through her awareness that things may not be as they seem.

One of le Carré's techniques that I've appreciated over the course of the three books is to provide external commentary in the form of retrospective discussions by those who work at the Circus as to the wisdom or significance of events. A sort of Greek chorus that adds a nice bit of texture to the narrative.

Although it was satisfying to bring the Karla series to a conclusion, I am delighted that two novels featuring Smiley remain. One each to savor in October and November. ( )
  BarbKBooks | Aug 15, 2022 |

Some faces, as Villem had suggested this morning, are known to us before we see them; others we see once and remember all our lives; others we see every day and never remember at all.

And, so it is with literary characters, some are so like us that we know them instinctively; some are not like us at all but completely unforgettable; and others are forgotten the moment we close the pages of the book. George Smiley is of the second sort, he wiggles his way into your sensibilities and lodges himself in your mind and heart, and while you might forget the details of the book over, say, the course of 39 years, you do not forget George...you never forget George.

Perhaps one reason for this is that Smiley is the moral man, the man with a conscience in the midst of all the greed and corruption and self-interests. Smiley was in all the other novels up to Smiley’s People, he led the charge in most of them, but they were just as centered around other characters: Bill Haydon, Jim Prideaux, Jerry Westerby. He isn’t in this novel, he is this novel, and John le Carre performs open heart surgery on him, and we see his bones and blood. While reading this, it seemed to me that every word written before it was just preamble to this, just groundwork to knowing and understanding the cost to a man’s life if he stands outside the group and does what he believes to be the moral thing.

Here we see the toll that this Cold War (how aptly named!) has had on both Smiley and his counterpart, Karla. We watch them perform the last steps in the last dance and marvel that they have survived so long in a world that kills off and uses up men as if they were straw dogs. If we could not see before how perverse this world is, we can see it clearly here, for both men have a weakness and that weakness is love.

This is the saddest and most despondent I have felt reading a Smiley book. I think le Carre has posed the age old questions: Who can you trust? Can lies and deceit ever be the right thing? Are there ever winners in international intrigues? Why do men do it; what motivates them? What is the personal cost when you do the wrong thing, even for the right reason? And, in the end, what difference does one man make; are we all just disposable? As a society, we might not like the answers.

( )
  mattorsara | Aug 11, 2022 |
  archivomorero | Jun 28, 2022 |
A slow start, but once Smiley is introduced simply compelling. Rich characters, evocative prose and a wonderful slow-burn plot. ( )
  malcrf | Oct 23, 2021 |
Not a huge spy novel fan but this is a classic, on Boxall's list and it was worth a read. ( )
  auldhouse | Sep 30, 2021 |
Showing 1-5 of 51 (next | show all)
In "Smiley's People," Smiley works both worlds, is both detective and agent at risk. I won"t disclose the oblique, slow-moving plot, except to say that a trail of murder and camouflage leads Smiley to Hamburg and Paris and Berne, and that the stakes are especially high for him, since his old archenemy, the daunting mastermind in charge of the Thirteenth Directorate of Russian Intelligence, appears to have made an uncharacteristic slip. Smiley's boss in London jokingly refers to Holmes and Moriarty at Reichenbach Falls, but even Smiley himself hears "the drum-beat of his own past, summoning him to one last effort to externalise and resolve the conflict he had lived by." That's a touch too literary, sounding more like le Carré's problem than Smiley's, and Smiley's next image catches a little more of the case: "It was just possible, against all the odds, that he had been given, in late age, a chance to return to the rained-out contests of his life and play them after all."
added by John_Vaughan | editNY Times, Michael Wood (Jul 20, 1980)
The story’s progress is funereal, and there are times when Smiley appears to have lost not his marbles but his memory. Some of the narrative involves Smiley digging to unearth bits of the past that we know already (as in the long, long revelations of a messenger’s activities), and we see him prompting the memory of others with information that he apparently already knows. In a talk with Connie Sachs — we have met her in other books - Smiley induces her to emember things about Karla and the girl. ‘And the child? There was a defector report - what was that about?’ If Smiley knows so much about the defector report, and indeed about most of what Connie has to tell him, what is the point of asking her questions?
added by SnootyBaronet | editThe Guardian, Julian Symons

» Add other authors (10 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
le Carré, Johnprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Davidson, FrederickNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
González Trejo, HoracioTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Laing, TimIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Paolini, Pier FrancescoTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Soellner, HeddaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Soellner, RolfTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Taylor, MattCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
You must log in to edit Common Knowledge data.
For more help see the Common Knowledge help page.
Canonical title
Original title
Alternative titles
Original publication date
Important places
Important events
Related movies
Awards and honors
For my sons, Simon, Stephen, Timothy and Nicholas,
with love

First words
Two seemingly unconnected events heralded the summons of Mr George Smiley from his dubious retirement.
Last words
(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
Disambiguation notice
Publisher's editors
Original language
Canonical DDC/MDS
Canonical LCC

References to this work on external resources.

Wikipedia in English (2)

Paris, London, Germany, and Switzerland are the settings for a tale of espionage in which a final, conclusive confrontation takes place between George Smiley and his Russian adversary, Karla.

No library descriptions found.

Book description
Haiku summary

Popular covers

Quick Links


Average: (4.16)
1 4
1.5 1
2 20
2.5 6
3 101
3.5 32
4 331
4.5 44
5 291

Is this you?

Become a LibraryThing Author.


About | Contact | Privacy/Terms | Help/FAQs | Blog | Store | APIs | TinyCat | Legacy Libraries | Early Reviewers | Common Knowledge | 180,148,422 books! | Top bar: Always visible