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The Russia House (BBC Audiobooks)

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The Russia House In the third year of perestroika, London publisher Barley Blair is sent a manuscript from Moscow. Exposing Russian nuclear threats as a sham, the information - if it's genuine - could shatter East-West relations. Jazz-loving, hard-drinking Blair is hardly the spymasters' idea of the perfect agent, yet they are forced to send him to Moscow. Full description The Russia House In the third year of perestroika, London publisher Barley Blair is sent a manuscript from Moscow. Exposing Russian nuclear threats as a sham, the information - if it's genuine - could shatter East-West relations. Jazz-loving, hard-drinking Blair is hardly the spymasters' idea of the perfect agent, yet they are forced to send him to Moscow. Full description


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The Russia House In the third year of perestroika, London publisher Barley Blair is sent a manuscript from Moscow. Exposing Russian nuclear threats as a sham, the information - if it's genuine - could shatter East-West relations. Jazz-loving, hard-drinking Blair is hardly the spymasters' idea of the perfect agent, yet they are forced to send him to Moscow. Full description The Russia House In the third year of perestroika, London publisher Barley Blair is sent a manuscript from Moscow. Exposing Russian nuclear threats as a sham, the information - if it's genuine - could shatter East-West relations. Jazz-loving, hard-drinking Blair is hardly the spymasters' idea of the perfect agent, yet they are forced to send him to Moscow. Full description

30 review for The Russia House (BBC Audiobooks)

  1. 5 out of 5

    Candi

    3.5 stars rounded down "Spying is waiting." I don’t typically read spy ‘thrillers’ anymore, and I would say the word ‘thriller’ is used loosely here. Spying may be waiting, and waiting is what I did for about one-third of the book before becoming nearly fully absorbed. It starts off slowly, and likely due to my ignorance of ‘spy’ jargon, I was a bit lost. Quite a few characters were introduced, and I had trouble distinguishing between several of them. I even struggled to determine the role of the 3.5 stars rounded down "Spying is waiting." I don’t typically read spy ‘thrillers’ anymore, and I would say the word ‘thriller’ is used loosely here. Spying may be waiting, and waiting is what I did for about one-third of the book before becoming nearly fully absorbed. It starts off slowly, and likely due to my ignorance of ‘spy’ jargon, I was a bit lost. Quite a few characters were introduced, and I had trouble distinguishing between several of them. I even struggled to determine the role of the first person narrator. Eventually, however, something clicked and I was off and running to the conclusion. "A Soviet friend of mine has written a creative and important work of literature. It is a novel. A great novel. Its message is important for all mankind." British publisher Scott Blair, otherwise known as Barley, has been entrusted with this piece of ‘literature’ which has been passed to him from a Russian physicist through the hands of the beautiful and self-sacrificing Katya. Of course, this is not just any work of writing; it contains some of the greatest intelligence secrets of the Soviet Union. The time is mid- to late 1980s during a significant period of reform nearing the end of the Cold War. The manuscript, however, manages to get into the hands of the Russia House, a branch of the British intelligence agency, before reaching Barley’s desk. He quickly becomes an unlikely instrument in the game of espionage. Barley also has a keen interest in women, alcohol, and jazz; and it’s not unusual to find him in some club playing his saxophone with a drink at hand. Although I never became smitten with this guy, I did find him very intriguing and likeable enough. He sort of grows on you throughout the book. The plot is slow-moving, but kept me interested once I got over the first hurdle. Ideas of nuclear disarmament and the role of the various intelligence agencies, including the CIA, kept my attention. There is of course a romance which inevitably brews between Barley and Katya. I’m not certain I totally bought into this, and wonder if it comes across more convincingly in the screen adaptation. I love learning about Russian geography and culture, so was captivated by the vivid descriptions of Moscow and Leningrad. "A low cottonwool sky hung over the imported palaces, making them dreary in their fancy dress. Summer music played in the parks but the summer clung behind the clouds, leaving a chalky Nordic mist to trick and tremble on the Venetian waterways. Barley walked and, as always when he was in Leningrad, he had the sensation of walking through other cities, now Prague, now Vienna, not a bit of Paris or a corner of Regent’s Park. No other city that he knew hid its shame behind so many sweet facades or asked such terrible questions with its smile." This is my first le Carré novel, and overall I enjoyed it. 3.5 star-worthy, but I am going to round it down with the hope that my next by this author (The Spy Who Came in from the Cold) will go up from there.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Woman Reading

    3.5 ☆ Published in 1989, The Russia House provided a tale very much rooted in its time. The USSR was on the precipice as it wavered between its Iron Curtain Communist grip and Gorbachev's new policies of perestroika and glasnost during the late 1980s. In the new climate, doing nothing was itself an act of opposition. Because by doing nothing, we change nothing. And by changing nothing we hang on to what we understand, even if it is the bars of our own jail. A few individuals charged bo 3.5 ☆ Published in 1989, The Russia House provided a tale very much rooted in its time. The USSR was on the precipice as it wavered between its Iron Curtain Communist grip and Gorbachev's new policies of perestroika and glasnost during the late 1980s. In the new climate, doing nothing was itself an act of opposition. Because by doing nothing, we change nothing. And by changing nothing we hang on to what we understand, even if it is the bars of our own jail. A few individuals charged boldly and with conviction into the fray. A Soviet physicist, nicknamed "Goethe," had a chance encounter last autumn with a British book publisher, Barley Blair. For the past several years, Blair has been visiting the USSR for its international book fairs. During one drunken evening, Blair's words, which had been formulated for entertainment and not for proselytism, grabbed hold of a scientist who had never wanted his research to be for the destruction of human kind. Goethe involved Katya Orlova in smuggling his top-secret military documents to Blair for publication. His manuscripts, however, fell into the hands of British Intelligence. [Ned] shrugged. "When did the [Cold War] ever end? Turn on your television set, what do you see? The leaders of both sides hugging each other. Tears in their eyes... Hooray, it's all over! Bollocks. Listen to the insiders and you realize the picture hasn't altered by a brush-stroke." "And if I turn my television set off? What will I see then?" "You'll see us. Hiding behind our grey screens. Telling each other we keep the peace." In America, Reagan's Star Wars program has a massive passel of interested parties who are far less sanguine about geopolitical changes. Before he knew it, Blair reluctantly got recruited as a British agent who was then summarily relinquished to the American cousins. I sometimes think that is the difference between American spies and our own. Americans, with their frank enjoyment of power and money, flaunt their luck. They lack the instinct to dissemble that comes so naturally to us British. Blair may have been born into the gentlemen class of English society, but he never fully accepted its strictures. What can be expected from a nonconformist who had gotten drafted into spy games? Blair was an avid player of both chess and his saxophone. His subject was jazz... The great ones were always outlaws, he maintained. Jazz was nothing if not protest. Even its own rules had to be broken by the real improvisers. The Russia House was my eleventh le Carré novel and the most overt polemic so far against America's foreign policies, Britain's delusion as a superpower, and the glorification of the intelligence services. I know where le Carré wanted to go with this story but something fell short in its execution as a work of creative fiction. It didn't generate sufficient dramatic tension even though the requisite elements were present in this plotline. Instead of a spy, a legal adviser in the Service - "Harry" narrated; while this voice was by no means bad, it didn't entice me either. Russia House had a very slow build-up and I wasn't tempted to stay up late to continue reading until the final 15 percent. I think le Carré was brilliant. I have loved the underlying philosophical strain and the ambivalent morality in his novels, but Russia House was redolent of an irritated melancholia born of futility. Some years ago, I had seen the 1990 film with Sean Connery and Michelle Pfeiffer as it was the first time that the USSR had allowed in Western filmmakers. While Hollywood's cinematography of Russia was captivating, I had been less than impressed by le Carré. After reading so many of his novels this year, I now know that dissatisfaction had been misplaced. For a good adaptation of The Russia House, BBC Radio's 3-hour version as dramatized by René Basilico is my recommendation. And if you want to know more about Ned, who is Blair's agent-runner and head of the Russia House, then read The Secret Pilgrim.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Jake

    I think it's instructive to read one of Graham Greene's spy novels back-to-back with one of John le Carre's— because, surprisingly, it's instantly clear that le Carre is the better writer. It's not just his plotting, which is always tight and suspenseful- it's the actual strength of his writing- the descriptions of places, the dialogues, the constructions of his wounded and noble characters. One concern I had with this book was that it was written in 1989- after the golden age of the Cold War, w I think it's instructive to read one of Graham Greene's spy novels back-to-back with one of John le Carre's— because, surprisingly, it's instantly clear that le Carre is the better writer. It's not just his plotting, which is always tight and suspenseful- it's the actual strength of his writing- the descriptions of places, the dialogues, the constructions of his wounded and noble characters. One concern I had with this book was that it was written in 1989- after the golden age of the Cold War, which was a time that Le Carre shined as an espionage author. But that concern was unfounded- if anything, he's better in the age of glasnost, with all its moral vagary and shifting alliances. And what's more, he has learned to edit himself- this book weighs in at a slender 340 pages, compared to 600+ for most of the Smiley novels.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Darwin8u

    "The old isms were dead, the contest between Communism and capitalism had ended in a wet whimper. Its rhetoric had fled underground into the secret chambers of the grey men, who were still dancing away long after the music had ended." I love 'The Russia House'. I love the anger; the way the novel seems to capture all the threads that le Carré had woven in most all of his cold war novels and noose both sides. I love it for its humanity. In some ways it reminded me of Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-Four: "The old isms were dead, the contest between Communism and capitalism had ended in a wet whimper. Its rhetoric had fled underground into the secret chambers of the grey men, who were still dancing away long after the music had ended." I love 'The Russia House'. I love the anger; the way the novel seems to capture all the threads that le Carré had woven in most all of his cold war novels and noose both sides. I love it for its humanity. In some ways it reminded me of Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-Four: with the bureaucracies/grey men of both sides of the Cold War desperate to continue the fight, desperate for an enemy, desperate for perpetual fear for the greater good. While I was knocked over by Orwell's GREAT novel, I never cared for Winston Smith quite the same way I cared for Scott Blair. Le Carré's genius is making you absolutely love his sinners and fear his saints, and then making you forget which is which and who is who. The West is mirrored by the East. We have become what we feared, what we fought.. Ultimately, le Carré's characters become like family. Yes, they are flawed. Yes, they are giants. Yes, they are petty...and, utimately they are you.

  5. 4 out of 5

    S.P. Aruna

    As in most of John le Carré's novels, the characters take center stage, driving the novel forwards, while the plot remains insidiously in the background, though nonetheless potent. This approach emphasizes that whatever happens depends on the personalities and behaviors of the players - remove them and nothing happens. This is the exceptional creative power of this author. In many of his earlier works, le Carré is sending a message, i.e. that espionage is a game that exists only for the sake of p As in most of John le Carré's novels, the characters take center stage, driving the novel forwards, while the plot remains insidiously in the background, though nonetheless potent. This approach emphasizes that whatever happens depends on the personalities and behaviors of the players - remove them and nothing happens. This is the exceptional creative power of this author. In many of his earlier works, le Carré is sending a message, i.e. that espionage is a game that exists only for the sake of playing it, while national security poses as a flimsy excuse. Nowhere is this message clearer than in this book. Secrets about the other side's capacity for destruction serves only as a pretext for deception in playing the game one against the other. But our heroes Barley and Katya, used as pawns in the game, fall in love, throwing a spanner in the works, and human spirit triumphs in the final outcome. For Barley, governments are not the only ones who can manipulate and betray, and some things are more important than the games that spies play with others' lives. The ending is simply brilliant, and makes this book a masterpiece. It is interesting to note that the book reflects true life incidents, the notion that the Soviet Union was an overrated adversary is supported by KGB agents who were questioned in Langley after the breakup of the Soviet Union by the CIA. In some ways, the plot elements are reminiscent of The Spy Who Came In from the Cold a book I haven't read yet, but plan to include on my reading list. However, le Carré is not for everyone, as some may feel a stuffiness to his writing, and his examination of social class, which is usually included in the background of his characters is distinctly British, and may not be appreciated by outsiders.

  6. 4 out of 5

    W

    I don't particularly like John Le Carre,generally he bores me and I have read few of his books. But I have seen the movie version of this one.Great cast,an older Sean Connery and Michelle Pfeiffer. What's more,the film was actually filmed in Russia,shortly after the collapse of the Soviet Union.That was a very big deal in those days The locations were Moscow and what was then,Leningrad.Lots of great shots of the Kremlin.That alone made it worth watching. As for the story,well it dragged.As Roger Eb I don't particularly like John Le Carre,generally he bores me and I have read few of his books. But I have seen the movie version of this one.Great cast,an older Sean Connery and Michelle Pfeiffer. What's more,the film was actually filmed in Russia,shortly after the collapse of the Soviet Union.That was a very big deal in those days The locations were Moscow and what was then,Leningrad.Lots of great shots of the Kremlin.That alone made it worth watching. As for the story,well it dragged.As Roger Ebert wrote,"There are flashes of energy inside a screenplay which is static and boring,that drones on lifelessly through the Le Carre universe". It is the story of a document detailing the Soviet Union's capacity for waging nuclear war. British intelligence and the CIA get involved. Will I like the book ? I doubt it.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Quirkyreader

    For me this book had a slow start, so it took a bit to get into. And towards the climax of the story it seemed like it got a bit muddled. What I enjoyed most about this work was that it was set in the world of publishing during Peristrokia. And the reader got a small insight to what Western publishers had to do to have their books published during the end of the Soviet Era. And yes, the spycraft story line in this story was brilliant once you got into it. Still, it did not have Le Carre's usual fl For me this book had a slow start, so it took a bit to get into. And towards the climax of the story it seemed like it got a bit muddled. What I enjoyed most about this work was that it was set in the world of publishing during Peristrokia. And the reader got a small insight to what Western publishers had to do to have their books published during the end of the Soviet Era. And yes, the spycraft story line in this story was brilliant once you got into it. Still, it did not have Le Carre's usual flow. I am glad that I am taking the time to read his back catalogue before tackling the latest Smiley novel.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Jason Koivu

    I understood what was going on the entire time! That's a big deal for me when it comes to John le Carré's books! Of course, what that really means is that The Russia House isn't as devilishly complicated as some of the author's other works. Definitely not that I'm getting smarter, so put that right out of your mind! I understood what was going on the entire time! That's a big deal for me when it comes to John le Carré's books! Of course, what that really means is that The Russia House isn't as devilishly complicated as some of the author's other works. Definitely not that I'm getting smarter, so put that right out of your mind!

  9. 4 out of 5

    Derrick

    I have created a bookshelf "on-hold" specifically for this book and I hope it won't stay there for long. Actually, I pray the bookshelf forever remains empty. For the record - this is the first time I have started and not finished a book. I come from a school of thought that reading a book to its completion is not an obligation but a responsibility, and this time, quite frankly, I have failed in this responsibilty. And the guilt I have can only perhaps be assuaged by this prereview. The Russia H I have created a bookshelf "on-hold" specifically for this book and I hope it won't stay there for long. Actually, I pray the bookshelf forever remains empty. For the record - this is the first time I have started and not finished a book. I come from a school of thought that reading a book to its completion is not an obligation but a responsibility, and this time, quite frankly, I have failed in this responsibilty. And the guilt I have can only perhaps be assuaged by this prereview. The Russia House didn't make a great first impression for the legendary John le Carré, but after all, as one author once brilliantly remarked; what can a first impression tell us about someone we’ve just met for a minute in the lobby of a hotel? For that matter, what can a first impression tell us about anyone? Why, no more than a chord can tell us about Beethoven, or a brushstroke about Botticelli. And for that reason, I'll reserve my verdict on John le Carré and hope that the magic of time will give us another opportunity to reacquaint ourselves better. P.S: John le Carré died from pneumonia just five days ago(12/12/20).

  10. 4 out of 5

    Jim

    I noted on Facebook before I left for holiday that I have a habit of selecting crap books to read on it, but I always take Le Carre as a standby. John, John, just when I needed you most, you let me down. A painfully slow, slight tale of the ending of the Cold War that made me wonder where Le Carre found the motivation to persisit with the novel when he knew where it was going - to an end not with a bang nor a whimper. It felt like an elongated subplot from one of his better thrillers. The writin I noted on Facebook before I left for holiday that I have a habit of selecting crap books to read on it, but I always take Le Carre as a standby. John, John, just when I needed you most, you let me down. A painfully slow, slight tale of the ending of the Cold War that made me wonder where Le Carre found the motivation to persisit with the novel when he knew where it was going - to an end not with a bang nor a whimper. It felt like an elongated subplot from one of his better thrillers. The writing was still good enough to pull me through, but it was, like the flight home, a long haul.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Sam F

    One reads Le Carre not as much for the plot as much as for the mastery of the prose. It's a delight to read and re-read. Just the descriptions alone are worth it. This book, along with the Secret Pilgrim & the Tinker Tailor / Smiley's People & A Perfect Spy comprise his best work, in my opinion. The sheer talent is captivating in its allure. His 21st century work is not nearly at the same level I'm afraid. The Cold War was his forte. I could give examples of the master of prose at work but there One reads Le Carre not as much for the plot as much as for the mastery of the prose. It's a delight to read and re-read. Just the descriptions alone are worth it. This book, along with the Secret Pilgrim & the Tinker Tailor / Smiley's People & A Perfect Spy comprise his best work, in my opinion. The sheer talent is captivating in its allure. His 21st century work is not nearly at the same level I'm afraid. The Cold War was his forte. I could give examples of the master of prose at work but there is not enough space and my memory not so prodigious. I leave it as an exercise to try and read his books and find a memorable blurb or two - it should not be too difficult. If nothing else, your vocabulary and expression will improve tremendously. Probably one of the finest writers of the 20th century.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Robert

    The Russia House is a love story wrapped in a spy story. The love story is somewhat less convincing than the spy story, but more compelling. Le Carre is a strong storyteller nonetheless, achieving vivid atmospheric effects (Moscow, London, an island off the coast of Maine, Leningrad) and driving scenes forward with deft, spirited dialogue. The peculiar satisfaction of the book lies in the main character, Barley, shaking off the chains he's been wrapped in by the British and American intelligence The Russia House is a love story wrapped in a spy story. The love story is somewhat less convincing than the spy story, but more compelling. Le Carre is a strong storyteller nonetheless, achieving vivid atmospheric effects (Moscow, London, an island off the coast of Maine, Leningrad) and driving scenes forward with deft, spirited dialogue. The peculiar satisfaction of the book lies in the main character, Barley, shaking off the chains he's been wrapped in by the British and American intelligence agencies, so that he can set his Russian lover free--from her own doomed Russian lover and the claws of the dying Soviet state. Less satisfying is the appeal Barley exerts over Katya, his Russian co-conspirator. After all, he is a man who customarily drinks ten plus glasses of scotch a day. This qualifies as an alcoholic, and in my experience, heavy-duty alcoholics are not as charming as they think they are. Inevitably, a spy thriller published in 1989 will seem dated, but this one, based on revelations about the rottenness of the Soviet state, must have seemed quite clairvoyant. At the time of its release, the USSR was, in fact, crumbling under the weight of its inefficiencies. The spycraft and tediously restrained spymasters are realistic--human beings constrained by their bureaucratic procedures, yearning to be impetuous (like Barley) but not daring to be, yearning to chuck their marriages and run off with an exotic lover, but not daring to do so. Viewed as a study in international relations, The Russia House is a parable about the futility of the arms race between two superpowers whose competition gave a taste of global greatness they couldn't spit out to save their souls. Viewed as a study in human relations, the book is thinner but entertaining. Le Carre writes with spirit, pace, and detailed knowledge of his settings. But I still have a problem with Barley the Boozer ending up with his intriguing Russian amour.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Dave Wickenden

    When a soviet scientist reaches out with a secret manuscript to an English publisher, Barley Blair, he hopes to shed light on the Russian incompetence in military and scientific accomplishments. Forced by British Intelligence, Blair must act as an intermediary in hope of find more secrets. But when he meets the beautiful Katya, all thoughts of East-West espionage are all but forgotten. He must find a way to extract both him and Katya out of the gun sights of both governments. This was a BBC enact When a soviet scientist reaches out with a secret manuscript to an English publisher, Barley Blair, he hopes to shed light on the Russian incompetence in military and scientific accomplishments. Forced by British Intelligence, Blair must act as an intermediary in hope of find more secrets. But when he meets the beautiful Katya, all thoughts of East-West espionage are all but forgotten. He must find a way to extract both him and Katya out of the gun sights of both governments. This was a BBC enactment of the book rather than a regular audio version, and I thank my Public Library. I must admit, I enjoyed the version as the sound effects made the story more entertaining. It was a bit of nostalgia of the old radio shows of years gone by. This is my first LeCarre story and although I am aware that he is considered the master of espionage, I was, frankly, disappointed. I found it slow and unexciting compared to others of his era like Robert Ludlum. It might have been this story and I will try another in the future, but I have to admit, I was happy when it was over.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Craig Pittman

    I am late to reading John le Carre', and only now getting around to his non-Smiley books such as this one. Because it's set in the heady days of glasnost and perestroika, I thought it might seem dated -- but given what's been going on in the news today about the Russians trying to tilt our presidential election, it turned out to be far more timely than expected. It was also a compelling read, despite lacking the nail-biting suspense of his "Call for the Dead" or "Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy." Th I am late to reading John le Carre', and only now getting around to his non-Smiley books such as this one. Because it's set in the heady days of glasnost and perestroika, I thought it might seem dated -- but given what's been going on in the news today about the Russians trying to tilt our presidential election, it turned out to be far more timely than expected. It was also a compelling read, despite lacking the nail-biting suspense of his "Call for the Dead" or "Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy." The story starts off with a droll and mocking anecdote. At a book fair, a Russian woman named Katya has handed over a manuscript to a British publisher to pass along to the man she intended to deliver it to, and who didn't show up. The manuscript turns out to be a hot property -- the work of a Russian physicist who works on the Soviets' missile tests. The publisher can't find the intended recipient, a roguish Englishman named Barley Blair, and realizes how important this information might be, but then has a hard time convincing anyone in British intelligence to take it from him. Once he succeeds in handing it over, though, they freak out and go through about six kinds of hell tracking down Blair. He turns out to be in Lisbon, shacked up with a lady, getting drunk at a bar. Blair, you soon realize, is the unlikely hero of the story, as he's drafted by British intelligence to go to Moscow and contact the physicist -- a chance acquaintance from a prior trip to Russia -- and verify that the info he's passed along is valid. They train him in spycraft, then begin questioning whether he or his physicist friend are already involved in doubling them to pass along bogus info, and in the process tie themselves and their CIA partners in knots. The narrator le Carre' has drafted to tell this story, by the way, is not Blair himself, but a chess-playing attorney working for MI6 who has his own sense of humor and his own guilty secret. For a while I found his occasional mentions of his shame annoying, but eventually it pays off because you see why he comes to regard the boozy, sax-playing Blair as heroic as he works to save some innocent victims from being hammered by the forces gathered around the physicist known as Goethe. The villains are the intelligence operations of Britain, the U.S. and Russia as le Carre' mocks them, comparing their banal yet brutal political games to the high-minded physicist who only wants to make the world a better place by exposing his employer's dirtiest secret -- namely, that their missile systems don't actually work. The story contains amusing elements of farce right up until about halfway, when at the behest of the CIA one of the livelier Brits is suddenly booted from the operation because they perceive him as a security risk solely based on his personal life. Then you realize how deadly serious the whole thing is. The book is not a classic thriller. There are no chase scenes to speak of, no shoot outs, no corpus delecti to be examined. But it's extremely well-written and involving as we watch Blair decide that saving someone he loves is worth turning his life upside down, ditching his lazy old habits to become a better man, if not one who brings a better world.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Calvertjones

    This is a good, solid Le Carre, but as is often the case, the novel needed editing. The story concerns a Soviet physicist with information that Soviet nuclear technology is less advanced than the world thinks, who communicates this information through a manuscript that he asks a friend, Katya, to pass on to a British publisher, Scott Blair ("Barley"). British intelligence intercepts it, and then recruits Barley to go back to Moscow and try to recruit the scientist to find out more Soviet secrets This is a good, solid Le Carre, but as is often the case, the novel needed editing. The story concerns a Soviet physicist with information that Soviet nuclear technology is less advanced than the world thinks, who communicates this information through a manuscript that he asks a friend, Katya, to pass on to a British publisher, Scott Blair ("Barley"). British intelligence intercepts it, and then recruits Barley to go back to Moscow and try to recruit the scientist to find out more Soviet secrets. Things, as usual, don't go exactly according to plan, and as frequently happens with Le Carre, there is some strident, over-the-top moralizing about the importance of being a decent human being and so on as opposed to following bureaucratic rules and regulations. It's a fun, pleasantly complex story, and the writing is often brilliantly witty, especially in the beginning when Le Carre really gets going in describing and mocking the intelligence folks. The relationship portrayed between the British and the American intelligence community is hilarious and probably revealing. Barley is also a great, world-weary, charismatic character, and Katya is amusingly Russian, prone to complaining in an understated way about poor state services ("It is not convenient"). Problems include the cliched narrator who serves no purpose--Le Carre has to have his old, depressed, lovesick man watching and telling the story. This is common to many of his novels, and it gets "old" as they say. He's often musing about his love for some woman lost, Hannah. This interrupts the flow of the narrative, and is quite pointless. There's also a heavy-handedness, again a common Le Carre problem, a certain naive smugness that can get on the reader's nerves, the main lesson seeming to be, "If only everyone could behave like decent human beings." And then, there are very long interludes that repeat the same essential points and jokes, which should have been edited down. But, still fun, esp. if you like Le Carre. And, the movie is surprisingly good--Sean Connery as Barley, Michelle Pfeiffer as a shockingly good Katya.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Lobstergirl

    Some le Carré novels are deeply satisfying. This is not one of them. Here we are on the cusp of the Cold War ending - glasnost and perestroika have been put in motion - yet among the insiders, the spycraft continues. Of course, the Cold War was the agar for spy novelists. Did le Carré get a sick, sinking feeling in his stomach as he watched the Soviet empire crumble? As a reader, I felt like there wasn't much here to bite into. The story line wasn't terribly compelling. We're supposed to fall in Some le Carré novels are deeply satisfying. This is not one of them. Here we are on the cusp of the Cold War ending - glasnost and perestroika have been put in motion - yet among the insiders, the spycraft continues. Of course, the Cold War was the agar for spy novelists. Did le Carré get a sick, sinking feeling in his stomach as he watched the Soviet empire crumble? As a reader, I felt like there wasn't much here to bite into. The story line wasn't terribly compelling. We're supposed to fall in love with the charming, roguish, saxophone-playing drunkard Barley, a British book publisher roped into carrying military secrets to the West. But I never felt anything for Barley, and the occasional snippets of sparkly prose weren't enough to prevent the feeling of relief I got when the book ended.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Olivia Kienzel

    i just finished it two nights ago, and what a book! thanks, ted, for turning me onto le carre. he is a master of characterization, he has intricate, exciting, and utterly believable plots, and he has the added bonus of actually knowing what the hell he's talking about, having been on the inside of all this himself. even if you don't like spy fiction, there's much to admire here. i can see why he's regarded as a grand master. far and away better than ludlum, whose stuff has become dated in my opin i just finished it two nights ago, and what a book! thanks, ted, for turning me onto le carre. he is a master of characterization, he has intricate, exciting, and utterly believable plots, and he has the added bonus of actually knowing what the hell he's talking about, having been on the inside of all this himself. even if you don't like spy fiction, there's much to admire here. i can see why he's regarded as a grand master. far and away better than ludlum, whose stuff has become dated in my opinion.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Laura

    An expatriate British publisher unexpectedly finds himself working for British intelligence to investigate people in Russia. A movie was made based on this book, with Sean Connery, Michelle Pfeiffer, Roy Scheider .

  19. 4 out of 5

    Paul Ataua

    It started off so slowly and took ages to really get into the core of the story, but once it got there it was just another great example of le Carré’s mastery of the genre. I have never been disappointed with any of his books, and am saddened that there will be no more. RIP.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Denise

    As the Cold War nears its end, an English publisher is drawn into the world of espionage when a mysterious manuscript containing Soviet military secrets finds its way into his hands, smuggled out from behind the Iron Curtain through a colleague acting on the behest of a beautiful young Russian woman to whom the papers were entrusted by a physicist tired of keeping secrets. Slow, but wonderfully complex. Le Carré never disappoints.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Brent

    It's 1989 or so, and a bookseller is the protagonist. The Russia House is an office of the British foreign intelligence service. LeCarre rocks. Just read it. It's 1989 or so, and a bookseller is the protagonist. The Russia House is an office of the British foreign intelligence service. LeCarre rocks. Just read it.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Stephen

    This is almost perfect Le Carré — world weary but romantic; cynical but whimsical. The setting is a world thrown into confusion by Gorbachev's glasnost and perestroika. And I guess much like spy-novelists, the spies are unsure whether to pull up stumps and congratulate each on a 'good game' or to dig in for the inevitable double-cross. With such a rich and complex milieu, it is perhaps understandable — forgivable? beneficial? — that the plot is more straightforward than his earlier works. That's This is almost perfect Le Carré — world weary but romantic; cynical but whimsical. The setting is a world thrown into confusion by Gorbachev's glasnost and perestroika. And I guess much like spy-novelists, the spies are unsure whether to pull up stumps and congratulate each on a 'good game' or to dig in for the inevitable double-cross. With such a rich and complex milieu, it is perhaps understandable — forgivable? beneficial? — that the plot is more straightforward than his earlier works. That's not to say it lacks excitement, but at times Le Carré is actively deflating the tension — hinting at what will transpire — as if he (through his proxy, the equivocating legal council to the secret service, with a faint whiff of regret and reluctance) no longer wants to participate in the inflationary hyperbole of the cold war of words, which supported the ever-accelerating arms race. All that said, this is very recognisable Le Carré, with strong echoes of some of his best work. It acts as a wonderful, questioning, almost absurd (with its protagonist of a alcoholic, jazz sax-playing, minor publisher) punctuation mark to a long phase of his career, wrestling with the practice of and theory behind the cold war. Perhaps because of that, it is a very thoughtful book, and offers no easy answers (though Le Carré's leanings certainly come through). Beautifully written, with some marvelous bon mots. I fully expect to re-read this at some point. One final note — I was amazed to see that the shabby, dissolute publisher is played on film by Sean Connery; I had pictured him as a glasses-wearing cross between Christopher Hitchens and Peter Mannion from The Thick Of It.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Gram

    An amateur spy - down-at-heel English publisher Barley Blair - is given a few weeks training by the British and then, backed by the USA, he's sent to Moscow to receive documents from a highly placed but anonymous source which will prove the Soviet's nuclear missile capability is based on lies. The go-between is the beautiful Katya and Barley complicates matters by falling in love with her. Meanwhile, le Carre details how the joint British-American operation is set up, with the Americans gradually An amateur spy - down-at-heel English publisher Barley Blair - is given a few weeks training by the British and then, backed by the USA, he's sent to Moscow to receive documents from a highly placed but anonymous source which will prove the Soviet's nuclear missile capability is based on lies. The go-between is the beautiful Katya and Barley complicates matters by falling in love with her. Meanwhile, le Carre details how the joint British-American operation is set up, with the Americans gradually taking over and dominating proceedings. There are some wonderful rants - from all sides - about communism, capitalism, hawks and doves in the Pentagon and the Kremlin and depressing details about the emergence of the Russian people from decades of repression into the promises of Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev's glasnost and perestroika with Russia's gangster-like oligarchs waiting in the wings, ready to return the country to the days of the Czars. The author's dry humour permeates the story but his observations on the hypocrisy of all sides involved in "The Cold War" show that his anger is never far from the surface. As the "experts" plot each move in their bid to recover Soviet secrets, Barley Blair sticks a joyous spanner in the works which will make (most*) readers cheer him on. *(the hawks and doves of the left and right will not agree with this statement)

  24. 4 out of 5

    Hilary Mak

    I haven't read much of Le Carre- but enjoyed what I have so far. This was quite complicated, with lots of characters, and I found myself having to re-read bits to check who people were and what was happening. However, its beautifully written, and even now, so many years after 'glasnost', it offers a fascinating insight into changes in Russia, and the spying industry in general. Overall a rewarding read but not one to skim over. I haven't read much of Le Carre- but enjoyed what I have so far. This was quite complicated, with lots of characters, and I found myself having to re-read bits to check who people were and what was happening. However, its beautifully written, and even now, so many years after 'glasnost', it offers a fascinating insight into changes in Russia, and the spying industry in general. Overall a rewarding read but not one to skim over.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Colin Flaherty

    If you've never ready any le Carre, the Spy Who Came in From the Cold is a great place to start. I also enjoyed Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy. Russia House is good, though my guess is the Cold War fiction is probably suffering a bit in popularity. If you've never ready any le Carre, the Spy Who Came in From the Cold is a great place to start. I also enjoyed Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy. Russia House is good, though my guess is the Cold War fiction is probably suffering a bit in popularity.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Bettie

    I loved this! :O) I loved this! :O)

  27. 5 out of 5

    Lesley

    In my reading, this book was all about the challenges, perils and rewards (if any, in this case) of nuclear disarmament. It's a world-weary view of the subject, though, especially in le Carre's take on experts. From a conversation between Barley, the British publisher, and Goethe, the Russian scientist: "Experts are addicts. They solve nothing! They are servants of whatever system hires them. They perpetuate it. When we are tortured, we shall be tortured by experts. When we are hanged, experts w In my reading, this book was all about the challenges, perils and rewards (if any, in this case) of nuclear disarmament. It's a world-weary view of the subject, though, especially in le Carre's take on experts. From a conversation between Barley, the British publisher, and Goethe, the Russian scientist: "Experts are addicts. They solve nothing! They are servants of whatever system hires them. They perpetuate it. When we are tortured, we shall be tortured by experts. When we are hanged, experts will hang us. Did you not read what I wrote? When the world is destroyed, it will be destroyed not by its madmen but by the sanity of its experts and the superior ignorance of its bureaucrats." This book was written in 1989, but passages like that are sadly resonant in our post-911 age.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Cathay

    This was one of those books I had put off for many years. I finally got to it (probably motivated due to a recent trip to Eastern Europe). le Carre's writing is fabulous; the tension and human innuendos, the patterns of those who are involved with spying versus those who would rather just live and love, and Mr. Barley's place in both as a reluctant hero sets the probably-realistic tone for the glamorous gray life of secret service. This was one of those books I had put off for many years. I finally got to it (probably motivated due to a recent trip to Eastern Europe). le Carre's writing is fabulous; the tension and human innuendos, the patterns of those who are involved with spying versus those who would rather just live and love, and Mr. Barley's place in both as a reluctant hero sets the probably-realistic tone for the glamorous gray life of secret service.

  29. 4 out of 5

    wally

    finished this one today...took me some time, things happening, here, there, everywhere...so i did not have time to enjoy the story. don't believe this is one that you can...i could not...pick it up and read some, put it down...come back to it time permitting, this that the other. maybe you can. i can't i did but...ummmm. just not into it. i liked it...i have enjoyed any "spy" stories i've read, fiction or fact. that is all. over and out. finished this one today...took me some time, things happening, here, there, everywhere...so i did not have time to enjoy the story. don't believe this is one that you can...i could not...pick it up and read some, put it down...come back to it time permitting, this that the other. maybe you can. i can't i did but...ummmm. just not into it. i liked it...i have enjoyed any "spy" stories i've read, fiction or fact. that is all. over and out.

  30. 5 out of 5

    David

    My first brush with le Carré! Gorgeous novel full of tenderness, mixed feelings, cold weather, and secrets. I loved the story and the style a lot. The pacing is tense but driven by conversation, not by action. Part of me picked this up expecting a Clancy or Ludlum style thriller so the emotional depth of this novel caught me by complete surprise. A nice cold weather read.

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