Nostalgia unrequited

John Le Carre: Absolute Friends
John le Carre’s novels tend to focus on goodhearted people caught in circumstances that are too big for them. This time it is Ted Mundy, sometime revolutionary and later spy, whose friendship and later contact with a German spy comes back to bite him when the Cold War is officially over.
Reading this book was an uneven experience – the first two thirds are vintage le Carre, describing espionage as only he can. Most of the last third is the mystery of the book, when new circumstances come up and the reader can share the main protagonist’s confusion and alternative explanations. The conclusion of the book was, if unexpected, something of a disappointment – unlike most of Le Carre’s books, which tend to be subtle to the point of confusion, the resolution feels like a tacked-on explanation for the lay and not too smart reader.
The thriller industry was badly served by the fall of the Berlin Wall. Le Carre has fared better than most, but this book, while enjoyable reading, leaves you with a feeling that he really would like to continue writing about the good old days of espionage. As do the characters he portrays.
Not that I blame him – masterpieces like Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy and Smiley’s People leave me wanting more, too.

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