Thursday, June 09, 2011
The Honourable Schoolboy, by John le Carré
(hb; 1977: fourth novel in the George Smiley series; second novel in the Karla trilogy)
From the inside flap:
"Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy. . . ended with the devastating unmasking of a double agent at the heart of the British Secret Service (known as the Circus). Now, in The Honourable Schoolboy, George Smiley -- who has assumed the unenviable job of restoring the health, and reputation, of his demoralized organisation -- goes over to the attack. Salvaging what he can of the Service's ravaged network of spies, summoning back a few trustworthy old colleagues, working them -- and himself -- around the clock, he searches for a whisper, a hint, a clue, that will lead him back to his opposite number: Karla, the Soviet officer in Moscow Centre who masterminded the infamous treachery.
"When he find his opening, Smiley moves without hesitation. His battleground: the Far East. His choice of weapons: the Honourable Gerald (Jerry) Westerby, an Old Asia Hand, veteran of several marriages (and wars), unquestioning in his readiness to answer Smiley's summons. 'You point me and I'll march,' says Jerry.
"Jerry's odyssey begins: to Hong Kong -- and blackmail and murder; to collapsing Cambodia and Vietnam -- and drug traffickers, the CIA, and a huge and mystifying 'gold seam' spilling out of Russia. Slowly, manipulated by Smiley and his cohorts back in the Circus, Jerry thrusts himself into the centre of an intrigue of money, defection, passion -- and finds not only fertile ground for Smiley's revenge, but a drama of loyalty and love that both tests his courage and spurs his belated coming of age, in tragic defiance of the voracious requirements of the Service which owns his allegiance."
Epic in scope and characters (many of them spillover characters from Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy), the events in Honourable take place six months after Tinker, from mid-1974 to 1975.
The action and political manueverings, this time, aren't restricted to the Circus headquarters in London; this time, the action also covers the Far East, including Cambodia and Vietnam, where the American military, defeated and befuddled, is staging a chaotic withdrawal.
Excellent, gripping read, this, even with its occasional overlong scenes - a minor nit, considering the breadth of le Carré's applaudable vision.
Followed by Smiley's People.