Mr Norris Changes Trains

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Read 25/09/2018-04/10/2018

Rating: 4 stars

This time two years ago I read Goodbye to Berlin, Christopher Isherwood’s collection of short stories that describe life in Berlin in the years leading up to Hitler seizing power. Mr Norris Changes Trains is an earlier novel that deals with the same period. It’s part comedy of manners, part espionage thriller. Continue reading

SS-GB

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Read 26/02/2017-02/03/2017

Rating: 3 stars

The BBC is showing an adaptation of Len Deighton’s alternative history espionage novel SS-GB. We’re two episodes in, and I’m enjoying it. The storyline seems a bit opaque at times, though.

I decided to buy the book this weekend. I had a book token from Christmas and it was in a half price deal at Waterstone’s. My mum liked Len Deighton’s books, too.

By about a quarter of the way through it became obvious that, for dramatic tension as well as condensing 377 pages of story, the TV adaptation has moved the action around a bit and dropped some of the detail that would help make sense of the story. In the novel, the reasons behind certain things that weren’t yet fully clear, and confusingly so, two episodes into the TV adaptation are more apparent earlier on.

I was hooked into the book pretty quickly. It’s the first Deighton novel I’ve read and I like his writing. He’s very crisp, with an eye for detail that is subtle but pleasing. Exposition is dropped casually into conversation or included as background narrative. The premise is an intriguing one, and I enjoyed reading Deighton’s introduction to the book that explains how he came to choose it. Making a police officer the main protagonist means the story is cleverly framed as a traditional murder mystery, but gives Deighton the scope to also bring in speculation about an alternative outcome to the Second World War and to have an espionage subplot running through the book as well. Continue reading

Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy

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Read 03/12/2012-29/12/2012

Rating: 5 stars

I really enjoyed reading this. I saw the film with Gary Oldman in the role of George Smiley, so knew what happened, and yet that didn’t spoil the book for me at all. Le Carré was a craftsman of the English language, and his descriptions of the characters and their actions were a joy to read. There are subtle differences between the book and the film, as well, with added depth from certain characters. It’s a really visual book and definitely worth a read. Continue reading

Smiley’s People

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Read 05/07/2015-08/07/2015

Rating: 4 stars

This is the second John Le Carré book I’ve read. I didn’t enjoy Smiley’s People quite as much as I did Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, but it was still a good read. The first 300 pages whizzed by, with lots of twists and turns and a satisfying plot, but the final quarter of the book felt a bit flat to me. When the action moved to Switzerland, time seemed to stand still. It felt like it took forever for anything to happen. Perhaps that’s what espionage is like – loads of action, and then loads of planning and waiting, and then a fairly flat conclusion. When the conclusion finally arrived, it was a bit of a damp squib. The prose was a joy, though. I love Le Carré’s turns of phrase and the way he paints a picture.