There are several important questions one could ask in life. For instance: where do you get green eggs and ham? Why do we have catalogues and not dogalogues? Or even why is it that it's a penny for my thoughts but I get my say for two cents worth? But one of the most important questions anyone can ask is: why should I read this book?
I now attempt to answer the one question which can never be answered...
And silence will fall
. I mean you will understand why this is a book worth reading.
At first I myself existed under the oppression of that dread question. Although by the time I had begun the book this question had morphed into the form of: Is this really one of the greatest espionage novels ever written? The answer seemed for the first third of the book to be a mediocre perhaps. It seemed to be average. A book centering around the spy Leamas as he works his way into his enemy's affections. So, I thought, this appears to be typical espionage fare and hardly a new addition to the genre. I was soon proved so wrong.
Because by about the half way mark Le Carre pulled some kind of magical switch. Fortunately for me it wasn't the lever for trapdoor over the pool of crocodiles. Instead it was a switch whiched pulled plot threads into line and drew together the various tangents which at that point had seemed disconnected. Yes I had understood why we needed a glimpse into the other character's lives and motives but I hadn't seen how that connected to the overall story arc.
But by the end the story all came together and I had bought into the powerfully intriguing politics and lies of the espionage game. Because that is what it had become in the end - a game. Certainly a dangerous game but a game nonetheless.
So do I recommend this work of fiction? Absolutely. If you want a book full of characters dedicated to their work, who are brutal, who live lives which are lies and who are very detached from reality then read this. But I warn you if you like fairytale endings where the prince wins out then this is a very different cup of tea. In fact I would say it isn't tea at all. It's coffee. Because this is a novel that is shocking in many ways and leads its reader to think deeply about what it is to win in a game where others lose.