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Silverview: The Sunday Times Bestseller Paperback – 28 April 2022
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ONE OF BARACK OBAMA'S 2022 SUMMER PICKS
'Le Carré at his finest' Mick Herron, Guardian
Julian Lawndsley has renounced his high-flying job in the City for a simpler life running a bookshop in a small English seaside town. But after only a couple of months into his new career, Edward, a Polish émigré, shows up at his door with a very keen interest in Julian's new enterprise and a lot of knowledge about his family history. And when a letter turns up at the door of a spy chief in London warning him of a dangerous leak, the investigations lead him to this quiet town by the sea . . .
Silverview is the mesmerising story of an encounter between innocence and experience and between public duty and private morals. In this last complete masterwork from the greatest chronicler of our age, John le Carré asks what you owe to your country when you no longer recognise it.
'The finest, wisest storyteller' Richard Osman
'A towering writer' Margaret Atwood
'A literary giant' Stephen King
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A compelling character study of a supposedly retired spy . . . Such was his rare command of language and unique understanding of how the world really works that I finished the book with a sense that the only real grown-up in the room had left -- Jake Kerridge ― Daily Telegraph, Books of the Year
As graceful an exit as we could hope for, the old master remaining at the top of his game to the last -- Mick Herron ― Daily Express, Books of the Year
Nothing will ever match the Cold War spy novels written in his prime, but his later work illuminates themes of loyalty, betrayal and conflicting values in a modern context -- Vince Cable ― New Statesman, Books of the Year
A superb example of le Carré's enduring and exquisite genius ― Daily Mail, Books of the Year
Gripping and involving, an elegant farewell by a much missed writer -- Siân Phillips ― Daily Express, Books of the Year
Silverview has many of le Carré's characteristic virtues . . . engaging characters and three or four splendid set scenes in which veteran spooks stir the embers of old fires ― Scotsman, Best Books of the Year
Silverview is a cat-and-mouse chase from an East Anglian seaside town to the Eastern Bloc. Published ten months after he passed away, it marks a fitting final work by the master of spy fiction ― Irish Times, Books of the Year
A taut, thrilling spy novel. Read it as a tribute to a master ― Stella, Books of the Year
Silverview has all the old magic . . . it offers a rewarding post-script to the long-distance spell-binders The Little Drummer Girl and Absolute Friends -- David Bromwich ― Times Literary Supplement, Books of The Year
His publisher is promoting it as a great literary event - the final book by one of postwar Britain's finest writers. That seems fair enough to me . . . [Silverview has] enough reminders of the old magic to please his most ardent aficionados -- Dominic Sandbrook ― Sunday Times
Le Carré at his finest, revealing character and backstory through dialogue with an economy and grace beyond most writers . . . le Carré's greatness has its roots in his mastery of spy fiction; a genre he augmented with novels notable for their craftsmanship and humanity, and writing for its stealth and sophistication. With the publication of Silverview, it's clear these virtues remained intact to the end -- Mick Herron ― Guardian
Thematically, this is classic le Carré: an exploration of how people do the wrong thing for the right motive. The prose is as unshowily superb as ever― Sunday Telegraph
A fitting coda to the work of our greatest spy novelist -- John Williams ― Mail on Sunday
It is written with elegance and often pungency, the pitch-perfect dialogue ranging from the waggishly epigrammatic to the bluntly outraged ― New York Times
Le Carré's ability to inhabit the deepest recesses of his characters' lives is once again on sparkling display . . . It leaves no doubt that le Carré believed good literature could help make the world a better place. His own contribution to that edifice was by no means negligible― FT
Textbook le Carré and a pleasing coda to a brilliant career: a short, sharp study of the human cost of espionage ― Daily Telegraph
The first page hooks you in . . . John le Carré has lost none of his power to draw the reader straight into his world ― The Times
There is a retro charm about proceedings . . . as well as a welcome array of familiar le Carré tropes, from sharply drawn characters to stimulating interviews and debriefings, plus a compelling denouement involving a wanted man on the run . . . a worthy coda, a commanding farewell from a much-missed master ― Economist
Arguably the greatest English novelist of his generation ― Guardian
Crisp prose, a precision-tooled plot, the heady sense of an inside track on a shadowy world . . . all his usual pleasures are here― Observer
A lyrical, poignant portrait of betrayal in a family that lives in a world submerged in subterfuge, and resonates with le Carré's exquisite genius. It is to be savoured gently rather than devoured ― Daily Mail
A diverting if slender coda to one of the boldest writing careers of the 20th century . . . In this posthumous farewell, le Carré is still showing us how literary fiction and the spy narrative can coexist in the same book― i
A poignant story of love and loyalty ― Independent
A fitting conclusion to the long career of a writer who redefined an entire genre with the deceptive easy of pure genius . . . Silverview is filled with joy in the resilience of the human spirit, and with love . . . It's also deeply thrilling, in the best way ― Irish Times
Packed with cherishable details and intriguingly ambivalent about the role of the Secret Intelligence Service, John le Carré's last novel brings his career to a close in fine style― Scotsman
A very fine finale . . . for writing of subtlety, cadence and strength, with a special aptitude for the revealing particular, [le Carré] is virtually unequalled . . . Time and again, le Carré was able to weave an entrancing, haunting world of his own, a feat repeated in Silverview. There are few writers to match him, and fewer who are still alive ― Spectator
In his trademark lucid prose, le Carré sets the scene for an atmospheric tale of betrayal, deceit and secret service malpractice . . . John le Carré, one of the great analysts of the contemporary scene, has left us a minor masterpiece of secrets and lies in spy land ― Evening Standard
A winner with fans of the master spy-writer ― Oldie
A piercing portrait of moral ambivalence ― i
It is classic le Carré . . . If this is the quality le Carré was producing in the last years of his life, we can be certain there are further posthumous delights coming our way ― Herald
I gobbled up Silverview . . . Here le Carré is on more familiar territory - what was once known as Mitteleuropa, with its shape-shifting double agents, scarred idealists on the prowl for lost causes ― Spectator
It has often been said that le Carré is a novelist, not a mere thriller writer. Yet the thing is that, for all his protests that his creations were always more fictional than credited, what he excels at is giving us a plausible peek into the spy's world ― The Times
[Le Carré's] prose is as quietly impressive as ever and it's a thoroughly enjoyable read. It makes for bittersweet reading - the final work of a master, on fine form ― Daily Express
Promises to be filled with intrigue, surprises and timely meditations on the relationship between individuals and nations ― i
One of the great moral writers of recent times ― Metro
First-rate prose and a fascinating plot . . . a fitting coda to a remarkable career ― Publishers Weekly
From the Back Cover
When a letter turns up at the door of a spy chief in London warning him of a dangerous leak, the investigations lead him to this quiet town by the sea . . .
Silverview is the mesmerising story of an encounter between innocence and experience and between public duty and private morals. In his inimitable voice John le Carré, the greatest chronicler of our age, seeks to answer the question of what we truly owe to the people we love.
- Publisher : Penguin; Heruitgave edition (28 April 2022)
- Language : English
- Paperback : 272 pages
- ISBN-10 : 0241994535
- ISBN-13 : 978-0241994535
- Dimensions : 12.9 x 2 x 19.8 cm
- Best Sellers Rank: 1,043 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- Customer reviews:
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Not far short of a year has elapsed since John Le Carré passed away in December 2020. "Silverview" is billed as the last novel that he completed during his lifetime and its publication has been eagerly anticipated by many people who admired the work of the master craftsman that Le Carré so often showed himself to be. Sadly, this is unlikely to go down as one of his best or most memorable novels, and is actually somewhat disappointing.
There are glimpses of Le Carré at his best with some tantalising wordsmithery and eloquent prose. "Silverview" also contains a number of wonderfully drawn characters with genuine depth and appeal. However, in spite of those elements and despite the fact that this is described as his final completed novel something feels amiss. It isn't simply that the book is unusually short, but there is also the sense that certain sections still feel as though they are "work in progress". The bones of the structure are there, but there is the impression that Le Carré still intended to revisit certain passages and flesh them out more fully.
We will probably never know for sure whether that was actually the case, so perhaps John Le Carré has left his readers with one final mystery and conspiracy theory to ponder over, after all.
Obviously, reviewing a book like this involves not giving away plot details, keeping secrets, as any good agent gathering information is obliged to do. But a review is also designed to let people in on a few secrets so that a potential reader can decide if this is a book for them. Or you might have already read the book and are looking to see what someone else found in it. Tricky - the secrets you keep or give away in this intelligence report.
What I will say is that I enjoyed Silverview. To me it was a study in the contradictions of belief, the meaning that people find in being passionate about something - whether that’s related to religion, politics, nationality or fighting the good fight against extreme manifestations of whatever belief people latch onto. Agents who are passionate about the rightness of their mission are highly motivated. However, that passion remains an unpredictable energy, which can easily express itself in dangerous ways. Here we have the thoughts of a Secret Service staffer, who characterises life in the Service as the avoidance of passion:
“Absolute commitment of any sort constituted to his trained mind a grave security threat. The entire ethic of the Service was utterly – he would almost say absolutely – opposed to it, unless, that is, you were talking of manipulating the absolute commitment of an agent you were running.”
As a final note, with an admitted risk to security, I will share one thought with you, which might help provide a way into the central contradiction of Silverview. Perhaps Le Carré puts his main idea into the form of a little code. It would be a similar code to that found in the name of the lovely character, Liz Gold, in The Spy Who Came In From The Cold. In that book it is hard to work out where exactly constitutes the Cold, when one side uses the same ruthless tactics as the other. This confusion might be characterised by Liz Gold’s name - gold sounding so close to cold. Silverview has a character who reminded me of Liz.. She has a “nun like” devotion, representing a capacity for passionate commitment, which has ambivalent outcomes. Her name is only one letter away from ‘mania’. I will leave you to find her and come to your own conclusions.
This book brings the spy story into an age where those national struggles the Service was built to support, have themselves become a threat. It’s a fascinating and timely addition to Le Carré’s collection of work.
There is also an appropriateness about the subject matter of the story given the stage in John Le Carré’s writing career it was written. His novels have always reflected the geo-political environment of their time, and his characters have been shown practising their craft, mostly in mid-career. In “A Legacy of Spies” we saw a retrospective of past exploits from the viewpoint of retired service officers. In “Silverview” we are shown what happens in the life of a former agent once retired. “Silvervew” gives us a glimpse at the reality of the-happy-ever-after for an agent once they are no longer of use to the agency.
As always, Le Carré brings human motivation to the surface, and demonstrates the wilful blindness of organisations that can sometimes let errors of judgement slip through to cause cracks in what appears to be a totally watertight operation. He describes a situation where an organisation’s failure to care for its members’ wellbeing, and to take cognizance of an agent’s mental state, can lead to aberrant behaviour, a trait common to many organisations in every sector.
Never one to shy away from highlighting his views on the political leadership of the countries concerned, he describes the internal questioning of an intelligence agency that is serving a country ruled by a government with no coherent foreign policy, a government that is focused on its own internal political power rather than its relationship with the rest of the world.
This is an excellent read.