25/40: The Honourable Schoolboy (by John Le Carré)

The Honourable Schoolboy

by John Le Carré

Book #2 in the Karla Trilogy

Book #4 in the Smiley Series

Book #7 in The Circus novels

Originally published in 1977

Mass Market Paperback edition published in 1978 by Bantam Doubleday Dell

WHO: George Smiley, now the head intelligence officer at the Circus…

WHAT: detects a money laundering scheme (a Gold Seam)…

WHERE: runningfrom Moscow to Hong Kong…

WHEN: that has been exposed in the aftermath of the events of Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy. Saigon has fallen and the post-Vietnam War landscape of Asia is rife with military “leftovers.”

WHY: Smiley has professional and personal motives in exposing the purpose and persons involved in the operation.

HOW: Sequestering himself in his office at the Circus and talking walks through London, Smiley attempts to puzzle out case. He runs other intelligence officers and agents that he can trust; but he also requires support from Whitehall and from the CIA (“The Cousins.”) 

NOTE: You don’t need to read Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy before The Honourable Schoolboy, but doing so will give you a better understanding of what drives Smiley during this story.

Everything I wrote about Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy is equally true for this sequel. So yes, you should click on the title link in the line above and read the review (no spoilers.) 🙂

+ Le  Carré’s second novel in the Karla trilogy is rich fare: Characters are well developed in all their flawed glory, at times flying with delusions of profound truth, at other times bowing to political expediencies, always conflicted and acting accordingly. The physical settings are richly detailed, from the wreckage of the offices in London to the ruins of a Tuscan villa to the scramble of life in China.

The major plot, basically a story about auditing, is rather cerebral and not terribly sexy though Le Carré does provide color by drawing in the life drama of key charactersAlso, the reader has to thread through the socio-political context of Asia after the American pullout, which while not indecipherable, needs the reader’s attention if it is unfamiliar terrain. Overall, The Honourable Schoolboy is not a novel to rush through. Still, we’re spitting hairs of excellence when we’re talking about the difference between Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy and The Honourable Schoolboy. I would rate Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy  five stars or an “A+” grade and, The Honourable Schoolboy four-and-a-half stars and an “A-” grade. 

OTHER: I acquired a used print copy of The Honourable Schoolboy (by John le Carré) from Rogue Book Exchange in Medford, OR.  

I receive no monies, goods or services in exchange for reviewing the product and/or mentioning any of the persons or companies that are or may be implied in this post.

I have challenged myself to read forty books this summer. Many books will be backlist titles as I’m trying to clear the stacks; but I have no doubt that new releases will make their way in too! 😉


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