Read A Perfect Spy by John le Carré Online


John le Carre's classic novels deftly navigate readers thru the intricate shadow worlds of international espionage with unsurpassed skill & knowledge, & have earned him unprecedented worldwide acclaim. Magnus Pym, Britain's premier spy, has vanished--sending intelligence communities on a frenzied international manhunt. As the search plays out, so does a chain of clJohn le Carre's classic novels deftly navigate readers thru the intricate shadow worlds of international espionage with unsurpassed skill & knowledge, & have earned him unprecedented worldwide acclaim. Magnus Pym, Britain's premier spy, has vanished--sending intelligence communities on a frenzied international manhunt. As the search plays out, so does a chain of clandestine operations surfacing in Washington, Vienna, Prague, London & Berlin. But the most powerful drama of all comes from exploring Pym's background--his education as a spy, & the spectacular motives & mentors who transformed him into a master of guile & deception....

Title : A Perfect Spy
Author :
Rating :
ISBN : 9780394551418
Format Type : Hardcover
Number of Pages : 477 Pages
Status : Available For Download
Last checked : 21 Minutes ago!

A Perfect Spy Reviews

  • Helen
    2019-02-26 03:41

    Let me start this review with these words; this book is devastating. It is the best writing John Le Carre has ever done, and will ever do.That's not to say that it's a better spy novel than Tinker Tailor or The Spy Who Came in From the Cold; it's not. If spycraft is what you crave, it's here, but it definitely takes a back seat to everything else. In A Perfect Spy, Le Carre's writing rises easily to the level of the 20th Century's greatest authors. After the death of his father, Magnus Pym, debonair, flawless British spy, has disappeared with the station’s burn box. His wife, his son, his handlers, and his friends have no idea where he is, due to the fact that he has doled each of them a different piece of the truth. In the meantime, he has checked himself into a safe house, where he is determined to write a book that will set everything straight. A Perfect Spy is largely autobiographical. Le Carre's mother vanished when he was three, in the same way that Pym loses his mother at an early age. Like Pym's father Rick, Le Carre’s father Ronnie Cornwell was a charismatic, larger-than-life con man who spent time in prison. When the young Le Carre wasn’t away at various boarding schools, (the tuition sometimes paid for with black market dried fruit), he was palling around with his father’s unsavory acquaintances. Like Pym, he worked for the British Secret Service in Switzerland and in Austria and attended Oxford. Pym is a gifted intelligence officer, but he tells everyone that what he really wants to do is write, and good God, how Le Carre writes. At its heart, this is a book about a boy's relationship with his father. As a parent, I am achingly aware of my responsibility; children are fragile little creatures whose fates depend completely on the mercy of the adults who take care of them. For better and for worse, it is we who teach them what is right, or wrong, or normal. It's we who teach them how to love, and who to trust, it's we who twist and shape their vulnerable little psyches. And it is we who are capable of damaging them the most. Rick loves his son, and his son loves him, and it is painfully clear how this criminally self-absorbed and self-deluding narcissist destroys "the natural humanity" in little Magnus, turning him into the perfect spy of the title. How Le Carre was able to write this stuff down without wetting every page of the manuscript with his tears is a mystery to me. With all that, the book is surprisingly funny, full of mocking self-deprecation and gorgeous British slang. The facts make wonderful fiction. There are hilarious letters from Rick to his son and lovingly recreated conversations between his father's business associates. It is also surprisingly sexy, as the young Pym navigates between lust and yearning, all things we don't expect from John Le Carre. A Perfect Spy is a breathtaking act of catharsis, warm and funny, wry and rueful, unexpectedly, nakedly human. Instead of burying his painful past, Mr. Le Carre illuminates it for us as a masterpiece of fiction. Happily, he has come to terms with his father, resurrecting him for us with humor and with love.

  • Darwin8u
    2019-02-27 09:39

    “Sometimes we have to do a thing in order to find out the reason for it. Sometimes our actions are questions, not answers.” ― John le Carré, A Perfect SpyRemembrances of loyalties past. In some of le Carré's novels you feel haunted by the ghosts of Conrad, Greene, Nabokov, etc. In 'The Perfect Spy', I went back and forth about whether le Carré was building this novel to be Dickensian spy novel or a Proustian spy novel.I still haven't quite figured it out. All I know is that it worked. It was brilliant. It was harassed by elements of Proust, Dickens, le Carré's own father, and le Carré himself. In a story about multiple fathers, why can't it be both an ode to Dickens and Proust?'A Perfect Spy' is a novel about deception (but what spy novel isn't about deception?), memory, love and loyalty. It is a story about the sins of fathers and the absolutions of sons. It is about a character who is on the run without ever leaving a room; a room filled with hidden cabinets, burn boxes, and years and years of secrets and conflict; a room that holds a perfect spy who is running from his past, running from his present, and running from his future.I've said this before, but I don't ever get tired of preaching it: le Carré is a novelist that WILL be read in 100 years and perhaps in 500 years because he is absolutely tapped into the global zeitgeist of the modern man and the modern nation-state. Le Carré has his finger on the pulse of what we NEED to believe, what we YEARN to believe. He has a story to tell and a map of our often hidden realities. Le Carré's has baked a madeleine that we eventually all must choke on, because we all eventually get to that point where we refuse to swallow anymore shit.

  • Wendy
    2019-03-05 03:49

    I picked up this book since it was on a list of most influential novels according to one of my issues of Mental Floss magazine, but I just couldn't force myself to get through it. I read about 100 pages of some of the most impenetrable prose, full of confusing switches in point of view, setting, and time period before I set it aside. The army of characters that dropped in like paratroopers made it hard to keep the names straight and at some point, I stopped trying. I just never got into the story.I always know there's trouble with a story when I have to make myself pick up the book and I'm relieved to put the bookmark in and set it back down. I'm all for novels that make a reader think, but not for those that are written in a deliberately puzzling manner as a challenge for the reader to make sense of before they can even begin to enjoy the story. The author's command of the language is impressive but this book's overly obtuse style is just not for me.

  • Lewis Weinstein
    2019-03-14 03:24

    Years ago I read this and gave it 5*****. I tried to re-read it (it's included reading for our Oxford course next summer), but found it disjointed and extremely difficult to follow, with little in the way of cohesive plot. Occasional paragraphs/pages were full of tension and beautifully written but there were not enough of these. I put it aside after 142 pages.

  • Bettie☯
    2019-03-13 10:49

    Description: Magnus Pym -- son of Rick, father of Tom, and a successful career officer of British Intelligence -- has vanished, to the dismay of his friends, enemies, and wife. Who is he? Who was he? Who owns him? Who trained him? Secrets of state are at risk. As the truth about Pym gradually emerges, the reader joins Pym's pursuers to explore the unsettling life and motives of a man who fought the wars he inherited with the only weapons he knew, and so became a perfect spy.A Perfect Spy 1987 BBC Drama Series)Episode 1: As a young boy Magnus Pym (played by twins, Jonathan and Nicholas Haley) sees his father Rick (Ray McAnally) imprisoned for embezzlement and his mother Dorothy (Caroline John) hospitalised by the stress. Magnus fakes a fit in order to escape the abusive uncle and alcoholic aunt with whom he has been sent to live. He is rescued from hospital by his recently released father who subsequently takes him along on the con of an elderly lady.Magnus is sent to boarding school after his father is conscripted where staff and students disapprove of the flashy “business man”. Rick returns from the war a wealthy man and involves Magnus in a plan to defraud the bomb damage compensation fund. One night Magnus is hazed by a group of boys led by his “friend” Sefton Boyd and in revenge he tags the boy's initials on the wall of the staff toilet. Episode 2: Magnus (Benedict Taylor) is called in to help his father after the plan to defraud the bomb damage compensation fund goes awry. Baroness Weber has asked Rick to help her recover a treasure trove secreted by her late husband before the war and Magnus is sent to accompany her. Upon arrival in Switzerland the Baroness runs up a large bill, absconds with all the money, and leaves Magnus down and out in Bern, in a classic example of the scam known as the Spanish Prisoner.Magnus eventually manages to secure a scholarship to study law at the university in Bern. He befriends a Silesian émigré poet called Axel, who calls him "Sir Magnus". British intelligence officer Jack Brotherhood (Alan Howard) recruits Magnus to inform on a left-wing student group called the Cosmo Club. Magnus steals the club’s membership list and Axel is revealed to be a secret member. Jack persuades Magnus to betray his friend to the Swiss authoritiesEpisode 3: Magnus (Peter Egan) is called back from his studies at Oxford University to assist in his father’s election campaign. Peggy Wentworth (Frances Tomelty) whose late husband was conned by Rick approaches him. Magnus breaks into his father’s files and sends Rick’s prison records to Peggy. Confronted at a public meeting Rick brushes off his past misdoings as youthful indiscretions. Aware of his son’s betrayal he forgives him none-the-less. However, his hopes of political office are destroyed by the incident.Magnus is recruited into the army and posted as an intelligence officer to Graz. Sabina his translator/mistress puts him in touch with a potential defector who turns out to be Axel. Axel hands over apparently important Soviet secret files on Magnus’s guarantee of anonymity, but later when under suspicion requires Magnus to hand over secret British files in return.Episode 4: Rick crashes his son’s wedding to Belinda and offers them the gift of a new car, which is immediately impounded. Recruited by the Foreign Office, Magnus is sent to Prague where after making a pick-up from a dead-letter-drop he is arrested by Axel, blackmailed into exchanging further secrets, and reintroduced to Sabina who joins his network of planted agents.Abandoned by his long neglected wife and reposted to Berlin, Magnus begins to court Jack’s girlfriend Mary. Late one night he is summoned to police headquarters where he discovers his father is being held in the cells for yet another bungled con job. Axel encourages Magnus into marrying Mary in the belief that the girl may help them gain access to their eventual target, the Americans.Episode 5: Magnus is now married to Mary with a son called Tom and on his long awaited posting to Washington. He is still passing secrets but Axel is talking of retirement as things heat up. A committee of American agents headed by Harry Wexler and guided by Magnus’s “friend” Grant Laderer (Garrick Hagon) have noticed some curiosities in the computer analysis of Magnus and his Czechoslovakian networks.Celebrating Christmas with his family, Magnus is called out to a bar where he meets his now destitute father. The committee comes to London to put their suspicions to senior British intelligence officers but Jack dismisses it all as a Czechoslovakian attempt to frame Magnus. Recalled to London and haunted by his past, Magnus, under a false name, takes secret lodgings with Miss Dubber (Peggy Ashcroft) in his old childhood neighbourhood in Devon.Episode 6: While on a family holiday to Corfu, Tom (Graham McGrath) witnesses a meeting between his father and Axel. Axel tries to convince Magnus to retire or even defect but the double agent refuses. Jack recalls Magnus to Vienna where he learns of his father’s death. Magnus flies to London where he arranges the funeral and arranges for the collection of his father’s files. Mary calls Jack when Magnus fails to return to Vienna.Magnus visits Sefton Boyd (Ian McNeice) and apologises for his first betrayal back at boarding school. Jack goes to Vienna in search of Magnus and interrogates Mary. Magnus retires to his secret lodgings in Devon where he enquires into local comings and goings. Jack searches Magnus’s home uncovering references to someone codenamed Poppy and begins to suspect Magnus of betrayal.Episode 7: Jack continues to interrogate Mary to learn more of the mysterious Poppy. Kate admits to Jack that Magnus got her to remove references to Sabine from his personnel file. Recovering the doctored info Jack learns of Magnus’s mysterious contact in Graz. Axel passes a message to Mary offering his assistance in tracking the missing Magnus down.Members of Magnus’s Czechoslovakian networks start to go silent. Jack realises Prague is rolling up the fake network and the extent of Magnus’s betrayal is finally revealed. With both sides now racing to find Magnus, Mary meets with Axel who gives her a clue as to where he is hiding. Jack and Mary drive to Devon where a police siege of Miss Dubber's lodging house ends with a single gunshot. Although the suicide occurs off-screen the final shot is of Magnus in the bathtub with half of his face blown away.This was great! The fab episode descriptions are plucked from wiki. The earworm was Underneath The Arches

  • Quirkyreader
    2019-03-24 10:38

    This was a brilliant story. At first I wasn't going to give it any stars because it seemed more like a stream of consciousness story and not a novel as we know it. But as I got into the story and its flow, I got sucked in. And this is a stand alone story. It has nothing to do with Smiley and The Circus. So if you have never read a LeCarre story before, this is a good introduction to his writing style.

  • Wale
    2019-03-26 09:53

    I got through half-way in this book and had to drop it. What did it for me were the long narratives of flashbacks into the main character's past which I suppose were meant to unveil gradually to the reader who the main character really was and the ultimate motives behind his actions. They were quite murky and tedious and I didn't have the patience to really delve into them. I my opinion they detracted from the clarity and fluidity that should be salient traits of any good prose (from the Latin word 'prosa' which means straighforward). Since this is my first book by Le Carre I'm guessing not all his works try to use this approach and he was simply experimenting with it- which writers should be encouraged to do.A cold war espionage thriller is meant to be thrilling- this wasn't.

  • Nancy Oakes
    2019-03-17 10:51

    I recently found a review of this book ( here ) that notes that A Perfect Spy is a kind of what-if autobiographical account of John LeCarre himself (fictionalized, obviously). Whether this is or is not the case, this is one of the best novels I've read this year. Magnus Pym, intelligence agent for the British, has gone to London after the news of his father Rick's death. He is supposed to return to Vienna, where he and his wife Mary are currently stationed, but instead he sends his luggage on home without him. When the suitcase arrives, without Magnus, British intelligence is left to wonder whether or not Magnus has defected, taking with him information which is beyond valuable, and jeopardizing the lives of his "joes," or the agents and intelligence network in place in Czechoslovakia. But Magnus is not behind the iron curtain; rather, he's in Devon, along the coast, in a home where he's known as Mr. Canterbury, and where he's being going for some time. This time, he's there to tell his story, racing against time, waiting for his people to come get him and bring him in. He wants to leave a record of the truth, especially for his son, Tom. What he ends up with is the life of Magnus Pym from his childhood on, reflecting especially on his relationship with his father Rick, the ultimate con man, for whom the con never stops, not even with his only son. While different from other novels by LeCarre, it is still a book that will totally absorb you from start to finish. The characters are very real, the story is not just one story, but several that interweave throughout the novel, and it is just one of those books that you will find difficult to put down. I'd recommend this to people who like LeCarre's work, as well as those who like stories that focus on the relationships between fathers and sons. It's a long book, but it will go by so quickly that you'll be sorry it's over. Very very good novel; LeCarre is a brilliant writer.

  • August
    2019-02-28 03:32

    Philip Roth, himself, claims on the book's cover that it is "the best English novel since the war". I find that hard to believe, but I can understand why Roth would like it. It is structurally sound and Magnus Pym, the perfect spy, is a memorable character. Personally, though, I wasn't really impressed. It is a long book (700pages), jumping back and forth in time, lots of characters and a narrator who, somewhat schizophrenically, never refers to himself using the first-person singular pronoun. What I'm trying to get across is that it is not easy to read A Perfect Spy and it is all too seldom enjoyable. Because, although the prose is of good quality throughout - and surely much better than in most other works belonging to the spy genre - it never reaches sublime levels and what little there is of humour seldom brought a smile to my face.

  • Thomas
    2019-03-13 08:50

    Le Carre does Dickens...but he's not Dickens. There are two intertwined narratives in the book, one describing the main character's background and childhood (which, as has been noted, shares many details with the author's own childhood), the other describing his contemporary dilemma as a spy on the run. The contemporary man-hunt stuff is fun, thrilling, suspenseful; it would have made a good spy novel in itself with a little more development. The sections dealing with the character's childhood are badly over-written and could have been chopped by 150-200 pages - it is great that Le Carre experienced some therapeutic catharsis from getting some of the nasty details of his childhood out on paper, as he has noted in interviews, it just doesn't make for a particularly good spy novel, and the idea in itself is a good one, but it needed to be mercilessly edited. Some claim this is Le Carre's best work, but I would take the economy and more indirect evocation of atmosphere found in Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy or The Spy Who Came in From the Cold any day.

  • AC
    2019-03-10 11:33

    Hmmm. Will have to think about this. Since I knew the ending and the book is long, an element of disaffection. Very rich in character, and in description... literature, not genre, to be sure (as Philip Roth had it).

  • Simon Mcleish
    2019-03-02 11:34

    Originally published on my blog here in August 2001.One of le Carré's non-Smiley novels, A Perfect Spy is far more about the psychological pressures which create a secret agent than about the mechanics of spying itself. It is part of le Carré's move away from writing genre thrillers that really began with Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy.Magnus Pym is quite a senior operational officer, who has been running networks of British spies in Czechoslovakia for many years. After the death of his father Rick, Pym goes missing, and it begins to look as though he has been a double agent all this time.His father's death leads Pym to take stock of his life, and he writes its history, principally detailing his relationships with Rick Pym and Czech spy Axel. Some of this is a bit confusing, as in his memoirs Pym refers to himself in the present as "I" and in the past as "Pym". Rick is the formative influence on Pym as a person, and he is the novel's major problem as far as I am concerned. Like Shamus in The Naive and Sentimental Lover, he is meant to be charming, but comes across as obnoxious. He is a con-man, with massively grandiose schemes, alternately successful and falling through. The qualities that Magnus inherits from him are the charm and the ability to put together and carry off a successful lie, at least for a time. This, and his allegiance to himself over any patriotic sentiment makes him a perfect spy in the eyes of Axel.Basically, if you dislike Rick, as I did, the first two thirds of the novel will be heavy going. As far as I am concerned, le Carré is unable to portray charm; it is a difficult characteristic to put across, but all his characters who are supposed to have it seem to me to be unpleasant, self-centred and unscrupulous. The novel is part of le Carré's ongoing attempt to write likeGraham Greene, but he doesn't have that kind of talent.

  • Laura
    2019-02-25 11:44

    From BBC Radio 4:1/3. 'Love is whatever you can still betray. Betrayal can only happen if you love.' So says Magnus Pym, the spy of the title; and he has betrayed a lot in his life - countries, friends and lovers. When Magnus disappears after his father's funeral MI6 launches an urgent manhunt to prevent his defection. Dramatised by Robert Forrest.2/3. When Magnus Pym disappears after his father's funeral MI6 launches an urgent manhunt to prevent his defection. But Pym is on a search of his own to solve the central mystery of his life - what made him the perfect spy. As the MI6 manhunt closes in on Magnus Pym he attempts to solve the mystery of what - or who - created his talent for deception. Was it the betrayal and lies of his con man father, Rick? Or the man who recruited him to MI6 - Jack Brotherhood? Or was it Axel, the Czech agent he has known since his teens? All of them have marked his life in some way. Other parts are played by the cast.Director: Bruce YoungBBC Scotland.

  • umberto
    2019-03-10 06:45

    I found this novel formidable. As far as I know, the author wrote it based on Kim Philby's life who later defected to the then USSR as a senior citizen there till his death. The title also reminds me of 'A Perfect Crime' I read in an anthology, a book I borrowed from the College of Education Library, BKK.

  • Matthew Kresal
    2019-03-15 05:33

    There are novels which can only be described by a single word: epic. John le Carre's A Perfect Spy, published originally in 1986, is one of those novels to be certain. It is a tale that stretches right across half the twentieth century in the form of the life of Magnus Pym, the perfect spy of the novel's title. The novel is also, in fine le Carre tradition, a fine cross between the spy thriller and a human drama and is all the better for it. The story revolves around the life and times of British intelligence officer Magnus Pym from his childhood to then present day of the mid-late 1980's. As the novel reveals piece by piece Magnus's lie has been nothing but one large training ground for a future spy starting with his childhood under his conman father Ricky to years in Switzerland as a side effect of one of his father's scams that leads to him meeting his two mentors in the world of Cold War espionage right through to the then present dy. The picture that emerges is of a man forced to spend his entire life lying and betraying sometimes out of circumstance and other times just to survive with the consequence of him becoming "a perfect spy". Magnus is also a man who is ultimately always on the run from everyone including himself. All of this means that Pym is also quite possibly the best in the long tradition of le Carre's strong main characters. A Perfect Spy also features some of le Carre's best supporting characters as well perhaps the best of which is Magnus' father Ricky who is based (by the author's own admission) on his own father. Ricky Pym is the man most responsible for his son's transformation into "a perfect spy" as a man who drifts in and out of his son's life with one con after another. Ricky is a man capable of great charisma and of being sentimental with those around him but never capable of really giving himself to any one person including Magnus himself. Much of the novel is spent as Magnus remembers his life with his father so that the theme of a son trying to figure out his relationship with his father and how it as affected his other relationships is as much a part of the novel as the spy thriller aspects are. There are many other fine supporting characters as well of course. There is Axel and Jack Brotherhood as the two men who become mentors to a young Magnus is the game of Cold War espionage and who, as a result of their actions and attitudes, make fine literary contrasts to one another. There is Magnus's wife Mary who finds herself caught up in the world of her husband's creation and who, in the end, is trying to find her husband both physically and emotionally. There are Ricky Pym's partners in crime such as Syd Lemons who also drift in and out of Magnus's life as well or the group of CIA men who try to convince the British that Pym is not all that he seems. Each of these characters (and many others as well of course) makes for fine portraits of those who in some size, shape or form fit into the jigsaw puzzle that is the life of Magnus Pym. For a jigsaw puzzle is exactly what Magnus Pym's life, and by consequence the novel itself, is. In chapters that virtually alternate across the 590 pages the novel switches between the present where Brotherhood and Mary search for Pym plus try to cope with what he has done and the past as Pym in letters to his son Tom (and in an oddly detached third person perspective as well) recounts his childhood and rise in British intelligence. The result is a blend of spy thriller (as the hunt for Pym intensifies along with proof of his double life) and the memoirs of a Pym who seems to fast be approaching the end of his road. In other words the present chapters are used to set up the puzzle of events that Pym is about to recount from his past. The sections where Pym recounts his past come across as much stream of consciousness as Pym seems to float from one aspect of his life to another in a not always chronological or even logical for that matter and (and least in the earliest parts chronologically) come from the author's own life as well. The result is a jigsaw puzzle that, with its lengthy chapters and at times stream of consciousness narrative, that requires the reader to pay quite a bit of attention and spend quite a bit of time on it as well (that is coming from someone who is generally a fast reader and just spent three plus months reading this). The result though is a rewarding work to read even if it is not for all tastes. While the narrative style and page count might be off putting to some out there for others A Perfect Spy is a fine read and perhaps le Carre's best novel. From perhaps the strongest of le Carre's main characters in Magnus Pym to his fine cast of supporting characters (especially Ricky Pym) the novel is full of real flesh and blood human characters. It is also a fascinating trip down the history of the Cold War yet it is more then just that. It is also a trip down the jigsaw puzzle of what le Carre himself has called "the secret path": the path of the spy, the man who must lie and betray to survive. As much a human drama as a spy thriller A Perfect Spy isn't to be missed.

  • Fiona
    2019-03-13 06:50

    The Sunday Times reviewer calls this 'a perfect work of fiction' and le Carre's masterpiece. I can't disagree. This is a fantastic read - a real page turner, intelligently written and often very funny. I'm a fan of JleC's anyway but I'm now in awe of his artistry and expertise in reeling in and hooking his readers. It's not often these days that I struggle to put a book down. My only regret is that I've finished it and will find it a hard act to follow for the depth of the main characters, for its humour and pathos, and for just being such a damn good read.

  • C.A. Sole
    2019-03-21 04:28

    Like all his books, intriguing, sometimes complicated, but very well written and un-put-downable

  • John
    2019-03-17 03:49

    The first hundred or so pages of A Perfect Spy seem designed to disorient: after a charming opening where Magnus Pym descends upon a quiet English shore town for what appears to be some much-needed R&R ("Hello Mr. Canterbury," the woman greets him upon opening the door, catching the alert reader off guard and perhaps already sounding an alarm in the reader's mind), we cut to Vienna, where Pym's wife apparently doesn't know where her husband is, and over the pages that follow it becomes clear that this is not only a problem for her but his disappearance may also trigger a major international incident. We are then treated to passages of Pym's own writing, which is something of a memoir, toggling confusingly between first person and third person (for reasons that only really become clear later) as he recounts his father's youth, and then his own. This is pretty much the pace of the novel thereafter--passages of Pym's delirious memoir, which he is writing from his hideout by the English sea, interspersed with passages detailing the fall-out from his disappearance. This is not a conventional spy thriller of the type that has made le Carre famous; instead, it is a tragic and detailed study of a father-and-son relationship that rivals both Kafka's and Bruno Schulz's in both dysfunction (Kafka) and whimsy (Schulz). Still, there are all the hallmarks of a le Carre novel: rootless, world-weary men who have given their lives over to a heartless organization (the character of Jack Brotherhood often rises to Philip Marlowe levels of sad, grimy appeal; it cannot be a coincidence that Brotherhood often uses the cover name Marlowe), enough twists in the story to leave the reader in doubt about certain character's honesty (although this novel avoids cheap plot twists and surprise turns by telegraphing key developments well in advance of their reveal), and an ending that is not exactly sunshine, flowers, and bunny rabbits but that left me reeling.

  • Tom
    2019-02-24 09:36

    A strange hybrid. The sections of the book concerning Pym's disappearance and the effect it has on his family and colleagues are good solid stuff. Unfortunately too much of the book is taken up with Pym's terribly over-written autobiography, that just goes on and on and on and on and on and on. Excruciating.

  • Janet
    2019-03-21 08:43

    The best John le Carre, the making of a perfect spy-- a boy who grows up with a conman father, who wants something to believe in, but also, has all the skills necessary. Brilliant beyond belief.

  • Edwin Blair
    2019-03-11 04:44

    The Spy Who Came in From the Cold, might be his best 'spy' novel, but "A Perfect Spy" is hands down his best work. It is a masterpiece, that contains a sophisticated plot with constant twists and reversals adeptly executed, but will cause those of a malnourished attention span to quit the novel or give it a poor review with an even poorer explanation. If you were awake at the wheel, by the third chapter its obvious, that what we are reading is heavily autobiographical. Its Autobiographical very much in the spirit of & not dissimilar to Charles Dicken's David Copperfield and Great expectations. The protaganist Magnus Pym very slyly alludes to this in a passage where he is asked what kind of name is Pym, after it is mispronounced and replies with "PYM, sort of like Pip you know..." (Pip being the protaganist in 'Great Expectations'). There are overlapping tales, stories within stories, ricocheting versions of Magnus’s career. Le Carré doesn’t just stick to Magnus Pym’s discourse; he offers the point of view of Jack Brotherhood and of Pym’s "freightenly English" wife, Mary, the two in desperate search through their memories of him. Jaunty and comprehensive, le Carré plays with time and space, recounting Magnus’s life as son, lover, husband, embassy social lion, and spy. Its a great story elegantly written, filled with le Carre's uncanny insights and understanding of human nature. He offers us his unique perspective on life, but one so persuasive that we begin to see things from his riply and world-weary perspective. Philip Roth didnt call it the best novel since the war in frivolity, and genius master director Stanley Kubrick desperately wanted to direct the film adaptation for a reason. A film I have no doubt would've been another Kubrick masterpiece. Why, because yes A Perfect Spy IS that good.

  • Steve
    2019-03-21 09:38

    This story centres on a father, Rick, and son, Magnus, relationship and its overall effects on the son on his chosen path in life. Rick Pym is a con man, a very convincing con man with able lieutenants in Syd, Perce, Muspole, and Cudlove, together they con everyone about everything imaginable taking Liberal politicians, the clergy, educational establishment right up to the grandest hotels in the land, both at home and abroad. There are women, girls, lovelies they are called all through the story from Lippsie to Mary to Belinda, Jemima , Sabina, with many more flitting across the story. The story itself is told by Magnus Pym to his own son Tom as he jots down everything he can remember in a secluded room by the sea to write a book of his life. And his own life mirrors that of his con man father Rick but in a very different way. Magnus, helped by funds from his father’s ill-gotten gains goes from public school to university but his father’s reputation as well as helping Magnus’s is also a hindrance and continues to be so until Ricks death where even then there is a little difficulty with liquidity meaning his father had no funds to pay for his own funeral.Rick wants his son to read law, become a judge, one of the finest, in fact Magnum becomes a spy and a very good one, reaching the high echelons of the spying establishment. His controller is Jack Brotherhood, himself a very good spy from the days of WW2 but there is also Axel a mysterious figure Magnus met when in a kind of hostel in Austria and both Axel and Jack accompany Magnus throughout the story. A story that spans many countries from England, Austria, Germany, Czechoslovakia, America and back to England. But the story takes some reading as chapter after chapter takes us to the present tense then back to how we get to the present tense and I must admit at times I found it tiresome following the flow of the story. But as with Le Carre’s books there are many twists and turns that have you re-reading paragraphs to keep up with the plot. A long book but none the less well written if a little punishing at times to keep up with the flow, I believe the character of Rick Pym was moulded from some elements of Le Carre’s own father.

  • Frank Stein
    2019-02-27 05:26

    This book is almost exactly what everyone says it is, one of the best novels to be written about duplicity and betrayal dressed up like a somewhat typical spy story. Like much work by le Carre, there are Soviets and Czechs and double and triple agents and jilted lovers and the usual panoply of genre characters, but weaving through the whole is a bildungsroman with a remarkable synchronicity to le Carre's (David Cornwell's) own life. The main character is Magnus Pym, son of a notorious con artist, Rick Pym, and the book traces Magnus's path from playing confidence tricks for cash to doing it for the sake of the "greater good," and describes the inevitable psychological devastation such coning wreaks on its perpetrator. This is all the more heartbreaking because Magnus follows Cornwell's real trajectory closely, from his time working with his dad to his time spying on Oxford college Communists for the MI5 to his time scouting out Soviet agents in Switzerland and Austria. The reader can tell the author's intimate and personal reaction to so many of these stories, and can almost see him emotionally working out his part in each of them as he writes. It is often touching and devastating.Perhaps my only complaint is that by spending so much time in the mind of so many damaged men and women, so many deceivers and con artists, everyone in le Carre's world can come across as cravenly strategic. The connection running between all his characters is their desire to use other people as means instead of as ends, and so many people here are so focused on manipulation that they can appear to lack depth. They are always working out the angles. Yet this is what le Carre is getting at, after all, showing what this type of life does to people, and his cri de couer at the costs of this manipulation is heartfelt and real.Perhaps almost as impressive as the exploration of deception is le Carre's majestic facility with the English language. At times it approaches Fitzgeraldian qualities of seeming effortlessness. This book is thus an amazing exploration of what spying means to people, inside or outside the world of professional spies.

  • Andrew
    2019-03-20 08:40

    This is one of those books I thought I had read. I certainly know that I had a copy of it which ended up going to charity and recently when I watched the interview Mark Lawson did with Le Carre I found another copy, being intrigued about the story mirroring the authors own life. The book did not disappoint and whilst it remains fundamentally a tale of spying and betrayal it is much more. Even reading the classic Smiley trilogy you know as well as espionage that the books are about much more; a man betrayed by his wife and friends betraying not only their country but each other, similarly The spy who came in from the cold is not just about spy's as it is also a fascinating picture of a man on the edge of breakdown. So a Perfect Spy is a wonderful picture of the father son relationship , and betrayals personal and public.The book has two separate narratives. Magnus Pym is a senior member of British intelligence working in Austria whose father has just died, on going home for the funeral he disappears although we know he is hiding in his own safe house in Devon where he writes his life story for the benefit of his son Tom. The other story is the search for him and the ramifications of his disappearance when it is clear the Americans suspect him of being a traitor for the Czechs, his long time mentor and original spymaster Jack Brotherhood tries to find him. Pym's story tells about his father Rick who is the original rogue running deals constantly, dodging bankruptcies , ending up prison and even running for parliament, he is a millstone around Magnus's neck yet Pym is devoted to him and loves him despite his father's qualified love. The reader does not know if Magnus is simply grieving for the loss of his father or is a traitor which keeps the pages turning to the end.I've read reviews comparing this book to the best of Dickens and it so well plotted and the characters so unique and even grotesque in parts that I can see why such a comparison is made. However what is especially brilliant about the book is it's combination of thriller, spy novel, family drama but most of all a novel that goes beyond genre and I would consider as a great British novel.

  • Lisabet Sarai
    2019-03-14 06:51

    John Le Carre is known for writing spy novels but in fact A Perfect Spy could be viewed as an anti-spy novel. There are no villains, no plots for world domination, no car chases or explosions. Enemies are imagined, antipathies flourish within organizations and the truest friendship in the novel crosses the East-West line.A Perfect Spy follows the life of British master intelligence agent Magnus Richard Pym. As the book begins, Magnus has made himself disappear. Both his colleagues and his adversaries engage in a frenzy of investigative activity and mutual recrimination - mostly in vain. Magnus knows too much. Magnus may have been captured by the opposition. Magnus may be a double agent.As the British and Americans blame one another for letting Magnus slip, the master spy gradually reveals his true nature and the explanation for his flight, in the book he's writing for his son. He's a fascinating, complicated and conflicted character, a chameleon, a cad, a creator of illusions he ultimately ends up believing himself. Magnus is no 007. A Perfect Spy, finally, is an acutely observed, subtly detailed character study that kept me riveted through its nearly 600 pages. Recommended.

  • Duarte Magalhães
    2019-03-06 07:50

    After going through a half hundred pages of A Perfect Spy, it was rather obvious that this was something different from other titles of the author. This is the story of a spy, the spycraft is there, but is also intertwined with other elements that enrich the story. The narrative may be foggy, complex, puzzling, and highly retrospective, which altogether makes it hard to advance at times - as if le Carré is attesting your worthiness of proceeding and be highly rewarded ahead. It may well be le Carré's best work in terms of narrative, plot, and character development. It may get a bit confusing at times due to its retrospective nature, space-time variations, and large number of characters, but once we get into the rhythm that the writer wants us to be, it gets very very pleasurable to read. One thing that has fascinated me was the precisely put pace of the narrative. Contrasting with a typical espionage novel in which the narrative progressively builds up and the last hundred pages come up at a frenetic rhythm, in this one the rhythm oscillates harmonically from a high to a low pitch from first to last page.

  • Dennis Baum
    2019-03-08 09:33

    I'm disappointed. I spent three weeks stumbling through the dialogue of this tome before I made a most sensible personal decision to give it up. Simply one of the most frustrating reads I have ever attempted. Prose that rambled on, page after page, leading no where. For my two cents, A Perfect Spy ranks comfortably with William Faulkner's works; another brilliant writer I wasn't able to fathom. Hey, John le Carre, is this a spy novel? I love the genre the much as the next guy, but for Christ's sake give me a story I can get my teeth into! Gobbledegook and little else. Confusing characters I can't relate to, keep track of, or understand who in the hell they are or represent within the razor thin story line if one even exists. This is John's best novel? I think not. When other reviewers state that this is JlC's finest work; I'm curious. What do they see that's so marvelous? What did I miss that they seized upon? Finally, I just deleted it from my Apple Library so I would no longer have to look at the cover. Ugh!

  • Gerald
    2019-03-20 05:33

    I should say, I just reread this book. As I do every so often with the brilliant novels of John Le Carre, aka David Cornwell, former British intelligence analyst and god-knows-what-he-can't-say. I reread them because, genre aside, he's such a masterful stylist of the English language.The book's metaphors (shared with his other works) are also just right. The spy as "close observer" is the reader--as the very same. The spy as double-agent, as betrayer, is the inverter of love, the man in the mirror. Love being whatever human relationships you have left that you haven't yet betrayed.Emphasis on the word yet.A Perfect Spy is a perfect book. It will teach you to be a sharper observer, especially of yourself, your own feelings, judgments, and actions.It doesn't need to teach you how to betray. You will soon realize you've already done enough of that.

  • Phani Tholeti
    2019-03-23 04:52

    Misnomer. Epic boring. Dull, drab and unnecessarily prolonged and wordy and descriptive and ... I wanted one word to describe this so called "autobiographical" epic novel. If its to be autobiographical, at least it should have been mentioned, I'd have given it a skip. But I really can write a book about how Magnum Pym's son would cry and curse his father trying the jumbled up, incomprehensibly dense and wordy details about his relationship with his father.When you have read about the book, and still wonder why the name was chosen, you know you're reading the writing that isn't worth reading.Skip it, unless you can't do without reading Le Carre... I assure you'll thank me.

  • John
    2019-03-12 04:28

    I've read three other novels by LeCarre' and enjoyed them all but this was the best. More of a fictional memoir than a spy story in which the protagonist tries to explain his life to his son, wife and mentor. Although a great book, it can be hard reading at times especially at the beginning when the time frame and view point can change from paragraph to paragraph.