Lured by Israeli intelligence into the world of espionage, Charlie, a young actress, is plunged into a deceptive and delicate trap to ensnare an elusive Palestinian terrorist.
©1983 David Cornwell (P)2014 Bolinda Publishing Pty Ltd.
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"Glad I stuck it out."
I had to work at this one because the plot line was complex. Just as I was going down one road, something happened that made me question if I really understood what was happening. In fairly short order, I came to understand that was the point. Brilliant, in retrospect. If you're a fan of the safe "beginning, middle, end" story arc genre, this book is not for you. But if you can park expectations and just go along for the ride, it is a most gratifying read. The narrator was excellent though the sound quality wasn't great. Otherwise it would have been 5 stars across the board.
"insightful and thought-provoking"
John le Carre tosses the reader back and forth between bitter enemies; Israel and Palestine. A captivating read.
"Superb. lé Carre at his best"
Very, very good. lé Carre gives you a fascinating, terrifying look into international terrorism that will leave you reading newspapers uneasily and watching the news with a jaundiced eye for the rest of your life.
Whatever side of the Arab / Israeli conflict you believe yourself to be, you'll get a naked look at the other side. It's cause for pause.
Essential reading that will haunt you.
"Good, but not Vintage Le Carré"
Michael Jayston, as usual, delivers an excellent performance in the narration of the novel. The story itself however, and in particular the recruitment of Charlie, a young left-wing English actress, by Israeli Intelligence, strains credulity and I found the development of the plot and its denouement singularly unconvincing. One doesn't expect a-thrill-a-minute in a Le Carré novel but even so I found long sections of it tedious. Judged by the standard of his best work I would describe it as good but it certainly is not in the same league as the Karla trilogy.
"Such a disappointment"
I am a le Carre fan, but I really am finding this book tedious in the extreme, I should have read the reviews more thoroughly, it is very political, which is not my taste. I know le Carre does always have an element of politics through his books, but I usually find his stories woven really well, but this one doesn't grab me at all. I think it is because I cannot particularly like these characters - so I lost interest - and perhaps don't care about them.
I may try leaving it for a while and picking up later! Certainly I regret buying this one - but I seem to think it was on offer - so I probably haven't lost anything.
"Not bad, but not all that good either"
I have read or listened to alot of Le Carre's work recently, and usually I really enjoy them, but alas not this one.
I found that I kept on getting lost in the details of the sub-plots, and the story wasn't actually all that compelling to listen to. I also found it almost painful to listen to the middle third of the book as it keeps going back and forth into imaginary world of false characters and stories. I kept waiting for it to get good, but then it ended...
I think Michael Jayston is perfect as the narrator, so its certainly not him that put me off. It might be better as a book, rather than an audio version, but for me it's a far cry from his other works.
"The perfect post-Cold War spy story"
I love this book, probably my favourite of John Le Carre's novels. Its use of the Iraeli/Arab conflicts as an alternative to the old Cold War, us against the Russians, is inspired. Filled with an array of compelling characters, lovingly detailed, beleiveable, flawed in a very human way. Absolutely gripping from start to finish. And Michael Jayston is the perfect narrator, his tired, jaded, roué voice fits the story well and he has a remarkable range of consistent voices and accents. Hardly a laugh-a-minute but I highly recommend this book.
"Brilliant- just Brilliant!!!"
I decided to listen to John Le Carre's books on my commutes to work, starting with his first novel onwards. I enjoyed this novel most. The level of sophistication and thought provoking unease contained within The Little Drummer Girl is spectacular.
"only one thing"
The story was excellent keeping my attention for every minute.
Michael Jayston was, as ever, perfect with every character clear, distinct and consistent.
Only one thing took away from my enjoyment of this recording. At the end of many sentences the final sound was cut off. So, for example "watch" would become "wat" or "language" would sound as "langui" . A minor annoyance and a shame for an otherwise excellent audio book.
"Well researched and believable"
snapshot of a conflict
Joseph - war weary but humane
Description of the Palestinian refugee camps
Helps to understand the Stockholm Syndrome
"I love John le Carre"
As the headline says, and this book does not disappoint. All you would expect from le Carre at his bestQ
"An "Education in Tragedy""
Yes. It is a thriller that examines the Palestine question in the context of Cold War espionage.
Reinforces what is interesting but also predictable in le Carre.
With The Little Drummer Girl I have now, I think, read all of John le Carré’s novels – I’m a fan! This 1983 novel offered the opportunity to resolve – if only in my own mind – the question that Philip Roth (writing about A Perfect Spy, published in1986), and many other reviewers, amateur and professional, have resolved in favour of his novels transcending the spy genre. I don’t think this is the case and The Little Drummer Girl -- published part way through his Cold War period -- shows le Carré already relying on the features that I’ve enjoyed but that now seem formulaic, notably a repertory of stock characters, too often fantastically exaggerated in their achievements and their spoken language. It is less the scale of, for example, Kurtz’s achievements and more the sheer number of them packed into a day, week, month, and year of an operation that seems like lazy characterisation. Most of all, though, it is the predictability of language that, looking back over his novels, strikes me as disappointing. A character of whom le Carré even ambiguously approves is sure to speak or do things “gravely”; others, less favoured, drop pronouns with inevitable regularity – just two among many signs of the sentimentality or displeasure with which some characters are invested. British characters are likely to have a public-school background that gets transferred into later life but with predictable consequences that dull his critique of privilege. And then there is his very skilful way of telling a story indirectly through a number of sources but that can seem more like a function of plot, rather than arising from either complexity of character and motivation or the essentials of the “secret world”. The plotting in The Little Drummer Girl is typically intricate but depends upon a tour de force effect central to the main character that rests insecurely on the notion of acting and theatre. Without the repressed emotional charge of the George Smiley figure, who – until he gets mythologised in some of the stories in The Secret Pilgrim (1990), with signs of this fate anticipated at the end of Smiley’s People (1979) – at least puts the supporting cast of characters into perspective, The Little Drummer Girl becomes tiresome and, plot-wise, silly at times.The Little Drummer Girl is, nevertheless, worth the read for its many insights. West Berlin, with too much light at the centre, and too much darkness at the edges. Or the account of the short flights that are taken from Munich to West Berlin that says such a lot about the period in which the novel was written and is set, when it can be easy to confuse two wars: the Second World War, with its awful Nazi prosecution into almost all spheres of daily life, and the Cold War. Or the arrival in Beirut, where a street is both a street and a battle scene, and where the degrading of the city has prompted the emergence of a form of village life. Or, most unforgettably, his ability to convey the terror of an air-attack when the victims have no air-defence at all. More than the use of a female spy and her “education in tragedy”, the geo-politics is the most important aspect of The Little Drummer Girl, principally because of how le Carré uses the question of Palestine to define a Cold War that still has the reality of the Holocaust in view.Will I re-read John le Carré? Yes, but because of the thrilling comforts of the genre and for the reassurance of some memorable scenes; for the character of Smiley; and for le Carré’s politics, with which I increasingly agree. However, I doubt that I will re-read with the thought that I might be startled or even surprised, troubled and gripped in new ways, as I have been by a few recent spy novels with women at the centre of the plot and which, for me, sharpened the question about le Carré’s significance: Georgina Harding’s The Spy Game (2009), Natasha Walter’s A Quiet Life (2016), Ian McEwen’s Sweet Tooth (2012), and, best of all, Helen Dunmore’s Exposure (2016), though I admit that le Carré has the more edge-of-one’s seat endings.
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