Review by Publisher's Weekly Review
The master of the spy novel has discovered perestroika , and the genre may never be the same again . Le Carre's latest is both brilliantly up-to-date and cheeringly hopeful in a way readers of the Smiley books could never have anticipated. Barley Blair is a down-at-heels, jazz-loving London publisher who impresses a dissident Soviet physicist during a drunken evening at a Moscow Book Fair. When the physicist attempts to have Barley publish his insider's study of the chaotic state of Soviet defense, British intelligence steps in. Barley, after extensive vetting by both MI5 and the CIA, is made the go-between for further invaluable information, and in the process becomes involved with the physicist's former lover, Katya. The portraits of American and British intelligence agents are, as always, wonderfully acute, and the plot is a dazzling creation. Le Carre's Russia is funny and touching by turns but always convincing, and the love affair between Barley and Katya, subtly understated, is by far the warmest the author has created. But the singing quality of The Russia House , written at the height of le Carre's powers, is its pervading sense of the increasing waste and irrelevance of ongoing cold-war machinations: ``That is . . the tragedy of great nations. So much talent bursting to be used, so much goodness longing to come out. Yet all so miserably spoken for that sometimes we could scarcely believe it was America speaking to us at all.'' 350,000 first printing; BOMC main selection. (June) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
Review by Kirkus Book Review
Does glasnost mean the Cold War is over? Le Carr‚, the ultimate chronicler of Cold War espionage, ponders that issue (and others) in an up-to-date spy fable: his drollest work thus far, his simplest plot by a long shot, and sturdy entertainment throughout--even if not in the same league with the Karla trilogy and other le Carr‚ classics. British Intelligence has gotten hold of a manuscript smuggled out of Russia. Part of it consists of wild sociopolitical ramblings. But the other part provides full details on the USSR's most secret defense weaponry--which is apparently in utter shambles! Can the UK and US trust this data and proceed with grand-scale disarmament? To find out, the Brits recruit the left-wing London publisher Bartholomew ""Barley"" Scott Blair, who has been chosen--by the manuscript's author, a reclusive Soviet scientist nicknamed ""Goethe""--to handle the book's publication in the West. Barley's mission is to rendezvous with Goethe in Russia, ask lots of questions, and evaluate whether he's for real. . .or just part of a KGB disinformation scheme. Barley--a gifted amateur jazz-sax player, a quasi-rou‚ in late middle age--has few doubts about Goethe's sincerity; he shares, with increasing fervor, the scientist's Utopian dreams of nth-degree glasnost. But the mission is soon mired in complications: CIA interrogations (with lie-detector) of Barley; venal opposition from US defense-contractors; and Barley's intense--and dangerous--love for Goethe's friend Katya, the go-between for his USSR visits. Narrated by a Smiley-like consultant at British Intelligence, the story, unwinds in typical le Carr‚ style (leisurely interrogations, oblique angles), but without the usual denseness. The book's more serious threads--debates on disarmament, Barley's embrace of world peace over the ""chauvinist drumbeat,"" the love story--tend toward the obvious and the faintly preachy. Still, Barley is a grand, Dickensian creation, the ugly Americans are a richly diverting crew, and this is witty, shapely tale-spinning from a modern master. Copyright ©Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.
Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.
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