Second Tuesday Book Club will meet in person from 7 to 8:15 p.m. on Tuesday, July 11, in the program room at Schimelpfenig Library to discuss Silverview, the last spy novel written by the celebrated John le Carré. Face coverings aren’t required, but we do observe social distancing at our meetings. Please email Cathe Spencer at email@example.com, or call Schimelpfenig Library at 972-769-4200, if you have questions or comments. See you soon!
Silverview by John le Carré
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 only a couple of months into his new career, Julian’s evening is disrupted by a visitor who seems to know a lot about Julian’s family and is rather too interested in the inner workings of his modest new enterprise. 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.
John le Carré is considered a master of the espionage novel, and is renowned for “his depictions of the human and political ambiguities of the Cold War.” This final work is “an exquisitely calibrated” look at the age-old conflict between public duty and private morality faced by so many of his fictional characters.
Kirkus‘ reviewer comments that Silverview represents “one final gift” for Le Carré fans. “All the characters are hopelessly intertwined and compromised by their loves and loyalties, none of them innocent. The result, as the author’s son, Nick Cornwell, says in a brief afterword, “shows a service fragmented”—and not just the Britain’s Intelligence Service, but the whole domestic society that depends on it. The author’s last few novels have been increasingly valedictory, but this one is truly haunted by intimations of mortality.”
Jane Casey‘s article in The Irish Times notes that “Silverview is a fitting conclusion to the long career of a writer who redefined an entire genre with the deceptive ease of pure genius … In this final work le Carré has lost none of what made him remarkable: here are characters operating at the very limits of their own endurance, confronting fundamental truths that have the disturbing quality of prophecy. Le Carré’s compassion for his characters shines through, along with the gleam of humour. It’s also deeply thrilling, in the best way. It’s not a perfect book (if such a thing exists), but we had more from John le Carré than we had any right to expect: we can be grateful for what he left us.”
In his starred review for Booklist, Bill Ott writes this tribute to Le Carré, “The novel…makes a fitting requiem for the career of the man who brought a new level of complexity and humanity to espionage fiction … Le Carré has made these points before, but here, in his last ode to disillusioned spies, he makes them with a somber eloquence that reverberates all the more for its finality.”
“But when you really have put a character together piece by piece, what makes it work is a piece of yourself. And until that happens, the character doesn’t have – doesn’t really have a being at all. So the real joining in fiction-writing is that sense of – of finding all the possibilities of your own character and awarding them in an organized way to the different characters of your creation.”
John Le Carré (1931- 2020) was born David John Moore Cornwell in Dorset, UK, and died in December 2020 in Truro, Cornwall. He is recognized for his suspenseful and realistic novels of twentieth-century espionage, which were based largely on his years of work in the British intelligence services MI5 and MI6 from 1959-1964. He adopted the Le Carré pseudonym because the British Foreign Office did not allow its staff to publish under their own names.
His first bestseller was The Spy Who Came in from the Cold, in 1963, which became a successful feature film in 1965; many of his later books were also adapted for film and television. One of Le Carré’s best-known characters is George Smiley, who appears in a number of his novels and is the protagonist of his Karla trilogy, which includes Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy, The Honorable Schoolboy, and Smiley’s People.
The author’s political beliefs were complicated, and near the end of his life, he became an Irish citizen. Le Carré’s memoir, The Pigeon Tunnel: Stories from My Life, appeared in 2016.