Friday, June 11, 2010

The Spy Who Came in From the Cold

The Spy Who Came in from the ColdAre you ever reading a book or watching a movie or listening to a song where something about it is so perfect that you get the insane idea in your head that you could do it too?  You could be genius like that person who wrote that or directed that or scored that and you could match them?   I do.  I get inspired sometimes when that perfect song comes on at just the right spot of the movie and I think I want to be that (a music supervisor).  I think, when I read a book so well-written that the scenes from a screenplay just jump off the page, I could be that (a cinematographer, a director, a costume designer).   That's the feeling I got whilst reading The Spy Who Came in From the Cold by John LeCarre.  It is perfect!  It makes me think I could make the movie of it. 
There is a distinct "feel" to the book.  It is portrayed by LeCarre's attention to lighting.  His description of the color, the concentration, the collage of light and darkness pervades every chapter.  It is in the very fabric of the story.  Of course he uses it to demonstrate the maddening world of espionage, where what was illuminated and lucid five minutes ago, now appears opaque and obfuscated.   This novel is a lighting director's dream.  The cinematography one could produce based solely on his use of light would be amazing.  
Of course, you would think the fact that this is a cold-war novel, it would feel very outdated.  It feels less outdated and more perfect.  It is like LeCarre GOT IT and he got it enough to create this story that would translate even years after the war was over.  It is actually amazing the prescient nature of much of what he writes.  I think it is due to the fact that the novel is not gadget-y like the Bond novels.  It is not a technology smorgasbord like Mission: Impossible.  It is a psychological game.  It plays more like the brilliant mini-series "The Company."  You never know if you, the reader, are being played or if the characters are being played, but you are enjoying the adventure so much, you couldn't care less.
Then there is the dialogue.  The dialogue takes over the last four or five chapters beautifully.  LeCarre reminds me of Aaron Sorkin.  I was reading and thinking this and was shocked by the similarities.  It is as though LeCarre taught the master class and Sorkin was his only student.  There was even a courtroom defiance diatribe a la A Few Good Men ("you can't handle the want me on that wall, you need me on that wall).  It is just devastatingly good. 
This is considered the classic spy novel.  I knew that going into it, but I didn't realize it would be this good!  It really does set the standard.  I can't wait to see more from LeCarre!

Rating: 6.5 out of 7



  1. You definitely need to write a book! Thank you for using 'big' words on your blog (obfuscate, prescient), something that is so lacking elsewhere.

  2. Visiting for the blog hop :) Love your blog.

  3. Just "hopping" by to say HI! Looking forward to reading your reviews :D

    Have a great weekend!

    Vanessa :D
    {Don't forget to check out our NEW bookish Vlog! Thanks!!}
    Book ♥ Soulmates

  4. Stopping by on the Hop. My Hop is here.

    Happy Friday. :)

    From the Shadows

  5. Its funny because although this isn't my normal kind of book I have heard of this one, was it made into a film it really sounds familiar?

  6. It was made into a film. I have it at the top of my Netflix queue, so I will be watching it very soon.

  7. I love Aaron Sorkin (Sports Night is the best)

  8. Great review! I too knew that this was considered the classic spy novel, but thought that it would be outdated. Not so. It is definitely my favorite spy novel, and probably makes it into my top twenty overall. Now, every time I "spy" a new LeCarre title, I get the warm and fuzzies. He's awesome.

  9. Patrick: I fully agree. I actually got a collection of LeCarre when I purchased The Spy Who Came in From the Cold. It has two other books that feature one of the minor characters in TSWCFC. I am trying to wait to read them because I have so many other books on my list to read.

    By the by, I tried to watch the movie yesterday - it was beyond boring! I turned it off before he even defected.