Well, I’m some way in now (11 chapters, to be precise) and already le Carre has seduced me into wanting a happy ending, even though I know full well I won’t get one. The writing is exquisite and the plot moves along at a sedate, unhurried pace, allowing us to get to know all the people we come across.
Except we don’t know them. Jonathan Pine very quickly becomes illusory, his existence based on lies and deception. We know little about Burr except what he tells Pine – and being a spy, how much of that is true? The same goes for all the other characters who recur in the story. Is Roper really the worst man in the world, or a businessman filling a niche that someone else would simply fill if he didn’t? Is Corkoran a fool or cannier than we are led to believe? And is anyone as honest and trustworthy as they say they are?
The lengthy scenes in Cornwall and Canada are atmospheric, thoroughly believable and tinged with a poignancy that I suspect is going to recur in this novel. They add detail to the plot and characters and contain some of the most beautiful writing I have read in a very long time. Whether or not you like this kind of story, it’s worth reading for the language alone. We have had background, context, a flavour of the present and a taste of the future in these first 11 chapters, and I have to say it has left me wanting more.
One thing I will say. Having read my Radio Times this week, I have a strong feeling that the TV adaptation is going to be quite a bit different to the book – and not just in recasting Burr as a woman. Whether or not this is going to be to the detriment of the story I don’t know. Either way, the book is wonderful.