Re-reading Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy


The first time I read John Le Carré’s Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy, I have to admit to feelings of frustration. The maze he created in his book left me feeling lost. What in the heck was going on? Who was that guy named Jim and why was he shot? And is that Control person onto something or is he just crazy?

I hadn’t thought about the book in many years when a new movie came out in 2011 to such rave reviews. I had to watch.

And then I had to re-read.

This time, because I knew how the book ended, I could savor Le Carré’s twisty plot, and his tight, neat phrasing. I turned over the rocks laid down by his characters to check out the grubby little details underneath. And my appreciation for his mighty tour-de-force was rewarded with a lingering horror at the depths of the mole’s betrayal.

I often flip to the end of a book, especially if it’s a mystery, when I reach its halfway point. Some friends express disbelief over this practice but for me, it serves several purposes. If I don’t like its ending, I can abandon a mediocre read without qualm. But if a book promises to be worthwhile all the way through, I get to savor my reader’s journey.

And to me, reading has become all about savoring. It’s why I no longer have any patience with ill-written books or the so-called “page turners” that sacrifice any meaningful explorations of character in favor of plot, plot, plot, and nothing but plot.

Boring.

Le Carré is a master at weaving plot lines together while rounding out his characters like a master potter molds clay. Doing this well is a difficult technique that I enjoy as a reader, and also practice in my own writing. So I guess that’s a third reason to re-read Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy—continuing education.

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