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Honourable Schoolboy (Coronet Books) [Paperback]

John Le Carre
4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (20 customer reviews)

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4.6 out of 5 stars
4.6 out of 5 stars
Most helpful customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars A spy novel you will come back to... Jan. 25 2002
Format:Mass Market Paperback
I've just finished reading SCHOOLBOY for perhaps the fifth time & find myself enjoying it just as much as I did to begin with. Part of the pleasure of a good LeCarre is the remarkable depth of his characters -the feeling that one is dealing with real people with all their faults and strengths. Beyond this however is the feeling of authenticity that leCarre brings to his landscapes and to his times. Here we can feel that we are actually in London, and Hong Kong, and Cambodia during that strange Spring of 1975 when thirty years of war were finally drawing to their chaotic close. In Smiley LeCarre has created a truly remarkable figure -at once remote in his brilliance and yet at the same time so human in his flaws and failures. here is a man who will read Goethe in the original to his cheating wife, smoke out a Russian spy in China, salvage a failing Secret Service, and yet try & fail to keep to his diet. Jerry Westerby, The Honourable Schoolboy of the title is in many ways the Everyman of the piece, we side with him, root for him, fear for him, and at the end, well I won't give it away! This is a Thinking Person's spy novel that will do just fine as "aeroplane reading" or as a serious glance back at those awful 1970's...
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4.0 out of 5 stars A James Bond for the MENSA set Oct. 30 2001
Format:Mass Market Paperback
This is volume two of what has become known as the "Karla Trilogy" (Tinker, Tailor being number one and Smiley's People number three). It is perhaps the weakest of the three, but the other two are so stunning that this assessment is hardly damning: this is still a wonderful book. I note that the plot is neatly summarized by a number of the other reviewers, so I'll skip it. I will also concur with them in noting that this is NOT the sort of book you read for James Bond thrills. This book more than any other of the spy genre shows the strategic skills necessary in espionage. What makes it so intriguing is that it's not just the obvious outsmart-the-opponent stuff, but the real down-and-dirty office politics kind of thing as well. Outsmart-the-ally, you could say. This is also the kind of book that makes you pay attention. Another reviewer noted that the end was "a mess." Yup, it is: in the sense that the plot lines are not all neatly resolved. Gosh, a spy book that's almost like real life. What a concept.
This book is also very much of its period. Do we really remember how DEPRESSING the early 1970's were? Once-treasured institutions were falling about our ears. And poor George Smiley is now at the head of one of them: the thoroughly disgraced British Secret Service. Captain of a sinking ship, as one of the characters says. His efforts to salvage some dignity for the organization are fascinating to observe: a display of sheer brain power.
It's typical LeCarre: extraordinarily developed characters, dense plot, intellectual rigor, vivid settings - and no one writing today strings words together so deliciously.
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5.0 out of 5 stars 5 Spent Spies Against Asian Backdrop March 13 2001
Format:Mass Market Paperback
The Honourable Schoolboy is the fifth Le Carre novel featuring the enigmatic George Smiley. After unmasking the mole in Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy Smiley is put in charge of the Circus, a position he should have had years ago based on merit. It appears that Smiley is one of many who were put out to pasture by Bill Haydon's nefarious activities over the previous years. Smiley, starting with his closest circle, must work backwards ruthlessly discarding people with questionable loyalty or little competence and finding others like himself who were purged by Haydon. In the process he finds Jerry Westerby living quietly in Italy. Westerby is resurrected and sent to Hong Kong to foil Smiley's arch-nemesis Karla. The result is an epic tour de force with Westerby's journeys throughout South East Asia presenting a fascinating counterpoint to Smiley's group working inside the Circus.
The Honourable Schoolboy contains a cast of fascinating characters. Smiley himself is the classic anti James Bond. He is middle-aged, plump and bespectacled. Unlike Bond he is not a ladies' man. In fact, his wife is serially unfaithful to him. In Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy his wife's infidelities were used by Karla to undermine him. Smiley has sacrificed whatever he had of a marriage to remove his vulnerability. Westerby is a stark contrast to Smiley; tall, athletic and a womanizer. In contrast to Smiley he lets his own torn emotions affect the way he does his work. There are also large assortments of supporting characters who are naive or scheming. It also features two of the most vicious characters ever employed in novels; Fawn and Tiu. Le Carre rarely showing any of their direct handiwork accentuates their viciousness.
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Format:Mass Market Paperback
The story begins in mid 1974 with the pullout of intelligence operatives from Hong Kong, for fear of the how much was compromised, following the uncovering of Bill Haydon as a Russian 'mole' at the highest levels of British Intelligence in London.
If that sounds like it has the makings for an involved and intricate espionage thriller then that's only part of the story. It's not the plots or the politics that are the gems in Le Carre novels - it's the characters. Character development is his forte'. No character is as well developed or more complex than the awkward and unlikely superspy George Smiley. On the other hand no character is as simple to get a grip on as the central character - Jerry Westerby, whose case name - "The Honourable Schoolboy" defines and contains him perfectly.
Smiley as head of the Service sends Westerby east to Hong Kong following the trail left by Haydon. The target - two Chinese brothers supposedly in the employ of his arch nemesis 'Karla'. Along the way Le Carre lets us peek at ex-colonial life in East Asia and he misses no opportunity to tweak the nose of the serious British Civil Service.
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Most recent customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent read!
The novel has gained poignancy since China regained sovereignty over Hong Kong in 1997. Instead of being outdated, what Hong Kong has become has added a layer of meaning to the... Read more
Published 3 months ago by Moss
5.0 out of 5 stars The honourable schoolboy
JOHN LeCARRE is not just a spy-story narrator, he is a GREAT writer! His prose is tight, imaginative and beautiful. His imagery is majestic. Read more
Published on June 8 2011 by Ursula Hovey
5.0 out of 5 stars Honourable Schoolboy
As an addict of Le Carre, the Honourable Schoolboy is my favourite of his stories.
The intricate plotting of the chase, the utterly realistic and flawed geniuses that make up... Read more
Published on May 24 2002 by Iain Macleod
5.0 out of 5 stars The Honourable Schoolboy
The Honourable Schoolboy is superb. Forget the "spy" genre it's categorized against. Ignore the (for me anyway) vapid liner notes about the "thrills and terror" of spys and their... Read more
Published on Feb. 14 2002 by Bradford Carder
4.0 out of 5 stars Honourable Spy
"The Honourable Schoolboy" is my first John Le Carre novel. It immediately brought to mind Graham Greene's, "The Quiet American" and the British miniseries, 'The Sandbaggers', by... Read more
Published on Oct. 28 2001 by Richard Cunningham
3.0 out of 5 stars MIXED UP MESS
Published on Sept. 14 2001 by DAVID N BLODGETT
5.0 out of 5 stars Le Carre's best, I have read it 3 times
Of all of Le Carre's books, this is by far my favorite. Like his others it dishes up his fascinating circus of characters and conversation. Read more
Published on Nov. 2 2000 by Earl Kulp
4.0 out of 5 stars Essential Le Carre: A classic of the genre
A book based on dichotomies, Westerby and Smiley. A must for any fan of the genre
Published on Sept. 2 2000 by M164239
5.0 out of 5 stars Essential Le Carre
John Le Carre's mistakes (e.g., "Naive and Sentimental Lover") are more interesting than most other writers' crowning achievements, but "Schoolboy" is as good... Read more
Published on May 8 2000 by C H Hall
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