In the small hours of blustery October morning in a south Devon coastal town that seemed to have been deserted by its inhabitants, Magnus Pym got out of his elderly country taxi-cab and, having paid the driver and waited till he had left, struck out across the church square.
–John le Carre - A perfect spy - c.1986
Group read with the Metafilter Book Club
Magnus Pym is a British spy. But after the death of his father he suddenly goes awol. His wife doesn’t know where he is, his superior officers don’t know where he is. He has used all his “craft” to escape from all those who know him.
Is he lost in grief? Or is he suffering some mental breakdown? Has he betrayed his country and defected? Or is he simply working a new line of investigation?
I’ve never read a le Carré book before. And to be honest it probably isn’t something I would have picked up without the prompting of the group read. But it is always a good thing to try something new, and so I figured that I would give it a go and see what I thought. Hopefully the upcoming discussion will point out all the things I have, no doubt, missed.
I really liked the style of the writing. Everything is written with purpose and for a reason. There is no waste here at all. Even that opening sentence tells you a lot about Magnus. he waits for the taxi driver to leave before crossing the square…
Of course, it isn’t really a spy novel, or at least I found it to be much more of a character study. Of a look at what happens when you have no centre and everyone you should be able to depend on is utterly untrustworthy. Magnus has no centre, and so, obviously he cannot hold :)
But, while I sympathised with Magnus I have to say that I didn’t like him as a character and so I didn’t really enjoy the book. It was really well written, and I think I will read more by le Carré but this isn’t one that I really enjoyed.