Re-reading The Novels of John le Carré

Mick Herron at the TLS:

Re-reading is often deemed comfort reading, and of course it can be. But books that are embedded in your history are rich in association, and picking them up often retriggers the emotions they provoked the first time, emotions allied to the feeling of being young. Comfort reading can be the most uncomfortable kind of all. I remember buying The Honourable Schoolboy at a bookshop in Newcastle that no longer exists; I remember taking it on a marathon coach journey, the length of the country; and I remember reading much of it in my first ever hammock in blistering sunshine – my first foreign holiday, not far from Nîmes. Similarly, it matters to me that my copy of Smiley’s People – a first edition given to me as a birthday gift – is identical to the one I borrowed from my local library in 1979 or 80. When I pick it up, I feel my younger self tugging at my sleeve, asking for his book back.

The Honourable Schoolboy’s plot bestrides the “Far East” but begins in London’s dusty corners, with gossip. Le Carré’s world is rife with bitchiness and rumour, with espionage carried out among the filing cabinets: we’re in the world after the fall now, hearing “the last beat of the secret English heart”.

more here.