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Reading: John Le Carré, A Delicate Truth, Toronto, Ontario, Canada: Viking, an imprint of Penguin Canada, 2013: a Review

Updated on October 29, 2015
Blending of the flags of the United States and the United Kingdom.
Blending of the flags of the United States and the United Kingdom. | Source
John Le Carré, Hamburg, 2008
John Le Carré, Hamburg, 2008 | Source

Likely to go down very well in Canada

John Le Carré, A Delicate Truth, Toronto, Ontario, Canada: Viking, an imprint of Penguin Canada, 2013, ISBN: 978-0-670-06716-9


This riveting read is by a best-selling author whom the Globe and Mail has recommended for the Nobel Prize for Literature. (And why not?)

As fiction, it is hard to put down, and in that sense shows the writer's craft to impressive effect.

The plot is fairly straightforward: secret, joint US-British, covert action claimed as anti-terrorist goes horribly wrong; but not only so, an ensuing cover up rewards participants at varying stages of being 'in the know', with what amount to expensive bribes to buy their silence or else hangs out to dry those whose consciences are troubled by the shedding of innocent blood and the perverting of legal processes.

At a deeper level, this novel seems to be a commentary on the state of US-British relations. While the writer does seem to focus almost wholly on the covert warfare and extra-judicial aspects of those relations, the book will — or ought to — make for uncomfortable reading for uncritical students of relations pursued with the US by recent British governments. Here we have an intriguing plot, against the background of the semantic minefields around concepts such as 'extraordinary rendition', 'collateral damage' and the practice of secret trials, with hand-picked jurors, designed not to embarrass either the US or British governments.

Of course this is likely to go down very well in Canada. My guess is that at 90 Eglinton Avenue East, Toronto, the headquarters of Penguin Canada, there is considerable satisfaction at accolades for this novel.

It's fiction, of course, But so often the sort of fiction that a novelist's readership appreciates is a variety which informs one's preferred vision of reality. This book would no doubt be the sort of title on Lloyd Axworthy's reading list.

This is Le Carré at his best; and my two Canadian cents' would be to endorse the Globe and Mail's Nobel Prize recommendation.

October 29, 2015


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