What an interesting read “Agent running in the field” is.
Not that one would expect anything less from John Le Carré, but this latest addition to the world of spy fiction has a powerful parallel leitmotiv running through the book, that drives the plot.
It is Brexit, and how Britain is in the midst of a crisis of her own making, a country seemingly adrift.
Alongside a well-crafted Le Carré story of intelligence work and political loyalties, there is the story of Brexit and of a morally impoverished country, seemingly weary of the whole mess.
The city of London, the backdrop for much of the book, seems exhausted and a bit down at heel.
Nat, a 47 year old intelligence officer, is symptomatic of the malaise – after years abroad, Nat is slightly out of step with the UK, with his employers, and with the political reality of Britain drifting aimlessly towards Brexit.
Intelligence work takes place in this powerful book, but it is not the glamorous cloak and dagger stuff of yore. There are no elegant, charismatic heroes. No worthy (or even unworthy) villains. Just a dusty, almost-forgotten office, ironically called the Haven, and budget cuts, and cheap car rentals, and an overweening feeling of exhaustion.
Mr. Le Carré, other than using a few anachronistic words like “swain” and “bobby”, speaks in an altogether different tone for much of this book. You can feel the author’s palpable anger with the whole Brexit mess, and with the venality and incompetence of politicians, both British and American.
Take this powerful statement from Nat:
“…I reply, stung by the suggestion that I’ve somehow failed to notice that the country’s in free fall. “A minority Tory cabinet of tenth-raters. A pig-ignorant foreign secretary who I’m supposed to be serving. Labour no better. The sheer bloody lunacy of Brexit.”
I loved an early review of the book, where it was gleefully pointed out that the quote unquote pig-ignorant foreign secretary is now the British PM.
Mr Le Carré also clearly revels in some of the earthier new language used to describe the sheer disastrous levels of British politics these days:
“Guy Brammel has come up with a grudgefuck theory,” he runs on, delighting in the term like a naughty boy. “Ever heard that one before? Grudgefuck?”
“I’m afraid not. Cluster only recently, and never grudge. I’ve been abroad too long.
Me neither. Thought I’d heard everything…”
Great read, lots of typical Le Carré twists and turns, right up until the closing paragraphs – which obviously I’m not going to reveal and therefore spoil things for you.
Hats off to a veteran writer for an impassioned, outspoken spy thriller.
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So here you go!