I'm listening to the audiobook, narrated by Le Carré. While I can see places where a professional narrator like Tom Hollander might bring a little more pep to the narration, while retaining the dry British tone, .istening to Le Carré adds a sense of authenticity to the read. It's a first-person account, addressed directly to the reader as if the reader and Le Carré were settled into comfortable armchairs, sharing a glass of something in a private room.
It's the story of a spy in his mid-forties, returned to England towards the end of his operational career after years of serving abroad, trying to decide what to do next.
At one point, he tries to explain to his, now at University, daughter, what it is he does, which is to persuade foreign nationals to betray their country. When he explains that some people do this because of their ideals, his daughter, rather sceptically, asks him to specify. What follows gives a great insight into how those who serve our present government may feel about them. The spy says:
"Let's say, just for instance, somebody has an idealistic vision of England as the Mother of all democracies or they love our dear Queen with an unexplained fervour. It may not be an England that exists for us any more, if it ever did, but they think it does, so go with it."
"Do you think it does?"
"Well, who wouldn't have for Christ's sake?", I reply, stung by the suggestion that I've somehow failed to notice that the country's in free-fall. A minority 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 break off. I have feelings too. Let my indignant silence say the rest.
"Then you do have serious reservations," she says in her purest tone, "even very serious. Yes?"
Too late I realise that I've left myself wide open. But perhaps that was what I wanted to achieve all along, to give her the victory, acknowledge that I'm not up to the standard of her brilliant professors and then we can go back to being who we were.
"So, if I've got this right," she resumes as we embark on our next ascent, "for the sake of a country that you have serious reservations about, even very serious, you persuade other nationals to betray their own countries." And as an after thought: "The reason being that they don't share the same reservations that you have about your country, wereas they do have reservations about their own country. Yes?"
I'm going to count "Agent Running In The Field" as my Guy Fawkes book.