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The Spy Who Came in from the Cold (John Le Carré, 1963)
The Spy Who Came in from the Cold (dir Martin Ritt, 1965)
A Legacy of Spies (John Le Carré, 2017)

‘Peter Guillam, staunch colleague and disciple of George Smiley of the British Secret Service, otherwise known as the Circus, has retired to his family farmstead on the south coast of Brittany when a letter from his old Service summons him to London. The reason? His Cold War past has come back to claim him. Intelligence operations that were once the toast of secret London are to be scrutinised by a generation with no memory of the Cold War. Somebody must be made to pay for innocent blood once spilt in the name of the greater good.’

From that advance plot summary, I expected A Legacy of Spies to be a follow up to the events of Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy or its immediate sequels. In fact, it turns out to be a quasi-sequel to The Spy Who Came in from the Cold, Le Carré’s third novel but the one in which he broke out into mainstream success. I say ‘quasi-sequel’, because A Legacy of Spies revisits, and even to an extent retcons, the events of The Spy Who Came in from the Cold, and indeed can to a substantial extent be seen as a prequel, setting up some of the important plot points and filling in some key events between that book at Le Carré’s first novel (and introduction of George Smiley), Call for the Dead.

I’d never actually read The Spy Who Came in from the Cold, although I’d long ago seen a plot summary that revealed the key twist. (So, by the way, does this review, hence the cut below.) I read A Legacy of Spies when it came out, saw that it referred back heavily to the events of The Spy Who Came in from the Cold so then read that, and then out of curiosity watched the 1965 film, which currently features on Netflix’s list.

The Spy Who Came in from the Cold (book)

I won’t spend too much time on the original novel; if you’ve read it, you’ll know how good it is. If you haven’t – well, rather than have it spoiled, I suggest that you go and read it yourself. It’s short by modern standards, very readable, and although the underlying plot is complex (as much as I can say without spoilers) everything is clearly explained.

(Spoilers from here)

Discussion of crucial bits of plot )

A Legacy of Spies is highly recommended, although if you’ve not read The Spy Who Came in from the Cold I’d strongly suggest reading it beforehand. And once you’ve done so, look out the 1965 film, which stands up very well indeed.




Wedding anniversary

Sep. 15th, 2017 07:13 pm
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Today was out wedding anniversary.

I made Mike a card:


(I've only had the book on paper quilting for a year, after all!) Worth clicking to embiggen, ifIdosaysomyself.

Mike very kindly did all the mucking out.

(While he did so, I took Jo to the vet. Over the last week or so, she's been occasionally yelping or whining, but it's got more frequent and last night she had a particularly bad spell that involved her making a noise for a minute or so. The vet couldn't find anything particularly, but did think she was maybe not *quite* so keen to take her weight on one of her front legs. It may also be a neck thing, although she did have a good feel around there. Short walks and more painkiller than usual for a week, and we'll see how she goes on.)

We had a quiet lunch at home.

(During which I took some ibuprofen for a headache and Mike had a migraine pill)

After lunch, and Jo's walk, we headed off to darkest Sussex to look at a horse.

He's called Thunder Joe, a name which is definitely going to be unused in full.

We liked him enough to ride, and it seemed to go quite well.

Even if it did hail while I was on him, and we were in a field with overly-long grass, which is one of my least favourite places to ride.

We'll go back and see him again next week, with riding instructor, using a school that they can borrow just down the road.

If riding instructor answers her text messages....

Afterwards, we headed home again.

I'm not sure how the day has been utterly exhausting, but we're both worn out now!

We had a lovely special anniversary dinner...

(Party-left-over soup from the freezer, and the other half of the loaf of bread that neither of us ate much of for lunch

...and now we're on the sofa with a bottle of wine.

Thankfully, Mike did a run to France yesterday!

Smart duck

Sep. 12th, 2017 07:27 pm
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When we went to put the animals to bed (before dinner! The nights are drawing in.), Eskarina was sitting on her own by the pond. She looked up and wiggled a bit when I walked over to get the feed dish, but she didn't jump up and head for bed, which was ominous.

I gave Mike the rugs I was carrying (most of the boys rugs are off being cleaned at the moment, but their two thinnest ones go in our washing machine ok so I took advantage of a sunny, breezy day to de-stink them) and went to pick her up, which is when I realised that she had a piece of nylon thread wrapped around one of her legs.

Fortunately, she didn't wiggle while I untangled her, and even more fortunately she hadn't been struggling enough to have actually cut all the way through the skin. As soon as I'd finished, though, she was off with a flap of her wings and a squawk.

It got me thinking, though (after I'd picked up the rest of the thread and thrown it away): it doesn't really surprise me that, say, elephants go to people when they need medical help*: they're smart. Similarly, dogs do it because they're tame. Ducks, though, are neither of those things. My runners are fairly domesticated, but anyone who's ever seen the reaction when I have to pick one up knows that they're not at all tame**.

Mike pointed out that birds are quite smart for brain size, and it's true that I'd be fairly unsurprised if, say, a corvid that I'd been feeding did the same thing. On the other hand, I'd be completely astonished if the robin, who follows me around when I'm carrying the duck / wild bird food, nagging me to hurry up with it, did the same thing.

* Elephants also, I just heard on the World Service, go into stealth mode when in danger from people: they hide out during the day and travel fast at night if they know that there are poachers in the area. There are now plans to look out for this on the researchers' movement trackers, so that they can alert the rangers to be on the look out for trouble when they see that sort of movement pattern!

** Except Esme, she was fairly tame, poor little thing.

Sarah Canary by Karen Joy Fowler

Sep. 11th, 2017 09:55 am
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I'm continuing to work my way through Gwyneth Jones' Top Ten novels by Women SF Writers. This was Fowler's first novel, which I read when it was published in 1992, and it's just as rich and strange as when it first came out. To call it science fiction is to acknowledge that it was published as such. It's by no means a traditional genre novel. A strange babbling woman shows up in the Washington Territory in 1873. She becomes attached to a Chinese railway worker named Chin, whose uncle is concerned that a white woman in Chinese company will lead to trouble for the Chinese, so he asks Chin to return her to her people -- a risky business. Along the way they acquire other followers, including the innocent, delusional dreamer, BJ, and the menacing, guilt-ridden Andersonville survivor, Harold, and the crusading feminist lecturer on the female orgasm, Adelaide.

As much a story of the Old West and an American quest novel as a work of science fiction, Sarah Canary features a protagonist who is all thing to all people -- an immortal, a madwoman, an incomprehensible alien. It's full of folk lore, scientific speculation, tall tales, and magic realism. It's an extraordinary literary debut by a writer I haven't kept up with, although she's gone on to great success.

The boys are back

Sep. 11th, 2017 01:29 pm
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I have a bean-pod-cut, sustained while helping Mike prep dinner veg last night. It's a bit like a paper cut, but more absurd.

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