Oh what a marvelous novel. I’ve read a few books by John Le Carré but it was a long time ago, a few in the 1980s I think, and then a couple more later. I always enjoyed them but not enough to really pursue. His son, Nick Cornwall, finished Silverview after Carré’s death and it was published in 2021.
Silverview: A Novel
by John le Carré
2021 (223 pages)
Read by: Toby Jones 6h 28m
Rating – 9.5/A; espionage
This seemed different from Le Carré’s prior novels in that there’s a certain edginess missing. But that’s replaced in some way with a slight melancholy which is wonderfully well rendered. It’s the end of things, the winding up and closing for Carré as well as for certain characters in the book.
There is still that characteristic “moral ambivalence” which has been widely noted. Silverview is not your typical spy novel in which there’s a “good guy” and “bad guy” who chase each other around a needle disguised. The tricks and deceptions and secretiveness are all still there though.
“Who do we find when we pull away the layers of disguise?”
The 33-year old Julian Lawndsley left his lucrative job in the big city to move to a small town by the sea and open a bookshop. Then one day Edward Avon, a neighbor and retired academic who lives just up the road at the Silverview mansion pays a visit. As it turns out, that’s not all quite accurate. Edward is really a field agent for England’s MI6. But he’s a charming old duff who seems to know quite a lot about Julian’s family so without being aware of the reality, Julian is talked into opening a “Republic of Literature,” a special bookstore-within-a-bookstore and the two become good friends- kind of.
Meanwhile, Stewart Proctor, the chief of domestic security has received a letter telling of multiple leaks from his agency and he’s checking out leads. Edward Avon, and by association Julian, come within his scope. These three men are as different as they can be. Julian is innocence itself, almost a bystander, but sucked right into the vortex. Edward is like a chameleon who becomes whatever appearance is called for on the outside but always maintaining a solid commitment to his inner morals and convictions on the inside. And there’s Proctor who doesn’t understand Edward a bit, but is as much a “company man” as anyone.
And there are women involved – Edward’s wife and their adult daughter as well as a beautiful and mysterious woman called Mary, and the married couple who were Edward’s prior handlers. So the tale becomes more complex although NOT as complex as many of Le Carré’s novels. It seemed perfect for me, for now. And I may have to go hunt up some of the adventures I missed from long ago.