Oh John le Carré! I really thought all your books were boring (even though I've only attempted one before this), but you've redeemed yourself with Our Kind of Traitor!
For those of you unaware of my relationship with le Carré, it all started this past summer when I picked up one of his most well-known novels, The Constant Gardener. Both my twin sister (who's currently in France and blogging all about it here) and my mom loved it. I thought I would too. I was wrong. It was just too hard to get into. The plot istelf is interesting enough, but for some reason, I was bored. I read about 150 pages and decided to put The Constant Gardener on hold. Why?? For one, the main character seemed fake and annoying and boring. Also, the writing just didn't flow like it should have. I could not finish the book! (I do, however, really want to see the movie! I mean, c'mon-Evie from The Mummy is in it!!)
So when I saw that le Carré had a new book coming out, I was surprised when I actually found myself requesting a copy for review. I guess I wanted to give this world-renowned spy-novelist a second chance. And I was ridiculously surprised when I started reading Our Kind of Traitor and could not put it down! Now, I don't normally find myself flocking to spy novels, but I love a good one every so often. This one, while it had its flaws (specifically the ending), was really entertaining.
Our Kind of Traitor follows an English couple, Gail and Perry, to Antigua, where they have decided to take a much needed vacation from their hectic lives. There, they meet a Russian business man named Dima, who won't leave them alone and treats the couple like old friends. Dima and Perry both adore tennis, which becomes kind of important. (The tennis parts can be a bit boring at first because you don't really get what's happening. Then they get better.) When Dima tells Perry a secret and asks him to barter with British intelligence for him, Gail and Perry end up in a wholly different world than the one they live in, a world where money laundering and mafias are the norm and corruption is a way of life. Are Perry and Gail getting in over their heads as they become pawns in British intelligence's game of cat and mouse?
I think what I loved most about Our Kind of Traitor were the characters. Unlike in The Constant Gardener, these characters-Perry, Gail, Dima, and even Britain's spies-have wonderful and lively personalities. Perry and Gail really are those normal people who get in way over their heads. Le Carré captured the personalities and quirks of his characters beautifully, to the point where you really feel like a lot of the characters are old friends of yours.
Another aspect I loved that kept me engrossed was the way le Carré told the story. Most of the book is either present tense or told in stories. Perry and Gail spend a good part of the book sitting with British intelligence recounting what happened in Antigua. You only get pieces of the story at a time, and I was constantly pondering, "OMG what happened?!".
The story itself was great, which then leads me to the not-so-fabulous ending. Remember my little rant about books that end with a bang, a bad bang? Well that post referred to this book. I don't want to give anything away, but let me just say that I was disappointed. Not that I didn't see this coming, it's just that there are so many loose ends that were never tied up. And the ending, in my opinion, came too abruptly. Things aren't explained. But I guess we're just left to make up our own conclusions. If you've read this or are planning on reading it, hit me up on Twitter (my username is tomgirl571), because I'd love to hear your take on how Our Kind of Traitor ended.
The ending aside, I really enjoyed this book. I would have really loved it if the ending had been better, but I'm still glad I read it. I'd recommend this to anyone who's a fan of good spy novels. It was entertaining, fast-paced, and just an overall great read. Just be prepared for a less-than-stellar ending. I'm definitely looking forward to reading more of John le Carré's books in the future. If they are anything like this, I'm sure I'll love them.
I might even give The Constant Gardener a second chance ;) (Or not..)
Our Kind of Traitor was written by John le Carré and is out today, October 12th! For more info on the book or author, check out johnlecarre.com.
Title: Our Kind of Traitor
Author: John le Carré
Date of Publication: October 12, 2010
Number of Pages: 320
Source: Review copy from publisher