Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy – John le Carré

Spy novels have always been a popular brand of book, with espionage being at the forefront of many thrillers and adventures. Most notably, there is Ian Fleming and his creation, James Bond, whose recklessness, only outshadowed by his enduring cool-factor, has captivated audiences for decades, primarily on the big screen where his exploits are shaken but not stirred (I couldn’t resist) with a squeeze of Hollywood glamour.

But then there’s this. Now, I’ve had the good fortune to read a fair amount of books for my age, with all sorts of peculiarities, but I was still relatively daunted at the prospect of reading a book entitled the seemingly gobbledygook name of Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy. I’d heard of it over the last few years, and became more interested in it with the release of its film, in which it was dubbed the intellectual thriller, but really? I was getting confused at the title, never mind the actual book. However, I read on, unfazed, and boy, am I glad that I did.

To start I’d like to say that John le Carré is nothing short of a genius in terms of the scope of the book. You don’t need to read long before you realise how extravagantly complicated and intertwined all the threads of the plot will soon become, and it’s a wonder that he could ever get to anything near a conclusion with what he’s attempted. For something to be so seemingly random yet, eventually, so true is something magnificent, and should not be scoffed at.

The content of this enigma is George Smiley, an experience but now retired MI6 agent. He, however, is asked to come back to help as there is reason to believe there is a Soviet Mole up the hierarchy of the system. Why him? For he’s the only one that can be trusted.

The narrative starts of with pace, the key events which make up the background coming through interrogations and flashbacks, before you have a lot of cards at the table with many possible solutions. You quickly realise that the Mole has the power, and that he has and will continue to have much influence in the Cold War if he remains, so it is vital for his stamping out. I shan’t say anymore in fear of giving anything away, but I hope that this backdrop will entice you to read (and perhaps re-read if you don’t get it first time round) the book. Once you get past the jargon (which I found definitions for on the internet), you’ll find one of the most intricate plots you’ll ever read.

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I thought this to be no better time to recommend a website called Loudmouth, which will soon be up and running. Currently, you can view its blog which will keep you up to date on all its actions before the big launch.

Loudmouth is a new institution which shall publish and publicize young people’s work on the web. It is sure to host many talented writers, photographers and, somewhere down the bottom, me. I’m sure it has got the potential to gain a great following, and it’s sure to have an array of extremely interesting pieces, ranging the whole spectrum of fashion, culture, politics, opinion, photos, creative and literature. Here’s hoping it will be  a success!

Here’s the blog: http://loudmouthofficialblog.blogspot.com/

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The Cone Gatherers by Robin Jenkins

Sorry for the lateness, everyone. A few things have cropped over the last few weeks, so I have been delayed in updating the blog, so oh well.

Anyway, as of late I have been reading The Cone Gatherers by Robin Jenkins and, having finished it a while ago, I must sing my heartfelt if late praises.

It is quite simply a wonderful book which portrays a very simple fable on grand scene. Set in a forest, it is about two brothers whose job is to collect cones, hence they are cone-gatherers. One of them, however, has a physical disability, yet is still amazing at climbing the trees and collecting the cones at great heights.

The grounds-keeper, however, has a vicious hatred for this man, the likes of which are the most passionate which I have ever read. He plots constantly to get rid of him, and tragedy is inevitable.

In his book, Jenkins explores great themes of innocence, deformations, morals and hatred, putting them down for trail in the simplest and most eloquent of manners. I shan’t write too much of the contents of the book in case of spoiling it, but you can take my word in saying that is a truly beautiful book.

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The Cone Gatherers Preview

I’m just about to begin reading The Cone Gatherers by Robin Jenkins, a book in which I meant to read a while ago but lost. Having now bought a new copy, with a quote from Andrew Marr stating it as the “best-kept secret in modern British literature”, I hope to start soon and post a review to go along with it.

For those who have ot read it, here’s the blurb: Calum and Neil are the cone-gatherers — two brothers at work in the forest of a large Scottish estate. But the harmony of their life together is shadowed by the obsessive hatred of Duror, the gamekeeper.

Set during the Second World War, Robin Jenkins’ greatest novel is an immensely powerful examination of good and evil, and mankind’s prosperity for both. Removed from the destruction and bloodshed of the war, the brothers’ oblivious happiness becomes increasingly fragile as darker forces close in around them.

Suspenseful, dark and unforgettable, The Cone Gatherers is a towering work of fiction, a masterpiece of modern Scottish literature.

According to all of that have read it (or at least of those in which I know), it’s a moving story filled with melancholy, and one which I hope to read and review promptly.

The Beach – Alex Garland

Cover of "Beach"

Cover of The Beach Movie

I had the pleasure of being recommended “The Beach” by a friend, but that pleasure pales to the actual activity of reading it. Not only does it bring up some major questioning themes (from isolation to insanity), but also some real, page–turning excitement, drawing the reader into a plot of a primal paradise, infused with the stoned inhabitants.

Richard, a bag-packer from Britain, is the narrator, telling us of a story in which a suicide occurs in the hotel room next to him (a thing which will effect the rest of his story), the meeting of a young French couple and the vague but sincere attempt to find paradise, armed only with a sketchy map.

Now, it may sound like a tired plot-line (”Look, a map! Let’s go see where it goes…), and it is has been compared to some of the classics, including Conrad’s “Heart of Darkness” and William Golding’s “Lord of the Flies”, but in its explorations of the rise and fall of paradise he bring whole new dimensions to the story, the likes of which I shall not spoil for you if you decide to read it but I shall say that its climax strips away a human’s personality to its most bare and primal level, an experience in which I think of as the same category as both Conrad and Golding.
Garland in his book “The Beach” has produced a riveting adventure, but so much more than that, and its voyage of self–discovery is unmissable.

New Year

As the 2012 trickles ever close by the minute in a quite literal sense (I am referring to my case, as many others in different timezones will no doubt already have entered the next new year), I’d like to take this space to wish all a very good new year, especially if the current one has been unsatisfactory.

I mean, it certainly has been eventful: enter rebels, exit Gaddafi; other Arab Spring chaos; Bin Laden’s death; Eurozone crisis; English riots; the death of Steve Jobs; and, of course, the tragic disaster of the Japanese earthquake. I have a feeling that 2012 shall also be exciting, and wish everyone the very best for it.

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Discoveries Through iPad

English: The logo for Apple Computer, now Appl...

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After much swiping, fiddling and general tinkering, I am starting to get to grips with my new iPad. Thus, I am now reading, typing and even listening to words with a certain type of joy. Though the iPad is not half as good as my Kindle for reading alone, as the latter device is lighter, smaller and has, of course, that iconic ink–like screen, there has been a few apps for consuming books which have taken my fancy, namely:
iBooks: the official Apple way to explore literature. Very nice.
Kindle: probably my favourite reading app, purely because I have my entire Amazon e–book library waiting in my archive.
British Library 19th Century Books: a brilliant collection of Victorian literature from the British Library, as mentioned in my “Merry Christmas” post. 100 books for free, and more if you subscribe.
Audible: audiobook merchant flying Amazon’s flag.

Also, for writing:
iWriter: a minimalist platform which lets you type with ease (as I am doing now). A function for italics would be appreciated, but it is a distraction free way of writing.
Pages: Apple’s official offering, which it claims to be the most advanced in the mobile industry. Good for more complex word–processing issues.

And, of course, who could forget the one and only…
WordPress: an app to keep this blog going. Bit primitive, and more features are wanted, but, nonetheless, a fast way to blog.

In short, the iPad’s literary potential, though not its primary function, are well above–average. Some may be faulty, some limited, but all suffice to my meagre needs.

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Animal Farm – George Orwell

English: Picture of George Orwell which appear...

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NOTE: I shall put after each character a quick note stating who they represent as far as its allegory to the Russian Revolution goes.

Orwell may have written his little satirical novella during World War Two, but its allegorical references and innocent significance remain relevant to this day, perhaps especially when you consider the revolutions, uprisings, protests and general unrest which unravelled throughout 2011. For if these rebellions are going to truly succeed, they must not only get rid of the original authority but replace with it a more justifiable counterpart or perhaps something completely different, like, in the case of anarchism, nothing at all.

In short, as I don’t wish to go too far into the plot, it is a story about a farm whose animals, after receiving inspiration from the late Old Major (Marx), decide to revolt against the authority which is the farmer Jones (Tsar Nicholas II). Lead primarily by the pigs and, more specifically, Snowball (Trotsky) and Napoleon (Stalin), it goes on to document (if that is the correct word) the events which follow, mainly concerning the misuse and mutation of the original ideaology set forth at the beginning, and how greed can so easily consume the good intentions of a revolution and lead it to an autocracy perhaps worse than the previous state.

But Orwell does not do this in an ordinary manner. Anyone who has read the book will have noted the very truthful and all-knowing third-person narrator, who seems to have no bias whatsoever, giving it a somewhat fable like feel. Some questioned this, but its importance as a mechanism for the book is invaluable. Unlike a political rant for carefulness during a revolt, this narrator seems much more believable, and, unlike a biased account, you feel like you’re getting the entire story. Indeed, in some aspects it is true that you could walk out of it believing something far from the author’s intentions, such as, for instance, pigs are naturally supeiror to other animals. It gives you no clues as to which side is right or wrong, and in that gives some independence for your interpretation of the novel, even if it need only be to use a bit of common sense. It is this innocence, this belivability, the like of which rarely seen bar in fairy stories (indeed, it was originally called Animal Farm: A Fairy Story), that makes the message of Animal Farm become amplified, and its lasting result resounding throughout one’s mind. All in all, a thoroughly good and, some would say, necessary read.

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Merry Christmas

I’d just like to say Merry Christmas everyone and I hope you get a good, festive variety of books! I suppose I should say that I’m writing this from my brand new iPad while reading a nineteenth century edition of Frankenstein by Mary Shelly on an a British Library app! Now that’s what Christmas is all about…


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BBC Two’s Sherlock Holmes

Chinatown, London. Benedict Cumberbatch during...

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I know it has been ranted, raved and reviewed in its thousands over the last few days, but I just had to take this place to declare my truly giddy anticipation for the 2nd series of BBC Two’s Sherlock Holmes. Benedict Cumberbatch will retake his role as Holmes while Martin Freeman shall trod along a few steps behind. It is bound to be a wonderfully well-crafted piece.

One of the few reasons I am so excited was on the sheer amazingness (Lord, there goes my vocabulary as a red zig-zagged line proclaims my inaccuracy) of the last three part series. Not only was it a good introduction to newbies to Holmes, but also rather enjoyable for Sir Artur Conan Doyle nerds, obsessing over each and every point of deduction. It deconstructed the aspects of the cases intricately, and its modern re-telling was witty and enjoyable (especially the detective’s love of nicotine patches in place of the classic pipe).

And this is not even to mention the cast, in which my respect for the skills is immense. Martin Freeman resumes his role with grace which I have become more than familiar with, and Cumberbatch is second to none as far as the character of Sherlock Holmes is concerned in my view (sorry Robert Downey Jr.), and I am sure they will both, alongside the rest of the actors, actresses and all those working behind the scenes, will continue with another great series from the greatest detective stories of all time. LONG LIVE HOLMES!!!


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