James Gault reviews The Little Drummer Girl by John Le Carre
I think I should be worried about myself. There I was, reading a book in my favourite genre written by the best author in that genre at the height of his powers. What else is there to do but enjoy? Well, not me! Instead I went through it with the back of my mind ticking over in anticipation of finding even the smallest flaw. It seems I’m cursed with a pathological determination to pick even the most microscopic and minuscule nit.
So did I find anything to criticise in this masterpiece of a psychological thriller? Of course I did, I’m nothing if not persistent.
The story has the Israeli secret service persuade a young idealistic actress with very strong pro-Palestine leanings and connections to jump ship and come over to their side. How do you make that credible? Le Carre does a good job of it. The clever psychological games and manipulation of her emotional vulnerability seem to do the trick, but I was never entirely convinced. But that could just be me: just my inbuilt resistance to suspending my disbelief.
And of course, it’s a long book and a slow read. It has to be. Mind manipulation is a long and complex process. You need to repeat the message over and over to achieve successful brainwashing, but did the author overdo it a bit? Maybe.
All the same, it’s a great read. Great plot, wonderful characters with just the right balance between being good and evil. And, for awkward characters like me, it comes with the added exhilaration of finding some small nits to pick. Loved it.
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