Friday, October 28, 2005

Absolute Friends

Friday, October 28, 2005
For nearly 400 pages I knew what I was going to say about John le Carre's Absolute Friends. I was going to write about how this book was very well regarded and had nearly unanimous critical acclaim. I can't remember ever hearing a bad word about the book (thought now that I check Amazon, there are some negative reviews about the politics of the book). I was also going to write that despite all the praise I couldn't get a sense of what this book was about. At all.

The first 400 pages still bother me. It was well written and they follow Ted Mundy, a Brit born in Pakistan and son of a former career military man very disillusioned with England. The book begins with Mundy as a middle aged man working as a tour guide at a castle in Germany and then goes back to his youth growing up in Pakistan and having to leave the country, then living in Germany as a young man where he meets Sasha a left wing socialist radical and he gets involved in that movement. Pages and pages are spent on this showing that Mundy is a radical, but not nearly as fervant as Sasha or the others.

Flash forward and Sasha reconnect with Mundy and somehow Sasha is a spy and Mundy gets drawn into it working for England against the East and I'm not entirely sure what Mundy believes. Not sure he does, either.

When Mundy is brought into the spy game is when the book got interesting for me, but there didn't seem to be much purpose to it. So much happened off the page, and I was missing whatever sort of commentary le Carre had on modern day espionage, terrorism, and the like. I just didn't see it.

Then we get to the last 50 pages or so and it hit. Everything came together, the ending was excellent and it was quite clear what le Carre's point was.

I'm not going to say that 50 pages made up for 400, or even for the first 300 if you call that other hundred pages a wash, but I'll be damned if it didn't spin my mind on how exactly I feel about the book.

I can't recommend it, because there is too much that made me weary, but I feel the ending is worth the effort and it is easy to see le Carre's disgust with today's world and even America's behavior in it.

The ending does redeem much of what came before it, but the meat of a novel shouldn't need redeeming.


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