Friday 24 June 2022



In Silverview, John le Carré turns his focus to the world that occupied his writing for the past 60 years - the secret world itself.

Julian Lawndsley has renounced his high-flying job in the City for a simpler life running a bookshop in a small English seaside town. But only a couple of months into his new career, Julian's evening is disrupted by a visitor. Edward, a Polish émigré living in Silverview, the big house on the edge of town, seems to know a lot about Julian's family and is rather too interested in the inner workings of his modest new enterprise.

When a letter turns up at the door of a spy chief in London warning him of a dangerous leak, the investigations lead him to this quiet town by the sea.... 

Silverview is the mesmerising story of an encounter between innocence and experience and between public duty and private morals. In his inimitable voice, John le Carré, the greatest chronicler of our age, seeks to answer the question of what we truly owe to the people we love.

My second time reading John Le Carre's work having read the first Smiley book over a decade ago. Le Carre is one of those authors whose work I hoovered up determined to read it all. Not going very well really, is it? Silverview is his last published work and appeared posthumously after the author's death in 2020.

It's quite a short book and I'm probably going to listen to it again at some point in the hope of understanding it all a bit better.

Spies, retired spies, dying spies, the daughter of spies, a banker turned bookseller, secrets, cultivated friendships, relationships, duplicity, errands, connections, leaks, intelligence concerns, death, grief, love, betrayal, duty, service, disenchantment and a lot more besides. 

I enjoyed it, even if I didn't fully comprehend what it was trying to tell me. Some folks, better acquainted with Le Carre's work than me have opined that there's maybe an unfinished/work-in-progress feel to the book, that perhaps Le Carre wasn't quite done with it. I don't know. 

I was entertained. I liked the writing, the characters, and the story. I enjoy relationship dynamics and how people connect with each other, with what they reveal and what they hide and the subtle ways they manipulate and direct others. Maybe when I've read more of his work, I can properly judge whether it's one of his better books or not. For now, I liked it. 

4 from 5

Read - (listened to) February, 2022
Published - 2021
Page count - 216 (6 hrs 29 mins)
Source - Audible purchase
Format - Audible


  1. I've always liked his writing, Col, especially the way he develops his characters. It's good to know this one is also well-written. I'd like to get back to his work - not sure when that'll happen - and I'm going to keep this one in mind if I do.

    1. Margot, he is defintely an author I've ignored for too long.

  2. JLC is the best and if you agree this non-promotional anecdote will be of interest. Talking of espionage, whether you’re a le Carré connoisseur, a Deighton disciple, a Fleming fanatic, a Herron hireling or a Macintyre marauder you will love this anecdote. If you don't love all such things you might learn something so read on!

    There is one category of secret agent that is often overlooked … namely those who don’t know they have been recruited. For more on that topic we suggest you read Beyond Enkription (explained below) and this very current article on that topic by the ex-spook Bill Fairclough. The article can be found at website in the News Section. The article (dated July 21, 2021) is about “Russian Interference”; it’s been read over 20,000 times. Anyway, since you seem to be interested in all things espionage we guess you’re interested in Oleg Gordievsky, so this anecdote should make for compulsory reading.

    John le Carré described Ben Macintyre’s fact based novel, The Spy and The Traitor, as “the best true spy story I have ever read”. It was about Kim Philby’s Russian counterpart, a KGB Colonel named Oleg Gordievsky, codename Sunbeam. In 1974 Gordievsky became a double agent working for MI6 in Copenhagen which was when Bill Fairclough aka Edward Burlington unwittingly launched his career as a secret agent for MI6. Fairclough and le Carré knew of each other: le Carré had even rejected Fairclough’s suggestion in 2014 that they collaborate on a book. As le Carré said at the time, “Why should I? I’ve got by so far without collaboration so why bother now?” A realistic response from a famous expert in fiction in his eighties!

    Gordievsky never met Fairclough, but he did know Fairclough’s handler, Colonel Alan McKenzie aka Colonel Alan Pemberton. It is little wonder therefore that in Beyond Enkription, the first fact based novel in The Burlington Files espionage series, genuine double agents, disinformation and deception weave wondrously within the relentless twists and turns of evolving events. Beyond Enkription is set in 1974 in London, Nassau and Port au Prince. Edward Burlington, a far from boring accountant, unwittingly started working for Alan McKenzie in MI6 and later worked eyes wide open for the CIA.

    What happens is so exhilarating and bone chilling it makes one wonder why bother reading espionage fiction when facts are so much more breathtaking. The fact based novel begs the question, were his covert activities in Haiti a prelude to the abortion of a CIA sponsored Haitian equivalent to the Cuban Bay of Pigs? Why was his father Dr Richard Fairclough, ex MI1, involved? Richard was of course a confidant of British Prime Minister Harold Macmillan, who became chief adviser to JFK during the Cuban missile crisis.

    Len Deighton and Mick Herron could be forgiven for thinking they co-wrote the raw noir anti-Bond narrative, Beyond Enkription. Atmospherically it’s reminiscent of Ted Lewis’ Get Carter of Michael Caine fame. If anyone ever makes a film based on Beyond Enkription they’ll only have themselves to blame if it doesn’t go down in history as a classic espionage thriller.

    By the way, the maverick Bill Fairclough had quite a lot in common with Greville Wynne (famous for his part in helping to reveal Russian missile deployment in Cuba in 1962) and has also even been called “a posh Harry Palmer”. As already noted, Bill Fairclough and John le Carré (aka David Cornwell) knew of each other but only long after Cornwell’s MI6 career ended thanks to Kim Philby. Coincidentally, the novelist Graham Greene used to work in MI6 reporting to Philby and Bill Fairclough actually stayed in Hôtel Oloffson during a covert op in Haiti (explained in Beyond Enkription) which was at the heart of Graham Greene’s spy novel The Comedians. Funny it’s such a small world!

  3. No problem - glad you appreciated it - maybe much more to come!

  4. A relatively short book by le Carre. That should be some motivation for me to read it. I still have lots of books by this author to read, although I was unsuccessful with The Night Manager. One of the few books I could not finish. I have read almost all of the Smiley books.

    1. I enjoyed the adaptation of The Night Manager for TV. I've seen more of his work on screen than I've read. That needs to change.

  5. Reading espionage thrillers before or after watching them on the celluloid screen can be illuminating.