... the plot unfolds with as much cryptic cunning as a reader could want, and le Carré’s people are perfection, most especially the Service’s grand poohbahs, all in a discreet tizzy when they find they’ve been snookered by some renegade, conscience-stricken apostate. The fabric of duplicity and betrayal, though gratifyingly present here, is not so devastatingly intricate and shocking as in, say, A Most Wanted Man—whose ending is never far from the reader’s mind. Silverview is a minor work in the le Carré canon, but it is enjoyable throughout, written with grace, and a welcome gift from the past.
Silverview, the final completed novel by the master of spy fiction, John le Carré, arrives 10 months after his passing, like light from a dead star to illuminate nothing less than the slippery nature of truth and the very concept of loyalty ... In many ways Silverview is a fitting conclusion to the long career of a writer who redefined an entire genre with the deceptive ease of pure genius ... In this final work le Carré has lost none of what made him remarkable: here are characters operating at the very limits of their own endurance, confronting fundamental truths that have the disturbing quality of prophecy ... The novel is exquisitely poised in the present moment, set in a flat Fenland scarred with relics of past conflicts, facing a sea that threatens to sweep all away ... In this concise, tightly focused novel, every reference has weight ... illed with joy in the resilience of the human spirit, and with love. Le Carré’s compassion for his characters shines through, along with the gleam of humour. It’s also deeply thrilling, in the best way: old spies resurrecting their tradecraft, younger men discovering whether or not they can trust their instincts, a multiplicity of small betrayals and one or two grand sacrifices ... It’s not a perfect book (if such a thing exists) – some of the characterisation feels stereotypical ... We had more from John le Carré than we had any right to expect: we can be grateful for what he left us.
... typical of le Carré, with its mysterious ebb and flow, the reader constantly wondering what Lily, Proctor, Julian and Avon could possibly have in common? ... E.M. Forster wrote: 'If I had to chose between betraying my country and betraying my friend, I hope I should have the guts to betray my country.' Le Carré certainly sides with Forster, with Silverview another of his formidable examinations of individual conscience versus the needs of state.
The world of the bookshop and its provincial neighbourhood is sketched in marvellous detail; so, too, is the world of the Proctors, an upper-class family of spies in whose household domesticity and tradecraft nestle comfortably ... If one were looking for the perfect novel with which to send off le Carre, Silverview is not it. It is weighted in favour of its front half and comes up light at the end. Yet, it contains moments of such brilliance, such displays of le Carre's signature wit and nuance, that you want to put it down with a wry chuckle ... Silverview is, to borrow a line from its ending, 'content, if not radiant' ... Le Carre may be off the top of his game here, but one is still reminded how splendid a player he was.
... a very fine finale ... Silverview is short and brisk (roughly half the length of any of the Karla trilogy) but is the better for it. There are no longueurs. As ever with le Carré, the most intriguing character is the most enigmatic, and most damaged. At the book’s end, a final twist emerges that results, surprisingly, not from the kind of conspiracy le Carré loved to concoct but from a sublimely imagined cock-up ... Time and again, le Carré was able to weave an entrancing, haunting world of his own, a feat repeated in Silverview. There are few writers to match him, and fewer who are still alive.
Julian is an improbable character but represents the standard Le Carré innocent who becomes entangled in a complex web of intrigue and betrayal ... The le Carré themes are familiar, idealism morphing into betrayal and the evocation of a Britain which has lost its sense of place in the world ... Silverview may not be in the top rank of the le Carré novels but, despite some structural creaking, is an engrossing read, juxtaposing public duty, loyalty and individual morality.
Le Carré favors the close third person, but every point of view has just enough opacity that readers can never be sure they’ve seen everything ... Typically, le Carré’s narrative warheads are lodged in his endings. The novels patiently build up to a final explosion, leaving readers with a greater sense of dismay than of triumph. Endings, for le Carré, were reckonings. This slender volume (just over 200 pages) does conclude, rather abruptly, but it lacks what le Carré has taught us to expect of an ending. You can wonder, indeed, whether he had quite got around to finishing the book ... if Silverview feels less than fully executed, its sense of moral ambivalence remains exquisitely calibrated. Besides, novelists of le Carré’s stature are not diminished by their lesser efforts; Henry James closed his career not with his masterly The Golden Bowl but the wanly schematic The Outcry. The Republic of Literature has room for both.
The closest the book comes to vintage le Carré is when Proctor drops in on a pair of old spies, a married couple named Philip and Joan, in a replay of Smiley’s visit to Connie Sachs ... Philip and Joan don’t just make the logic of the plot more explicit; they also articulate the underlying attitudes of many of le Carré’s books more clearly than his characters generally do ... It all concludes a little too neatly, the characters each a little too eager to drop the pretense of intrigue. The mood of Silverview is brisk and knowing compared with the melancholic, regretful tone of many of the Smiley books. The pace never really lets up. Everyone speaks and thinks in the same short, irritated sentences ... It isn’t really le Carré’s fault if Silverview is a less enigmatic novel than we might expect. For one thing, le Carré, who died in 2020 at the age of eighty-nine, never decided to publish the book ... Given the state of Britain, too, in recent years, it makes sense that the goings-on in Silverview have a brittle quality. Everything Smiley and his author disliked had become the dominant culture.
... one last thrilling novel ... Lily is a colorful character with language to match ... we as readers are blessed with this final contribution by the author of some of the top spy thrillers ever to hit bookshelves. Read it as a fitting tribute to this superb literary giant.
The ending is unsatisfying, which le Carré certainly intended. His message: Stop looking for happy endings ... the impatient reader demands, is the book any good? It’s okay. And okay le Carré is better than a whole lot of other books. He tells too much of the story in retrospective narrative rather than letting us live through exciting moments. The Svengali’s final scene, which could have involved some wickedly inventive tradecraft, happens offstage. The publisher pumps in a lot of white space to get the page count to 200. Still, even in a sour frame of mind, le Carré the stylist is a wonder ... If you’re a le Carré enthusiast, you should read this book with modest expectations.
All this scene-setting, it has to be said, takes its time to get going, and this in a slim tale of just over 200 pages ... the text still feels undercooked, as if le Carré had planned to drop more ingredients into the pot, and when the ending comes it does so rather abruptly ... It has often been said that le Carré is a novelist, not a mere thriller writer. Yet the thing is that, for all his protests that his creations were always more fictional than credited, what he excels at is giving us a plausible peek into the spy’s world ... The past is always what is most present in his novels, and in Silverview le Carré’s footing is surest as we follow Edward back into the 1980s and 1990s ... Here and there the paintwork still catches the light, but it is no late masterpiece. Yet lo! —what past glories sail on forever in its wake.
Thankfully, what le Carré has left us, is a thoroughly enjoyable book, more accessible and less complex than his greatest works ... manages to build on themes Le Carré has developed so skillfully — betrayal, mendacity, bureaucratic inanity and our willingness to accept black-and-white explanations of a gray world — over decades as one of the world’s best-selling authors.
... it’s possible—in fact, quite probable—that Le Carré held this manuscript back because it just didn’t feel good enough to release into the stream of public readership. While he was a master of the cryptic, turgid spy story heavily dependent on inference, association, and slender threads followed diligently to revelation, and while Silverview is written in this tradition, much of the uncertainty and mystery in the novel arise from an inconsistent writing style more than his famously furtive approach to storytelling. Too many sentence fragments, unattached pronouns, and floating strings of confusing dialogue leave us constantly wondering what’s going on from one paragraph to the next, who’s being referred to in a given sentence, and what the objective of a particular scene might be. As well, the novel gives us the feeling that Le Carré was thinking in terms of an extended storyline featuring these characters in other novels at some point in the future. As a result, it feels incomplete, perhaps almost half-baked .... However, Silverview is a gift to scholars, aficionados of the genre, and readers at large eager for one last look at the creative mind of an acknowledged master of his field.
... features the intriguing tradecraft of the espionage world, delivered with a skill that stretches right back to The Spy Who Came in from the Cold, but the preliminary ethos of the book is comic ... What develops is initially a bizarre comedy of manners with entertaining character interactions and the spycraft lore that is the sine qua non of le Carré’s writing. To give more away about the plot would be a crime ... But the humour of his characterisation is only one aspect of the book – le Carré at this late stage of his career is not ready to abandon the caustic betrayals of the spy’s life, which, even in a book of this brevity, echo the weight of his more sombre work ... a diverting if slender coda to one of the boldest writing careers of the 20th century, showcasing some sharply drawn characters ... In this posthumous farewell, le Carré is still showing us how literary fiction and the spy narrative can coexist in the same book ... Yes, the author’s admirers might have preferred a more weighty final novel with a tangible sense of threat, but this is what we’ve got – and we can be grateful for it.
At a mere 200 pages, it is far from ambitious, less a late-career magnum opus than a well-aimed parting shot ... Having shown how espionage encircles the globe, le Carré attempts in Silverview to take the premise to its next logical conclusion—that is, he attempts to prove that surveillance is by nature cannibalistic.
In almost every respect Silverview fulfils the late-period le Carré stereotype. It’s deftly and confidently written, but so slight you can easily read it in one sitting. In the very first sentence it’s raining. Everybody seems thoroughly dejected and nobody ever tells the truth. Most of the characters, in fact, are having affairs, thinking about having affairs, feeling guilty about having had affairs or worrying that other people are having affairs ... Since everybody is haunted by the ghosts of old betrayals, much of the narrative consists of people telling each other what somebody else did 40 years ago. And as always in late-period le Carré, nobody speaks quite like a real person ... The only real change from the late-period le Carré formula, in fact, is that this book is surprisingly unpolitical ... the actual plot is pretty thin ... Is the book weaker, then, for being so familiar? Maybe not. After all, just as Ian Fleming’s readers devoured the Bond books for the familiar staples of guns and girls, so le Carré’s fans will probably enjoy seeing the old formula given one last runout ... perhaps it’s the privilege of a great writer to repeat himself. And although Silverview never comes close to matching the achievement of Tinker Tailor or A Perfect Spy, there are enough reminders of the old magic to please his most ardent aficionados.
... passes muster. The stitches don’t show, and the novel possesses several elements of classic le Carré ... another picture emerges in Silverview: that of a lifelong idealist whose commitments (said to be a liability in intelligence work) transcend institutions, nations, and ideologies. Edward is, in the end, a man whose conscience won’t be outwitted by history, and unlike le Carré’s other stories of traitors and double agents who meet grim fates, Silverview is no tragedy.
If it weren’t for the fact that le Carré was one of the greatest novelists of the last 60 years, not to mention one of the most bankable, chances are this book would have stayed locked in the desk drawer ... Le Carré’s greatest books are made from this stuff, and when he’s at his best he turns out his stories with subtlety and precision. But in this book that sense of precision has gone awry and the result is a kind of vagueness, a loss of tension. In the end, the thing just falls flat.
This is a satisfying novel with some obvious but minor flaws. Le Carré's prose is occasionally bloodless... The romance between Julian and Edward's adult daughter feels rushed and artificial ... Much more often, though, this is an intelligent, mournful, wry delight ... The book's rueful tone is captured in a conversation between two experienced agents ... A former spy himself, le Carré was increasingly critical of America's and Britain's interventionist foreign policies. Perhaps his estate is sitting on another unpublished gem that we'll see someday. If not, this is a suitable end to a storied career, a low-key thriller with a brain and a conscience.
The pace of the novel is beautifully judged. As ever, le Carré moves between now and then, much of the narrative coming in conversations retrieved from the past, from Poland in the Cold War and Bosnia in the terrible break-up of Yugoslavia. There is just enough of the familiar tradecraft, most centred on Proctor, amiable, sympathetic, yet bound to duty ... Nabokov, in his Lectures on Literature, told readers to cherish the details. Le Carré was always a master of detail, and there are cherishable details galore here. It is, I suppose, a sunset novel, but what a glow it leaves in the evening sky.
Everything’s connected here. The reader only has to connect the dots ... There are the expected scenes in the Home Office, spies plotting with (and against) each other, but fewer than usual surprises, and no zinger twist at the end ... This slim (215 pages) posthumous volume is not le Carre’s greatest novel, but it is one of his most touching and satisfying – for putting into high relief this beloved author’s vision for his country and his disappointments, and perhaps most of all, the elegance and coloristic palette of his unique and incomparable prose.
Le Carré was always a superb plotter, and here he deftly arranges a mosaic of seemingly unrelated events and conversations that cohere into a full picture only as the book comes to an end. The narrative rewards yet demands close attention; unless you happen to note the make of a car driven by a mysterious unnamed woman introduced fairly early on, for example, events toward the book’s end might prompt some head-scratching ... Yet frustratingly, Silverview also feels unfinished—not in its narrative, but in the bits in between major plot points. Le Carré’s keen observational style and grasp of psychological depth seems muted here. Characters and locations feel only sketched out; the central character of Julian, the bookseller, is especially thinly drawn. The motive for the act of betrayal at the book’s center is never explained by the character responsible for it and only guessed at by others. Once you’ve completed the puzzle, it somehow feels as if some pieces are still missing ... a perfectly serviceable thriller, even if it is comparatively unambitious ... more a drinkable blended whiskey than the vintage single malt le Carré completists might have been hoping for.
It is arguably Le Carré’s greatest misfire since The Naïve and Sentimental Lover (1971), the first time he wrote outside the spy genre. One reviewer called that book 'a disastrous failure', another pointed to its 'fundamental indecisiveness', while another found it 'the product of self-indulgence and intellectual laziness'. The same might be said for Silverview ... Silverview reads like the start of an incomplete work rather than the finished thing; an aimless evanescence as opposed to the timeless masterpieces of half a century ago. It represents the nadir of a once formidable literary power that found himself out of joint with the times after the Wall fell.
... quieter and more implacable for its deliberate weighing up of things ... There is no denying that occasionally Silverview feels like le Carré is re-mixing some of his greatest hits but there is much fun to be had from his placing them in a contemporary setting.
It is easy and tempting to see constant farewells in a posthumously published novel, written at the very end of an author’s long life. But Silverview is so comprehensively suffused with the sense of a world on the edge of disappearing that this hardly seems fanciful ... Julian is John le Carré’s final ingenu ... his remaining innocence gradually stripped away by a surrounding cast so very much more in the know than he is, though what they know is frequently withheld or obscured. The overall effect is of a flickering unreality ... Silverview is, perhaps inevitably, slighter than le Carré’s greatest work; details are sketched, back-stories are conveyed through rapid bursts of indirect speech. There is a rather enjoyable sense of self- referential cliché.
... offers plenty to enjoy and admire. Crisp prose, a precision-tooled plot, the heady sense of an inside track on a shadowy world... all his usual pleasures are here, although it can’t be ignored that they’re aren’t always quite in sync ... If the book’s emotional clout rests largely on Julian’s thread, its most gripping moments emerge from Proctor’s, not least a long central scene during which, tracing a lead, he interviews a husband and wife spy duo in Somerset...If that doesn’t sound especially exciting, it’s testimony to le Carré’s undimmed gifts that the scene, essentially a hefty info-dumping session designed to fill in the blanks, unfolds with pace and maximal tension...there’s also fun to be had from his peculiarly mordant brand of workplace comedy, with a resigned drollery to his portrait of ageing empty nesters for ever chained to the job ... All the same, you can’t help notice that the story’s more persuasive parts involve the cold war machinations of le Carré’s salad days; as the plot charts a mazy constellation between communist Poland, the breakup of Yugoslavia and the struggle in Palestine, the story grows foggier, even as its ambivalence about the motives and consequences of British foreign policy emerges loud and clear ... If we’re left dangling by the end, there’s an added tease of sorts in the novel’s billing as le Carré’s 'last complete masterwork' – on the strong side, no doubt, but a tag that nonetheless holds out the prospect of rougher treasures still awaiting the light.
... superb ... In his trademark lucid prose, le Carré sets the scene for an atmospheric tale of betrayal, deceit and secret service malpractice ... The tension ratchets up as revelation follows revelation ... Fraught as it is with reflections on death and dying, Silverview is tinged with an autumnal sense of loss and the self-examination of an old man looking back on his extraordinary career. John le Carré, one of the great analysts of the contemporary scene, has left us a minor masterpiece of secrets and lies in spy land.
A shaky start aside – the opening scene doesn’t really earn its place in the novel – the book settles down eight pages in, and for one last time we’re in le Carré’s familiar world: its themes, its principals, its impeccable style ... Silverview has three outstanding set pieces, any one of which more than outweighs weaknesses of plot. Proctor’s interrogation of two retired colleagues, in which Edward Avon’s history is anatomised, is le Carré at his finest, revealing character and backstory through dialogue with an economy and grace beyond most writers ... where other genre writers might pump up their volumes with prolonged action sequences, here the conversational duelling is as exciting as a car chase ... With the publication of Silverview, it’s clear these virtues remained intact to the end. And if this final novel contains the occasional passage where we might feel we’ve been here before, such moments are tempered by the sadness of knowing we’ll never be here again.
Le Carré was never satisfied with the book because it was never good enough ... a couple of half-hearted plot-threads ... It’s heartbreaking to think of the various wispy, vampy character sketches in the pages of this book, only fleshed out by Le Carré at the peak of his late-style perception. And it doesn’t feel at all right to finish a Le Carré novel with a feeling of heartbreak. Silverview is more of an Irish wake than it is a novel. The truly faithful will put in an appearance, say a quiet word to the widow...and then go off to remember happier times. If John Le Carré had intended you to read this book, he’d have written it.
A slim thriller, it does have a somewhat condensed feel, with, at times, series of scenes one might imagine could have been expanded, but it is nevertheless a cohesive whole, a nice, tight story. Some reviewers have complained about the relative abruptness of the ending, but it too works ... a fine thriller ... le Carré excelling, as always, at the detail-work of it (silly though some the cloak-and-dagger stuff can seem). Julian is a necessary figure, but also necessarily somewhat simple; the rest of the cast of characters is far more intriguing, and certainly more fun, with Julian never quite the match for them ... a satisfying and nicely turned end to a novel that, however modest—especially compared to some of le Carré's more substantial works—nevertheless counts as a success.
The novel...makes a fitting requiem for the career of the man who brought a new level of complexity and humanity to espionage fiction ... Le Carré has made these points before, but here, in his last ode to disillusioned spies, he makes them with a somber eloquence that reverberates all the more for its finality.
Le Carré, who died last December, offers his many fans one final gift ... Le Carré plays out revelations about Edward slowly and teasingly, and, in the end, they’re as damning as you could wish. The real drama, however, is in the present, where all the characters are hopelessly intertwined and compromised by their loves and loyalties, none of them innocent ... The author’s last few novels have been increasingly valedictory, but this one is truly haunted by intimations of mortality.
First-rate prose and a fascinating plot distinguish the final novel from MWA Grand Master le Carré ... Many readers will think the book is unfinished—it ends abruptly—but few will find it unsatisfying. This is a fitting coda to a remarkable career.