... 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.
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.