Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Family Book Swap: The Night Manager

Title: The Night Manager
Author: John le Carré
via Goodreads
My wife is a big fan of spy novels, especially the work of John le Carré, himself a former British agent.  Together, we have watched several screen adaptations: Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy, Smiley's People, The Tailor of Panama and The Constant Gardener.  Just recently, BBC and AMC aired a six-part miniseries of The Night Manager, starring Tom Hiddleston, Hugh Laurie and Olivia Colman. We both enjoyed it thoroughly and my wife used it as an opportunity to share the book with me.  For my side of the swap, I gave her Samskara by U.R. Anantha Murthy.  Her Goodreads review is here.

As we meet Jonathan Pine, he is the night manager of a ritzy hotel in Zurich.  The new guests for the evening are arms-dealing king pin Richard Roper and his entourage.  Unknown to Roper, Pine is already aware of him and the source of his wealth from a previous encounter in Cairo.  Roper had killed the woman Pine loved, or at least arranged for her killing.  Out for personal revenge and spurred by his own needs for redemption, Pine makes contact with British intelligence and becomes the point man in a scheme to bring Roper down.

After devoting some time to developing a credible back story, Pine ingratiates himself with Roper by rescuing his son in a staged kidnapping attempt.  Roper rewards Pine by giving him a cushy job in the operation.  While trying to gather information for his intel handlers, Pine dances around the suspicions of Roper's inner circle as well as the increasing affections of his girlfriend, Jed.

The differences between book and miniseries are many.  The novel was le Carré's first after the end of the Cold War.  Latin American drug cartels were the big concern.  The 2016 adaptation plays more on worries about armed militias in the Middle East.  In the book, Olivia Colman's character Burr is a man.  Jed is British in the book, American in the series with a different backstory.  The endings are significantly different, particularly important for anyone who has experienced one but not the other.

I think Hugh Laurie's involvement in the project (both he and Hiddleston also have executive producer credits for the miniseries) is interesting.  Laurie himself wrote a novel, The Gun Seller, which also dealt with the arms trade.  Clearly it is an issue of importance to him, explaining his willingness to play the villain and also, perhaps, the different ending to the miniseries.

I definitely recommend the book.  A lot of material is devoted to the bureaucratic battles behind the scenes in London.  That bit's not as interesting to me but as long as the story sticks with Pine, it moves quickly.

10 comments:

  1. I have recently begun reading John Lecarre. I am now reading Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy. Great book thus far!

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    1. Have you seen either the old BBC miniseries or the recent film? Both are excellent. Guinness and Oldman are both great, though quite different, George Smileys.

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  2. I got into Clancy for a while a couple of decades ago, but that's the extent of my spy novels, so far. I want to read a few of the Bourne books, but I haven't made space for them, yet.
    I did really like Guinness' Smiley, though.

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    1. Apart from Bond movies - which I consider obligatory - spy stories have never really been my thing before. Not to say I don't enjoy them. I just don't seek them out. Perhaps I will now.

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  3. I read the Night Manager a while back, and saw Tinker Tailor Soldier with Gary Oldman. He was very good in it as I recall.

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    1. Oldman's pretty reliable. The scene in which he cross-examines the chair - i.e. Karla - is well worth the price of admission.

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  4. Such a great, and continually relevant, writer.

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    1. I certainly like what I have read so far.

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  5. I think it's so cool that you and your wife do a book swap.

    I find that I like to watch spy thrillers more than I like to read them, but I'm making efforts to read more of them.

    So many twists and turns, and not all of them action packed. Still it's cool the way you break down the differences in the film and book versions. Sounds like an interesting read.

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    1. I think I'm with you on the watching vs. reading, though I haven't read enough of them yet to be a fair judge.

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