Tinker, Tailor, Solider, Spy- August Book Club

We move a lot. Since our book club is predominantly in the twenty- thirty age range and hosted at the home of all members we move a lot. 16 different locations have hosted book club. In the last three years, most of us have had at least two residences, some of us have had three.

This book club was at a new location as well. One of the guys moved into a condo with his girlfriend. She bakes. This is wonderful news. We oh-ed and ah-ed about the sleek, modern location, the fancy island/bar, the convenience of residing several stories above a bar, then we commiserated about the lack of bookshelf space and theorized other ways to cram them in.

We talked new jobs, new events, current politics. We caught up a little on each other’s lives. It’s the end of summer so there were five total members in attended, our host and four others. We went around the room, “Who has finished the book?”

Tinker, Tailor, Solider, Spy is only 380 pages. We had a full month. Not even the students could claim extra class readings. Embarrassingly, two had completed the novel, I was on page 300, our host was half way through, and the final member had read the first chapter.

Discussion isn’t structured in our group. We talk about what we found interesting, our visceral reactions, our favorite lines, we compare it to other works. There is a unanimous hatred of Ann. George Smiley is charming in his unexpected skill at the spy trade. We like the backstory of our author, knowing how sincere his knowledge about the industry is. Some people had seen the movie and discussed casting, expectations of the book based on previous plot encounters. Those who had yet to finished hazarded guesses to the “who dunnit” part of the tale. One member discussed how Smiley utilizes silences in his interrogation techniques. I read one on my favorite lines, which I think is the counter to Smiley’s silences, the physical modification of his verbal absences:

“It was then, I think, that an extraordinary feeling of unease began to creep over me… It wasn’t just his silence; his physical stillness began to get under my skin. Oh, I had known defectors who took time to speak. It can be a great wrench for somebody trained to secrecy even toward his closest friends suddenly to open his mouth and spill secrets to his enemies….But this stillness- this intense, watchful stillness- was a different matter.”

“I can understand,” said Guillam quietly.

“Can you? Sitting is eloquent business; any actor will tell you that. We sit according to our natures. We sprawl and straddle, we rest like boxers between rounds, we fidet, perch, cross and uncross our legs, lose patience, lose endurance. … His posture was finite and irreducible.”


We discussed if the tale qualified as capital-L Literature. No determination was made. It was an interesting a revealing discussion nonetheless.


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