John le Carré

The Mission Song

"… it is certainly well done."



Synopsis: A multi-lingual interpreter, Salvo, specialising in central African languages is drafted in to do security work for the British government. He is the husband of a glamorous features reporter for a national newspaper and is on his way to a successful career and life in the British establishment until two events coincide to turn his life upside down.

He meets Hannah, a Congolese nurse working in a hospital and he is commissioned to do interpreting for an ultra secret project with a classified syndicate connected, at arms length, to the British government. Both events question and stretch Salvo's conscience and beliefs and lead him deeper and deeper into highly dangerous territory…


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Many assumed that at the end of the Cold War John Le Carre, one of its best fiction writers, would find it difficult to move on. Indeed his non-spy novels of the Cold War period were not his best. Since 1990, however, he has carved out a new niche as the world has changed, and a steady stream of novels has produced some assured pieces of work, especially The Tailor of Panama and The Constant Gardener. The latter, also dealing with Africa, showed that Le Carre had found a suitable subject matter for his skills – being able to combine the moral outrage and paradoxes of political complexity with personal lives stretched and turned out of kilter. This novel, however, is more of an extended lecture on Central African politics with a narrative and plot attached to it. This does not mean it is not suitable material for a novel and - being Le Carre - it is certainly well done. Indeed, if it weren't for the long (and perhaps necessary) explanatory historical and political passages it would be a thriller of class. But because of this stilted delivery and a slightly inconclusive ending the novel does not rank as one of his greatest.

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