The Russia house

by John Le Carré

Paper Book, 1989

Status

Available

Publication

New York : Knopf : Distributed by Random House, 1989.

Description

At a small British trade fair in Moscow, a message of global importance is made up of three very fragile human links: a Soviet physicist (code name Bluebird) burdened with a secret knowledge; a beautiful young Russian woman to whom the papers are entrusted; and Barley Blair, a bewildered English publisher pressed into service by British Intelligence to ferret out the source of the document. A magnificent story of love, betrayal, and courage. The Russia house catches history in the act.--Back cover.

Media reviews

Why is it that writers who take the bleakest view of the human condition - Pascal, Swift, Graham Greene, John le Carré - make such excellent entertainers? ''The Russia House,'' though bleak in its political implications, is essentially an ''entertainment'' in the Graham Greene sense. That is to say it is an exciting spy story, which is at the same time a lively international comedy of manners. The comedy is black, most of the manners being those of spies. The book is also a well-informed, up-to-the-minute political parable, incisive and instructive.

User reviews

LibraryThing member DanStratton
I have read LeCarré before and have like his work. I even saw the movie made from this book, starring two of my favorites - Michelle Pfieffer and Sean Connery. I didn't like the book at all. In fact, I didn't even finish it. It moved too slowly and just couldn't catch my interest. The style he used, switching from first to third person without warning, really left me flat. For the longest time, I couldn't figure out who the first person was. His shift to and from was so swift, it was hard to keep up. See the movie. Skip the book.… (more)
LibraryThing member Jim53
Here we have "Barley" Blair, head of a British publishing house, a man given to drinking and disappearing. A beautiful Russian woman gives one of his colleagues a manuscript for delivery to Blair; it turns out to contain military secrets. British and (ugly) American intelligence forces become involved, and Blair is sent back to Russia to pursue the relationship with the author, and of course with the beautiful woman.

LeCarre clearly intends that we like Barley but not take him too seriously. The narration by a lawyer working for British intelligence is an interesting choice, giving us an insider with a limited POV. I think I would have enjoyed the book more had it been tightened up. The style is competent, limited by the narrator and the situation, and is a good fit for the plot.

Earlier this year I said of LeCarre's The Constant Gardener, " A good book but too long and slow for me to recommend it with any enthusiasm." My verdict on The Russia House is much the same.
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LibraryThing member ffortsa
I didn't have my usual patience for this book. Not sure if it was my fault or LeCarre's.

Barley Blair is another of LeCarre's uncertain, awkward, vulnerable Brits led by a code of honor into the worst of troubles. It's perestroika in Russia and the ground is shifting under everyone, especially Barley.… (more)
LibraryThing member claraoscura
My first LeCarre. I loved it. I loved how the characters felt like real people, not just ubermen like James Bond. And the plot is amazing too.
LibraryThing member tommi180744
I enjoyed reading this book as much as I did the first time: Few books have that effect with me. It contains some of Le Carre's most insightful and finely crafted descriptive passages - he captures fragments of a Russia undergoing sweeping changes with the confusion of people unused to free choice and uncertain if it is what they want or their decaying Soviet masters will actually allow. Within that (now) spasm of historic evolution is the premise of the story: Everything Russians and the West have been told and assumed about the 'might' of the USSR is possibly a fabrication! The confusion, doubt and paranoia of the West is also on display. Le Carre portrays the crumbling Communist structure, but can something fall apart if it was never really there? The vaunted, Nuclear Weapons arsenal, the power of the State apparatus... If they're no longer genuine then all that remains is Russia's one and only real asset, its people. Who is Goethe? Is his manuscript fact or fiction? Is the great monolith USSR a reality or a an emperor with no nuclear back-stop!? Le Carre blends all that with a couple of superbly portrayed characters, Barley Blair and Katya whose love affair overlays the whole narrative. 'The Russia House' ranks in the top 5 of this masterful spy-thriller author's legendary work.… (more)
LibraryThing member MichaelHodges
The Russia House by John Le Carré (Published 1989)
If you seek non-stop spy genre action, this book is not for you! However if you seek a great yarn of intrigue and a wealth of conversational English of the upper crust variety, now mostly extinct, this book is the tops. For a“Jolly-Goood- showe- Olde Chapp”, Le Carré is the master linguist and overall word-smith. For most I expect this book is a tough slow 353 page read, but then some of us “old-school types” just love to be tried, and truly enjoy self-inflicted flagellation of the literary variety.

The story just happens to catch the last fading moments of the “Cold War”. Gorbachev experimenting with “Glasnost” and “Perestroika” led to the final and complete collapse of the formidable massive Soviet Empire. Reagan be dammed! However the “action” of this book did not dwell on this break-up as it had not yet occurred. The story therefore just made it before the Iron curtain finally collapsed. Much intrigue and much tongue- in- cheek occurs as the UK learns to play second fiddle to the US CIA cum Military –Industrial complex and the forever secret ways of Langley.

Barley is the British operative who just happens to fall in love with his Russian contact and he is the central character that in-spite of his unbelievable demeanor becomes, “the perfect spy”.

Carré, the former great spy thriller prolific writer has topped himself.

Carré connoisseurs claim this to be his best ever work.
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LibraryThing member br77rino
The ending was a bit week. The pages leading up to the ending were fantastically suspenseful.
LibraryThing member Novak
The Russia House. A good ten-minute spy story stretched to 393 pages by long meaningless conversations by pointless characters who have nothing to do with the plot. Because of the good prose it had me fooled until page 278 when I threw it onto the floor.
LibraryThing member BooksForDinner
Enjoyed this one, as with all le Carre, but not one of my favorites... thought it was a bit forced, trying to make a russia/england spy novel after the cold was was over and all... i think this was his last one before he moved on to different settings... still worth the read, of course, he's the master.

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