The Tailor of Panama

by John Le Carré

Hardcover, 1996

Status

Available

Genres

Publication

New York : Alfred A. Knopf, 1996.

Description

Harry Pendel is the charismatic proprietor of Pendel and Braithwaite Limitada of Panama, through whose doors everyone who is anyone in Central America passes; Andrew Osnard, mysterious and fleshly, is a spy. His secret mission is two-pronged: to keep a watchful eye on the political manoeuvrings leading up to the American handover of the Panama Canal on 31st December 1999; and to secure for himself the immense private fortune that has until now churlishly eluded him.

Media reviews

John le Carré's writerly skills are at work in ''The Tailor of Panama.'' The pace is nonstop, scenes are cleanly and economically written, and flashbacks are incorporated seamlessly into the narrative. The details of the tailor's craft are given entertainingly. And the conclusion, which should probably not come as a surprise, resoundingly does.

User reviews

LibraryThing member JustAGirl
Interesting spy thriller set in Panama after the collapse of the Noriega regime. Excellent sense of time and place and of the desperation of the characters making the best of a confusing time where no-one is sure of their future. At the centre of this Pendel, the Tailor, and Osnard, a British agent, each weave lies over lies and attempt to create their own realities, that in the end must crumble despite their ever more frantic story-telling.… (more)
LibraryThing member aketzle
Eh. I gave up. Decided it wasn't worth my time to finish.
LibraryThing member name99
Subpar LeCarre.

The story felt like an earlier draft of Absolute Friends, but not as compelling. Better than your average thriller, but still not recommended.
(And the disclaimer at the end about how the real British embassy staff are nothing like what's portraited in the novel kinda destroys the whole impact of the book. Why write a book implying a certain view of the how the world works then say, on the last page, "BTW I don't believe a word of this".)… (more)
LibraryThing member Eamonn12
Disappointed in The Tailor of Panama because I like John le Carre's books. The plot is a bit jaded. Man with past is blackmailed into being a spy by those who know about the questionable bits of that past, etc. This is a mainframe on which a good novel can be built. Not here, though. Things take far too long to get going and although there are plenty of examples of le Carre's wit and skill, they are weighed down by the very slow pace of the novel. It takes the first one-third of the book to get any action going, and while I am NOT a fan of 'action-packed' narratives, the story should pick up more quickly. As with Graham Greene, le Carre's 'heros' are usually flawed and drift towards their fate. This is the case here with Harry Pendel and his character is well drawn. Pity about the sluggish pace of his story.
'Arguably his best book since The Spy Who Came in from the Cold', says The times Educational Supplement on the cover. Well, no.
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LibraryThing member BillPilgrim
Very amusing story of an ex-pat Brit in Panama, who is pressured to become a spy, and who invents a whole world of intrigue out of whole cloth.
Makes me think that this is what happened to the USA in its intelligence gathering prior to the Iraq war.
The book was a bit slow going. The interspersed humor kept me going though.… (more)
LibraryThing member hermit
The plot though rather good, could not keep my attention. Some of the characters are well written, but others, seem to drag the book down. The book does not flow and you will find yourself putting it down to do something. The story is a satire on the time when America has just handed over the Panama canal. Though I cannot believe that any agency would fall for the information that was passed on by Harry, the tailor and would be spy. Of course I read the whole book, because my rule is once you start ....finish it. Other wise , I would have put it down.… (more)
LibraryThing member Sarielle
When I was younger, I almost never left unfinished a book that I once started reading. Even if it bored me completely and I didn't like it at all. I think it was because of school reading, which was often boring but I still had to read it. At the age of fifteen, I went with my mother for a two-week vacation abroad. No one had heard about kindle back then and we took only two books with us. One of them was by John le Carré. I read the second one in the first two days, what left me with twelve days and only le Carré to read. I could not make it. I haven't even gone through the first fifty pages of this book. I read from cover to cover all the magazines that fell into my hands (even those that didn't interest me at all), I read two newspapers in foreign languages that I didn't speak at all and probably some boring romance in English (and I didn't know English so well at that time, so it was quite a job). But in two weeks I couldn't read le Carré. Bored over the top and left with this one possibility, I still couldn't read this book.

Now, being a lot older, I decided to give le Carré one more chance and reached for one of his most famous novels, The Tailor of Panama. Oh, no no no no. Nothing has changed in the last several years. I still can't read his book. I forced myself as much as I could, reached a little over 40% and the thought that I have to read the next 60% is enough to make me feel miserable.

I can't even say what exactly I have a problem with. I think it's his writing style. Which stretches like chewed gum you try to unstick from under the chair, numb like a thirteen-hour flight after which you get a jet lag that leaves you totally confused and at times pseudo-poetic like poems of a thirteen-year-old with this bizarre pseudo-depth. Generally one of the most boring things I've read recently.

The situation is not saved by the plot or the characters. The plot may still be there, but the action is completely missing. Everything drags on. At a snail's pace. Scene after scene. Little by little. One meaningless conversation after another. Unhurriedly. From time to time a side thread that supposed to diversify the story and enrich the character, what story do I ask? And of course, a flashback, as if everything was not slow enough. Christ, how slow it is, counted in minutes! If you can handle this pace, that's fine, you might even like this book, but I couldn't stand it. After reading one page I was so bored that I couldn't bring myself to read the next one.

The thing is, Harry Pendel is even quite an interesting hero. But the writing style killed any desire to follow his actions in me. There was also something that irritated and upset me. I can't even say exactly what.

I was seriously wondering whether to force myself to finish this book, but reading it is such an unpleasant experience for me that I decided to abandon it. Le Carré is probably just not for me. I doubt I'll ever read his book again or finish this one. In fact, I'm so uninterested in this story that I don't even feel like watching a movie to find out how it all ended.
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LibraryThing member Cecilturtle
I enjoyed this novel for its mix of espionage, humour and thrill. One can't help but feel sorry for Harry Pendel, caught in his web of lies but fundamentally good, trapped in a world that does him no favours and for which he is ill equipped to survived. I also liked the cast of supporting characters, from Andy, greedy and mischievous, Maltby, surprising and opportunistic, Marta, mysterious and faithful. All are well developed, enticing and engaging.
The plot did have lengthy bits but never once was I bored. The politics were relatively easy to follow and I enjoyed learning more about a country I knew nothing about.
Not one of LeCarré's best, but certainly a good example of this work, and an entertaining read.
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