Monday, November 30, 2009

Found wanting? The critics diverge on le Carre's latest.(BOOKS IN THE MEDIA: PRESS).

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The most reviewed title by far this weekend was John le Carre's return to the espionage novel in A Most Wanted Man (Hodder, 9780340977064, 18.99 [pounds sterling]), and it attracted both admiration and dismay from critics.

Henry Sutton, writing in the Daily Mirror, proclaims: "Once again, le Carre proves he's so much more than a thriller writer by tackling very urgent themes with rare insight and clarity," while Peter Millar in the Times hails "a timely work of intelligent insight, rare humanity and cynical realism". The Sunday Times' Stephen Amidon writes that le Carre's "narrative power and abiding humanity remain intact" while Barry Forshaw in the Daily Express praises his "idiosyncratic characterisation and elegant prose".


Hari Kunzru in the Saturday Guardian states that A Most ... is "an uneven book, but despite its flaws it stands as one of the most sophisticated fictional responses to the war on terror yet published, a humane novel".

Other critics were more damning. Gilbert Adair, writing in the Financial Times, found the novel a "startlingly slipshod effort", concluding: "it felt to me throughout ... that the job le Carre was attempting to do is performed more thoroughly and hauntingly by investigative journalism".

Two reviews in the Independent reflect the critics' divergent views, with Tim Martin on Saturday approving of le Carre's "rare lightness of touch", adding: "[he] creates plausible, breathing characters ... black, brilliant, hypnotic stuff', whereas Joan Smith writing on Friday complains: "It is fiction as polemic ... a surprisingly dull read".

A considered response comes from the former director general of MI5, Stella Rimington, who writes in the Daily Mail, "I award A Most ... eight marks for readability and style, but no more than four marks for reality."


* = Top form, ** = Flawed but worth a read, *** = Disappointing

Masters and Commanders by Andrew Roberts (Allen Lane 9780713999693 25 [pounds sterling])

** Daily Express

** Mail on Sunday

** Sunday Telegraph

** Sunday Times

"Couched in elegant prose ... a masterpiece of robust historical analysis" Daily Express

"Excellent book" Mail on Sunday

"Exhaustively researched and judiciously written" Sunday Telegraph

"A profoundly human story" Sunday Times

The Age of Wonder by Richard Holmes (HarperPress 9780007149520 25 [pounds sterling])

** Daily Telegraph

** Independent

** Times

* Sunday Telegraph

"A portrait of bold adventure among the stars ... deep into matter, poetry and the human psyche" Independent

"Generous and hugely enjoyable" Daily Telegraph

"Well paced and rich in detail" Times

"No biographer is better at evoking the thrill of the chase" Sunday Telegraph

The Believers by Zoe Heller (Fig Tree 9780670916122 16.99 [pounds sterling])

* Daily Express

* Daily Mail

* Daily Telegraph

"A compelling read" Daily Express

"She has used her pencil to spear just about everyone. A brilliant, brilliant book" Daily Mail

"Pulses with thematic and intellectual content" Daily Telegraph


Title Author Publisher

Cartoons and Coronets Osbert Lancaster Frances Lincoln
The Believers Zoe Heller Fig Tree
Dear Fatty Dawn French Century
Downing Street Diary Bernard Donoughue Cape
To Love, Honour and Betray
Kathy Lette Bantam
Nation Terry Pratchett Doubleday
The House of Wittgenstein Alexander Waugh Bloomsbury
A Good Girl Comes Undone Polly Williams Sphere
A Daughter's Love John Guy Fourth Estate
Liver Will Self Penguin
Out of the Blue Chris Yates Hamish Hamilton
The Great Crash Selwyn Parker Piatkus
The Mad Science Book Reto U Schneider Quercus
Eyewitness to History Robert Fox (ed) Folio Society
Have You Seen? David Thomson Allen Lane
How the Dead Dream Lydia Millet Heinemann
The Snowball Alice Schroeder Bloomsbury
What Next? Chris Patten Allen Lane
Anathem Neal Stephenson Atlantic
Balti Britain Ziauddin Sardar Granta
Britain Since 1918 David Marquand Weidenfeld
Dostoevsky Rowan Williams Continuum
Hot, Flat and Crowded Thomas Friedman Allen Lane
McKie's Gazetteer David McKie Atlantic
Sissinghurst Adam Nicolson HarperPress
The Lemur Benjamin Black Picador
The Stepmother's Diary Fay Weldon Quercus
All Our Worldly Goods Irene Nemirovsky Chatto
Belching Out the Devil Mark Thomas Ebury Press
China Witness Xinran HarperPress
The First Person and Other
Stories Ali Smith Hamish Hamilton
Indignation Philip Roth Cape
My Judy Garland Life Susie Boyt Virago
The English House Clive Aslet Bloomsbury
The Grid Jeremy Reed Peter Owen
Ghost Train to the Eastern
Star Paul Theroux Hamish Hamilton
Thomas Beecham: ... With
Music John Lucas Boydell Press
Alasdair Gray Rodge Glass Bloomsbury
Chicago Alaa al Aswany Fourth Estate
Pompeii Mary Beard Profile
Resistance Agnes Humbert Bloomsbury
The Gargoyle Andrew Davidson Canongate
Travelling Heroes Robin Lane Fox Allen Lane
Home Marilynne Robinson Virago
Manchester United: The
Biography Jim White Sphere
The Big Necessity Rose George Portobello
Bomb, Book and Compass Simon Winchester Viking
John Lennon Philip Norman HarperCollins


Jamie's Ministry of Food Jamie Oliver Michael Joseph
Dictionary of Children's
Fashion Noreen Marshall V & A
The Northern Clemency Philip Hensher Fourth Estate
Corner Shop Roopa Farooki Pan
That's Another Story Julie Walters Orion
Brideshead Revisited Evelyn Waugh Penguin Classics
The Economist Book of
Obituaries Wroe/Colquhoun Vintage
Payback Margaret Atwood Bloomsbury
My Psychic Life Sally Morgan Penguin
Florence Nightingale Mark Bostridge Viking
Doctor Who: The Writer's Tale Davies/Cook BBC Books
The Baader Meinhof Complex Stefan Aust Random House
The Naughty Girl's Guide to Palmer-Tomkinson/ Sphere
Life Marshall
Barbara Cartland's
Etiquette ... Barbara Cartland Random House


My Word is My Bond Roger Moore Michael O'Mara
Business Stripped Bare Richard Branson Virgin Books
Parky Michael Parkinson Hodder
Dawn French Alison Bowyer Pan Books
Amazon Bruce Parry Michael Joseph
Dear Celebrity Julian Henry Capstone
Stephen Fry in America Stephen Fry HarperCollins
White Weekends Tom Robbins Bantam Press
Portraits of Power Richard Avedon Steidl
Wisdom Andrew Suckerman Abrams


Title Newspaper Date

Cartoons and Coronets Daily Express 26/9
The Believers Daily Express 26/9
Dear Fatty Daily Mail 2619
Downing Street Diary Daily Mail 26/9
To Love, Honour and Betray
Daily Mirror 26/9
Nation Independent 26/9
The House of Wittgenstein Independent 26/9
A Good Girl Comes Undone Sun 26/9
A Daughter's Love Daily Telegraph 27/9
Liver Daily Telegraph 27/9
Out of the Blue Daily Telegraph 27/9
The Great Crash Daily Telegraph 2719
The Mad Science Book Daily Telegraph 27/9
Eyewitness to History Financial Times 27/9
Have You Seen? Financial Times 27/9
How the Dead Dream Financial Times 27/9
The Snowball Financial Times 27/9
What Next? Financial Times 27/9
Anathem Guardian 27/9
Balti Britain Guardian 2719
Britain Since 1918 Guardia 27/9
Dostoevsky Guardian 27/9
Hot, Flat and Crowded Guardian 27/9
McKie's Gazetteer Guardian 27/9
Sissinghurst Guardian 27/9
The Lemur Guardian 27/9
The Stepmother's Diary Guardian 27/9
All Our Worldly Goods Times 27/9
Belching Out the Devil Times 27/9
China Witness Times 27/9
The First Person and Other
Stories Times 27/9
Indignation Independent on Sunday 28/9
My Judy Garland Life Independent on Sunday 28/9
The English House Independent on Sunday 28/9
The Grid Independent on Sunday 28/9
Ghost Train to the Eastern
Star Mail on Sunday 28/9
Thomas Beecham: ... With
Music Mail on Sunday 28/9
Alasdair Gray Observer 28/9
Chicago Observer 28/9
Pompeii Observer 28/9
Resistance Observer 28/9
The Gargoyle Observer 28/9
Travelling Heroes Observer 28/9
Home Sunday Telegraph 28/9
Manchester United: The
Biography Sunday Telegraph 28/9
The Big Necessity Sunday Telegraph 28/9
Bomb, Book and Compass Sunday Times 28/9
John Lennon Sunday Times 28/9


Jamie's Ministry of Food Daily Mail 27/9
Dictionary of Children's
Fashion Financial Times 27/9
The Northern Clemency Financial Times 27/9
Corner Shop Guardian 27/9
That's Another Story Guardian 27/9
Brideshead Revisited Guardian 27/9
The Economist Book of
Obituaries Guardian 27/9
Payback Times 27/9
My Psychic Life Independent on Sunday 28/9
Florence Nightingale Independent on Sunday 28/9
Doctor Who: The Writer's Tale Observer 28/9
The Baader Meinhof Complex Observer 28/9
The Naughty Girl's Guide to Sunday Express 28/9
Barbara Cartland's
Etiquette ... Sunday Express 28/9


My Word is My Bond Daily Express 26/9
Business Stripped Bare Daily Mail 26/9
Parky Daily Mail 27/9
Dawn French Daily Mail 27/9
Amazon Daily Mail 27/9
Dear Celebrity Daily Mail 27/9
Stephen Fry in America Daily Telegraph 27/9
White Weekends Guardian 27/9
Portraits of Power Guardian 27/9
Wisdom Times 27/9

Listings compiled by Nielsen BookData

Source Citation
"Found wanting? The critics diverge on le Carre's latest." The Bookseller 5352 (2008): 52. Academic OneFile. Web. 1 Dec. 2009. .

Gale Document Number:A187561856

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