A Delicate Truth Review - You Are the Close Observer

Here’s my book review of A Delicate Truth by John Le Carré.

A Delicate Truth by John Le Carré (Thorndike/Penguin)


No spoilers here. This is the behind-the-scenes story of a small anti-terrorist black op  - secretly sponsored by a Member of Parliament - that might or might not have happened. Problem is, its very existence - even as a plan - is so politically incorrect as to be a profound embarrassment if anyone involved decides to break silence and go public with the few facts they know. So the trendy topic of whistle-blowing is very much at issue.

I find two things remarkable about this novel.

First, the dialogue is almost entirely and deliberately off-point - more than in any other Le Carré book I've read. The words are about everything but the topic at hand. Everyone speaks, not just in trade jargon and code, but in hints and innuendos and metaphors. It's annoying. And real. And perhaps an angry commentary on a societal lack of not only frankness and honesty but also an unwillingness to face any real facts at all.

They might be discussing murder, but all you hear are acronyms.

John Le Carré (pen name for David Cornwell, The Independent)


Second, you won't have a clear idea of who the main character is until fairly far along. He will grow on you, as he will become bolder in his own estimation of himself. But he's a bureaucrat (as are most of the rest of them) and in many respects lackluster. Totally absent are the mythic proportions of James Bond. And he has nothing like the cunning wit or the cleverness of George Smiley.

He does, however, eventually realize he has a conscience and a loyalty to ideals that are both naive and reckless.

Master spy novelist Le Carré often refers to intelligence operatives as close observers. Of course, that’s just what a reader is. His narrative technique is to immerse you in detail, much of which may be irrelevant to the plot – just the way we experience reality every day, from one perception to the next.

In training you to think like a spy – like a close observer – Le Carré makes you a better reader and a more critical thinker.

A Delicate Truth is very much about today. And there is much to learn, if in those cryptic conversations you also learn to listen between the lines.

Gerald Everett Jones (Gabriella Muttone Photography) author of Farnsworth's Revenge (LaPuerta Books)

Gerald Everett Jones is the author of Bonfire of the Vanderbilts and host of GetPublished! Radio.

Listen to the podcast of this review:

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