Tuesday, May 21, 2013

The Tailor of Panama: John le Carre Writes on Real Spies

¡°This book review is part of Book Review program at Flipitall.com¡±.

 Some novelists never seem to make mistakes. They churn out stories after stories and even if they belong to similar genres, managing to interest readers with fresh perspectives towards life and with three dimensional characters inhabiting them. John le Carre is one such genius. I have read quite a few of his books and each one of his spy novels has given me immense satisfaction. A few weeks back when I picked his novel, The Tailor of Panama, I was expecting a lot from it and John le Carre delivered quite a bit more than my expectation.

The Tailor of Panama, as expected from Le Carre, is a spy novel. The story is set in Panama at a time when the eyes of every nation that has any interest in maritime trade are concentrated on this tiny nation- justbefore the handing over of Panama Canal back to Panama by the USA. One fine day Andrew Osnard, an English spy confronts Harry Pendel, the star tailor of Panama with certain uncomfortable skeletons from Pendel’s past. Osnard want inside information about the Canal’s future, which he feels Pendel will be able to provide thanks to his profession which gives him access to the inside of power corridors. Harry Pendel succumbs to the blackmail, but soon enjoys the thrill of secrecy and added income that comes with it. He decides to provide Osnard with what he wants and more by fabricating colorful stories about the rising of a silent opposition under the leadership of his pal Mickie Abraxas, a former revolutionary but now a loser and drunkard.

The novel starts as a light hearted comedy and slowly progress into a black comedy about human greed, ego and pettiness. Le Carre portrays all his main characters with much vitality and depth. Transformation of Harry Pendel from a family man to a cunning manipulator and perpetrator of lies is astonishing. I really loved the parts were he goes overboard with his imagination, selling lies to Osnard. He tailors his stories like how he does his suits, altering the identities of his characters as he wants to see them. Andrew Osnard is another powerful character- elusive, suave and sophisticated secret agent outside, but actually a rogue, opportunist con artist fooling his superiors and colleagues to attain his personal gain. In between these two there are several other characters displaying a vivid spectrum of human virtues and vices. The tailor of Panama is a well told story that not only amuses the readers by clever wit and sarcasm, but also makes a powerful character study about power, greed and corruption of human mind.

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