DHO Book review – Silverview by John le Carré
Author: John le Carré
Publisher: Viking (an imprint of Penguin Books)
Silverview is John le Carré’s 26th published novel, of which I was privileged to receive an advance copy under strict embargo, in order to prepare a review for the DHO Journal 2021, but the book’s planned publication date of October 14 inspired the writing of a shorter version for the club’s website.
Silverview is unusually short, compared with the epic-length titles that almost became a trademark of the author, known to many in the club as longstanding member David Cornwell. For those who haven’t already sampled his work, Silverview would arguably serve as a very good entry point.
The plot is multi-layered, with certain characters appearing without warning under different names (keeping a small notebook to follow the trail might be advisable) but it is not Byzantine.
The action moves from an unscheduled meeting at a Service safe house in South Audley Street, Mayfair, where news is received of a threatening leak in secret communications leading to a possible five-star clusterfxxk, to an anonymous bookshop under new ownership in a small seaside town in East Anglia where two laptops at one point go missing, and a military Disneyland complex in Suffolk.
It then touches upon intrigue and strife in Poland, Germany, Serbia, Croatia and Bosnia. The importance of Silverview, the eponymous house in the country, only gradually comes to the fore (I was originally going to write ‘gradually becomes apparent’ but when was anything ‘apparent’ in a le Carré novel?).
The asset/target at the heart of the tale is Polish émigré Edward Avon/Florian/Tedsky, the back story of whose recruitment to the Service includes a clear message of praise to the UK’s first-rate National Health Service on page 85.
Edward/Florian/Tedsky escapes from Silverview in the back of a Royal Mail van, despite the best attentions of the Service’s Domestic Surveillance section, and is presumed to have gone off in search of Salma, a tragically bereaved woman from Bosnia who is apparently the love of his life (but, again, when was anything ever ‘apparent’ in a le Carré novel?).
The ending prompts the thought that John le Carré’s first posthumously published novel might not actually be his last.
We shall see.
DHO Honorary Editor