Author: John Le Carré
American release date: October 12, 2021
Format/Genre/Length: Paperback/Fantasy Manga/224 pages
Overall Personal Rating: ★★★★★
Reviewer: Julie Lynn Hayes
Julian has left life in the big city to run his own bookshop in a small English seaside town. After a chance visit from a local resident, Edward Avon, aka Teddy, he learns that Avon was a friend of his father and had worked with him at one time. Edward is a very agreeable fellow and is delighted to share his ideas with the younger man, including plans for a sort of literary paradise to be located in the basement of the shop. And thus the idea for the Republic of Literature is born.
Unsure of just how to take Edward, Julian questions another shopkeeper, Celia, who is very fond of Edward, and gives him a great deal of information. Edward’s wife is very ill, and she and Teddy aren’t on the best of terms. Her late father bequeathed her a great deal of money, as well as the house now known as Silverview. Teddy changed the name after he became fascinated by Nietzsche. The couple have a daughter named Lily.
Stewart Proctor receives a letter from the daughter of one of his agents. The information it contains is very disturbing, and so he begins his own investigation to check into the accusations contained therein. In the meantime, Teddy has graciously installed computers in the future Republic and has begun to search for just the right books they will need to fill its shelves when the time comes.
Proctor uses the cover story of using retired agents as potential training instructors for future hires to questions them on various subjects. In particular, a spy whose code name was Florian, who was active during the Bosnian crisis and who was deeply affected by events that happened then.
The more Julian learns about Edward, the less he knows. He meets his dying wife Deborah, herself once an agent, and their daughter Lily. There is some sort of spark between him and Lily… maybe. But as events begin to unfold, Julian finds himself in the middle of something he never dreamed he’d ever be a part of.
John Le Carre’s SIlverview is like a tapestry. It starts out with a number of loose threads, but as you keep reading the threads begin to wind themselves about one another until they form a picture. It’s a fascinating story about spies as people, and some of the aftermath of their experiences and how those affect them. I like Julian and found him an astute and sympathetic observer, but the true star of this book is Edward, aka “Teddy”, aka Florian. A very likeable and complex man whose life of professional deception has carried over into his actual personal life, to the point where it’s hard to tell where one leaves off and the other begins. Is he who he seems to be? Was he ever?
If the ending isn’t quite as clear-cut as one might like, well, that’s life. It’s clear enough to those who are left behind. After all, life doesn’t always wrap up nicely and neatly, much as we wish it might. But we have a clear idea of what lies ahead for the characters we’ve come to care about. Can one ask for anything more?
John Le Carre is truly the master of spy fiction, and I think his final work is a testament to his craft and well worth reading.