This is the first John le Carre novel I've ever read and I'm hooked. I was surprised that "the legendary George Smiley" sat around and did so much reading of old files. Furthermore, I was surprised, even shocked, that le Carre chose to tell so much of his story by having characters recount in dialogue events that had already taken place. Obviously, le Carre needs to spend his last years reading books about how to make his writing more immediate. Then again, I'm bored of car chases and needless violence, at least when I'm with Smiley.
The story! The characters! Highly addictive. I especially want to find out what George Smiley was like when he was younger, before he retired, which is his status at the start of this novel. I'm also keen to learn more about spy Jim Prideaux and am curious about the future of the fat little rich kid, Bill Roach, who Jim befriends. There were no messy loose ends to the story but there was a strong sense that many of the characters, that le Carre, had a lot more to offer, which is a great feeling to have at the end of a book. That's why I decided to bump up to 5 stars rather than down to 4.
Finally, I loved the way the problems in George's personal life and the relationships between others spies weren't, as I first thought, mere sideshows. They turn out to be integral, heart-wrenching events.