The Handmaid's Tale - Margaret Atwood. I had long been put off reading this book as I had the misinformed idea that it was nothing more than a male bashing tirade. Far from it. Much like Ella Minnow Pea, it strikes frighteningly close to the bone, providing a clear picture of female subjugation and loss of agency (with similar losses for most males) in a society completely overtaken and ruled by a few.
I Feel Bad About My Neck and Other Thoughts on Being a Woman - and - I Remember Nothing - Nora Ephron. An article about women writers and Nora Ephron, led me to these essays. Some resonated with me more than others, but I enjoyed her bright wit throughout. They in turn sparked re-watching When Harry Met Sally and Heartburn. I hadn't realized that last had been the story of her own break-up with Carl Bernstein! What a twerp!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
As way leads on to way in my reading, one of Ephron's essays mentioned getting lost in the works of John le Carre. Then I happened upon an article about him, sparked by the recent publication of Silverview. I had always heard of him, but not being big on mystery novels (my love of Miss Marple and Sherlock Holmes not withstanding) I had not read any of his books. Then I learned that he had written The Constant Gardener, one of my favorite movies, and we were on!!! I started with -
Agent Running in the Field - John le Carre. Published in 2019, this novel addresses Trump, Brexit, unrest in Ukraine, Boris Johnson and other contemporary issues as seen through the eyes of Nat, a 40-something MI6 spy, in no way resembling James Bond. In fact, le Carre, having worked for MI5 and MI6 himself, noted that real spies are nothing like Bond. They would NEVER behave in a flamboyant manner that would draw attention. Rather, they would attempt to become the most ordinary, unremarkable, least memorable person ever!!! With my love of unprepossessing sleuths and enjoyment of this book, I decided to take on George Smiley, from the beginning...
Call for the Dead - John le Carre. Published in 1961, we get to know George Smiley, a less attention garnering detective than Columbo but with some of his characteristics and more marital problems, as well as Inspector Mendel, whom I love. With the death of a civil servant in the foreign office, through various twists and turns, we learn the truth about his death, his wife and an East German spy.
A Murder of Quality - John le Carre. From 1962, when a friend of Smiley's gets a letter from the wife of a teacher at an elite boy's school stating she fears her husband is going to kill her, she requests Smiley's help. He is quickly mired in the gossip and classism within the school along with the village outside, but gradually finds the truth.
The Spy Who Came in From the Cold - John le Carre. From 1963, the Cold War and Berlin Wall figure largely. Alec Leamas, an operative from World War II, is called back for one more mission. He lives his cover as a down and out drunkard in order to convince the East Germans of his potential for defection. But the mission is complicated with capture, love, and double agents - so much so even Smiley cannot save the day.
The Looking Glass War - John le Carre. From 1965, LeClerc, Taylor, and Haldane, recently joined by much younger John Avery make up The Department - a wing of the Circus whose members fear it has little use and will soon be disbanded. However, word from a defector gives them the excuse for action. Unfortunately, Taylor is killed in a hit and run accident in the midst of his mission, leaving John Avery to pick up the pieces. Still, they use the mission as an excuse to take things further and enlist the aid of Fred Leiser, a retired agent, to invade East Germany. Nothing goes to plan - leaving Leiser trapped in a wild goose chase that Smiley is unable to save him from and leaves Avery devastated.
Then there was the annual recert material. This year I completed a Pediatric Pharmacology Review and Pediatric Updates covering routine pediatric vaccination schedules and why they are the way they are, a deep dive into the rotavirus vaccine, newborn screening, care of the NICU grad, febrile seizures, cough, Group A streptococcus, pediatric hematuria and proteinuria, management of menorrhagia, childhood trauma, and childhood sex trafficking. So, yeah. Lots to think about there.
But, it was all good. More of Smiley to come. Just keep reading! ~ les