Review | The Night Manager by John le Carré

I now truly appreciate how good the recent BBC adaptation was! 3 stars.

The Night Manager by John le Carré book cover

The blurb: At the start of it all, Jonathan Pine is merely the night manager at a luxury hotel. But when a single attempt to pass on information to the British authorities – about an international businessman at the hotel with suspicious dealings – backfires terribly, and people close to Pine begin to die, he commits himself to a battle against powerful forces he cannot begin to imagine.

In a chilling tale of corrupt intelligence agencies, billion-dollar price tags and the truth of the brutal arms trade, John le Carre creates a claustrophobic world in which no one can be trusted.

My take:

I have to begin with a confession: I only read this because I’d enjoyed the BBC TV adaptation earlier this year. And, unfortunately, that is the source of my issues with the book. In fact, I wouldn’t recommend you read The Night Manager if you’ve already seen the show because, if you’re anything like me, you’ll be disappointed.

It would be much better to come to the book first, then watch the show. And no, you don’t have to worry about spoilers because the book and the TV version are two completely different animals.

The book is much longer and rambling than the small screen version. It’s also not as balanced, well-paced or poetic (big points to David Farr for his superb screenplay). To do Le Carré justice, I think this may be because he was more interested in telling a realistic spy story which explores serious moral issues, whereas the TV version prioritises entertaining and satisfying it’s audience.

This book is ok. It’s intelligent and complex. The characters, particularly the secondary characters, are well drawn and have a life of their own. It’s also very much of its time: it was first published in 1991, when mobile phones were rare and female intelligence agents and the internet were non-existent. Perhaps this is one reason I preferred the updated screenplay: I liked that the female characters had more to do, and that mobile phones, the internet and satellite technology were important to the plot.

Crucially, if you’ve seen the TV version first, you will read this book and miss the wonderful Olivia Coleman. Every time I saw “Burr” on the page, I couldn’t picture Leonard Burr, the gruff overweight bloke in the book. All I could see was the lovely Olivia Coleman playing Angela Burr, not letting advanced stages of pregnancy blunt her indignation or determination to “get Roper”.

Overall: if you haven’t seen the TV version and enjoy an intelligent spy story, I’d give The Night Manager a try. If you’ve already seen the TV version, approach with caution.


Claire Huston / Art and Soul

 

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22 thoughts on “Review | The Night Manager by John le Carré

    • I think I’d say better to watch the TV version again! 🙂 Once you’ve seen it, you can’t unsee it and, unfortunately, it makes the book feel heavy and dated. I’ve read a piece John le Carré wrote about the TV drama and even he said that when he’d seen Olivia Coleman’s performance he wished he could have written Burr as a woman. But, of course, in the early 90s there weren’t any women working at that sort of level in the intelligence community… so fair enough!

      Liked by 1 person

  1. This is a really interesting comparison of the book and TV version and how sometimes the latter can exceed the former if done correctly! I loved the plot of The Night Manager and said I would read some Le Carre but perhaps I should start with something completely fresh to avoid disappointment! Bronte

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Sounds like I’ll definitely start with the book first to try to maximize by enjoyment of it! I’ve read Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy by Le Carré and really enjoyed it!
    Thanks for sharing your insight. It’s been most helpful 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  3. It is so uncommon for an adaptation to surpass the book it’s originated from. I think I’ll pass on the book and go straight to Olivia, I need a little something to watch before Broadchurch returns! I am pretty sure the lack of importance of women would have bugged me, too. Loved your review 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Pingback: WWW Wednesday 27th July 2016 | Art and Soul

  5. Pingback: Review | Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy by John le Carré | Art and Soul

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