This is perhaps the most popular book in spy fiction. Le Carre. It was made into a mini-series and movie and has been enjoyed by people around the world. The hero is one many of us can identify with, he is so normal and has so many common problems. But he also has an incredible wit, something all of us wish we had!
The book has very complex social commentary and forces thoughts about what is right and just. But it is also just plain fun!
It is fiction, but you can tell it is informed by events of the 1950’s and 60’s in Britain. This was a time where the Cambridge Five traitors were exposed (Guy Burgess, Donald Maclean, Anthony Blunt, John Caircross and Kim Philby). The character Bill Haydon is partially based on Kim Philby, a senior SIS officer and double agent who defected to the Soviet Union in 1963.
From the review:
John Le Carre’s internationally famous hero, British Secret Service Agent George Smiley, has a world-class problem. He has discovered a mole–a Soviet double agent who has managed to burrow his way up to the highest level of British Intelligence. Under the direction of Karla, Smiley’s equivelent in the Soviet Union, the agent has already blown some of the most vital secret operations and most productive networks. Now-how can Smiley use a lifetime’s worth of espionage skills to ferret out a spy who posseses them as well?
For more see: Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy: A George Smiley Novel