Tuesday, 11 August 2015

Book #28

A Most Wanted Man by John le Carré

A half-starved young Russian man in a long black overcoat is smuggled into Hamburg at dead of night. He has an improbable amount of cash secreted in a purse around his neck. He is a devout Muslim. Or is he? He says his name is Issa. Annabel, an idealistic young German civil rights lawyer, determines to save Issa from deportation, Soon her client's survival becomes more important to her than her own career - or safety. In pursuit of Issa's mysterious past, she confronts the incongruous Tommy Brue, the sixty-year-old scion of Brue Freres, a failing British bank based in Hamburg. Annabel, Issa and Brue form an unlikely alliance and a triangle of impossible loves is born. Meanwhile, scenting a sure kill in the "War on Terror," the rival spies of Germany. England and America converge upon the innocents. 

I found this overly detailed, distractingly tiring, and utterly tedious. Admittedly, this isn't my genre, but I'm still amazed at how little engagement can be weaved in almost four hundred pages.

Issa escapes from captivity and pays his way into Hamburg in order to seek the man holding his father's fortune. He shacks up with a mother and son, who call a human rights lawyer to look after him. Said lawyer has a heart of gold and swears to do everything in her power to save him from being deported. Further shenanigans ensue. You're thinking this is a fast paced emotional drama, describing the emotions felt by a targeted Muslim, and those on his side. You're thinking you'll get to see the reasoning behind the chase, to understand where Issa fits in this gargantuan puzzle of national security. You're wrong. It's shit and you get none of this. You get nothing.

There were multitudes of characters introduced, many of them merging into one person due to a distinct lack of background, development, or original characteristics. Each of them is a grotesque magnification of a stereotype; the do-good idealistic young lawyer, the hardened intelligence officer, the mysterious escapee, the kind-hearted banker struggling to take on the reins of his father's empire. I couldn't understand anyone's actions; they were characterised a certain way and then began to behave in a manner entirely opposite to the personality I'd perceived them to have. This was the beginning of the end for me, as I began to see the characters and plot as a total sham, a 'can't be arsed so I'll just write this bit in' way of plot movement.

For this novel to be so emotionless despite its main themes is baffling to me. Imagine opening a government document full of jargon, code names, and people you can't tell the difference between. Imagine reading a script of conversations between the players, often forgetting who they are, or what they do. Imagine trying to then work out everyone's motives, trustworthiness, and place in the jigsaw without really giving a shit about the whole thing. Imagine how captivating that would be. Welcome to A Most Wanted Man.

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