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30 review for The Mission Song (BBC Audiobooks)

  1. 4 out of 5

    Darwin8u

    "Luck's just another word for destiny ... either you make your own or you're screwed." - John le Carré , The Mission Song My basic take on 'The Mission Song' is similar to Alvy's old joke in Annie Hall: "um... two elderly women are at a Catskill mountain resort, and one of 'em says, "Boy, the food at this place is really terrible." The other one says, "Yeah, I know; and such small portions." Well, that's essentially how I feel about this book. Actually, wait no, I don't think 'The Mission Song' was "Luck's just another word for destiny ... either you make your own or you're screwed." - John le Carré , The Mission Song My basic take on 'The Mission Song' is similar to Alvy's old joke in Annie Hall: "um... two elderly women are at a Catskill mountain resort, and one of 'em says, "Boy, the food at this place is really terrible." The other one says, "Yeah, I know; and such small portions." Well, that's essentially how I feel about this book. Actually, wait no, I don't think 'The Mission Song' was terrible. I thought parts of it were actually brilliant and the potential for brilliance was huge. I loved the idea of Bruno Salvador, the interpreter, caught between two worlds. There JUST wasn't enough of THAT part. The plot was fairly simple and straightforward. Not bad, but again, only a tease, a taunt of le Carré brilliance wrapped in an average le Carré just makes me sad. It also suffers from being proximately sat next to (or nearly next to) The Constant Gardener; yes, two le Carré's African twin sisters: one brilliant (The Constant Gardner), and one that only has the hint of brilliance (The Mission Song). One just pales in comparison to the other, and will perpetually be overshadowed by her better looking, more talented colonial twin. Speaking of Colonialism, le Carré just wasn't pissed enough in this novel. I kind of like it when his anger is turned up to 11. The anger was here, but it was diffuse and subtle and romantic and sometimes a bit misdirected (to me). He merely twirled the narrative knife instead of shiving and shanking.

  2. 5 out of 5

    David

    This is one of le Carré's post-Cold War novels, and the subject is Africa. Like all of his spy thrillers, the tone is seedy, cynical, and heartbreaking, as a decent man has his idealism shattered and sees his best intentions trampled on and turned to shit. "Salvo" is the son of a British missionary and a Congolese woman. He's grown up in England, and now he's a fully Anglocized African... or so he thinks. He makes a good living as a translator, having a talent for languages and knowing a bunch of This is one of le Carré's post-Cold War novels, and the subject is Africa. Like all of his spy thrillers, the tone is seedy, cynical, and heartbreaking, as a decent man has his idealism shattered and sees his best intentions trampled on and turned to shit. "Salvo" is the son of a British missionary and a Congolese woman. He's grown up in England, and now he's a fully Anglocized African... or so he thinks. He makes a good living as a translator, having a talent for languages and knowing a bunch of little-spoken African languages, he's married to a pretty white journalist in a fashionable but shallow marriage in which it's hard to say who is whose trophy-spouse, and on the side, he also happens to be a contractor for British Intelligence when they need his special language talents. Salvo gets a sudden assignment: 2 days, 3 days top, and a sizeable bonus, to attend a secret meeting of Congolese warlords. He's told this is for the benefit of British national security and also for the benefit of the Congo. They're trying to negotiate a peaceful and stable government. Instead, Salvo finds out that they're planning a coup and dividing the spoils... just business as usual in central Africa. He is sure his superiors will be shocked -- shocked! -- at these unsavory developments, and surely Her Majesty's government will want to prevent the imminent chaos and bloodshed over mineral rights. You can probably see that this isn't going to a happy place. Le Carré's story is a scathing and cynical indictment of African and Western corruption alike. I give The Mission Song 4.5 stars, as it was a fast-paced well-plotted thriller with great characterization. I can't quite give it that last half-star though, because of the predictable ending. Indeed, I pretty much knew everything that was going to happen from the halfway point onward; Salvo was just too naive. But le Carré is becoming one of my go-tos for tasty literary snacks. I'm going to up my ranking to 5 stars though because of David Oyelowo's reading of the audiobook. The man's voice is perfect for the role, a real pleasure to listen to, and he conveyed all the emotions throughout the story just as if you are hearing Salvo himself speak.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Maureen

    I found this to be one of the most successful of LeCarre's post-Cold War novels. His sense of outrage over conditions in Africa mirrors those of The Constant Gardener. The characters are compelling, and utterly believable. As I was reading this book, I jotted down a list of phrases that caught my fancy. LeCarre's writing style is one of the best of any modern writer. Rather than review the plot of the novel, I thought I would share some of the language of the book. Here is my list: "...[he] rakes I found this to be one of the most successful of LeCarre's post-Cold War novels. His sense of outrage over conditions in Africa mirrors those of The Constant Gardener. The characters are compelling, and utterly believable. As I was reading this book, I jotted down a list of phrases that caught my fancy. LeCarre's writing style is one of the best of any modern writer. Rather than review the plot of the novel, I thought I would share some of the language of the book. Here is my list: "...[he] rakes the table with his wild, exophthalmic gaze..." "...my needle-sharp ear..." "...our corrupt government of loquacious fat cats..." "UN headquarters in Bukara is a pig's breakfast..." "...hands trailing like silk scarves against the clear blue sky..." "...the vengeful glint in his wine-dark eyes is inextinguishable..." "...the equatorial rain pounding like elephant's feet..." "...viewed my continued presence among them as a festering affront." "...had I been allowed to continue along this solitary and ambivalent path." "...to glide without hiatus from one language to another..."" "...lilting intimacies of the African voice with its myriad shades and variations..." "His purposes, inflamed by adoration..." "...tendering a hand-rolled cigarette..." "...the Congolese-flavoured Swahili of our childhoods with its playful mix of joy and innuendo..." "...the in-out hum of a wonky table fan..." "...my second-hand shoes hacking at my ankle bones..." "...the see-saw whine of fax machines..." "...abandoned without scruple to your fate..." What is not to love with writing like this? Highly recommended.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Nigel

    Not quite up to le Carre's usual standard, but still well written and engaging. A skilled interpreter who speaks many African languages and does some part time work with the British Government becomes caught up in a plot to interfere with the Congo's election. Will this be for the good of the country and its people, or just another money-making enterprise for international syndicates and corporate fat-cats? Main flaw in my opinion was the first person narrative, in a protagonist that was not all Not quite up to le Carre's usual standard, but still well written and engaging. A skilled interpreter who speaks many African languages and does some part time work with the British Government becomes caught up in a plot to interfere with the Congo's election. Will this be for the good of the country and its people, or just another money-making enterprise for international syndicates and corporate fat-cats? Main flaw in my opinion was the first person narrative, in a protagonist that was not all that compelling. Normally le Carre's strength is characterisation of all the various players in the story - this was still done reasonably, but we were mostly dealing with Bruno Salvo, the interpreter whose naivety and idealism make him unable to remain detached. My most recent LeCarre was 'The Constant Gardener' which dealt with similar themes (multinational exploitation, Africa and corruption), but was much better. Still, he is one of my favourite authors, and although this wouldn't be number 1 on my list when recommending his books, it is still good!

  5. 5 out of 5

    Jeff Dickison

    This book is just one gigantic bore. Hero is a nerd, not much happens, hero winds up in jail. B-o-o-o-ring!

  6. 5 out of 5

    Quirkyreader

    I did not give this book a star rating because I am unfamiliar with the political situation in African countries. But I do recommend this book highly. Le Carre’s writing caught me at the first and I had to finish this story right away. And Le Carre wrote this story in the first person. Big readers of Le Carre know he doesn’t use that writing style very often. In this story Le Carre gave us some very likeable characters and some nasty ones. And using the time honoured cliche, there are also wolves I did not give this book a star rating because I am unfamiliar with the political situation in African countries. But I do recommend this book highly. Le Carre’s writing caught me at the first and I had to finish this story right away. And Le Carre wrote this story in the first person. Big readers of Le Carre know he doesn’t use that writing style very often. In this story Le Carre gave us some very likeable characters and some nasty ones. And using the time honoured cliche, there are also wolves in sheep’s clothing. When reading this book, try and set aside a day for it. It is well worth the time.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Chloe

    It's no secret that the state of African politics is corrupt and dirty. Still reeling from decades of colonization by Western nations, riven by tribal loyalties, brutally ruled by an ever-changing assortment of strongman rulers who can temporarily unite a people before collapsing into the ever-familiar patterns of megalomania and constructing their own cult of personality, the continent seems like the nearly perfect place to set a tale of intrigue and betrayal of the sort that John le Carre has It's no secret that the state of African politics is corrupt and dirty. Still reeling from decades of colonization by Western nations, riven by tribal loyalties, brutally ruled by an ever-changing assortment of strongman rulers who can temporarily unite a people before collapsing into the ever-familiar patterns of megalomania and constructing their own cult of personality, the continent seems like the nearly perfect place to set a tale of intrigue and betrayal of the sort that John le Carre has been spinning for years. With the end of the Cold War in the early 1990s, le Carre lost his thematic touchstone and was forced to look beyond the Balkan settings of his famous spy novels. Some new settings have been found wanting, such as in his forgettable Tailor of Panama, while others have been positively inspired, such as in Absolute Friends, his look at the German revolutionaries of the late 60s and early 70s. Never, though, has he been able to weave a web of intrigue as well as he does when he's charting the recolonization of Africa by various corporate powers who manipulate desperate governments and corrupt militaries to win concessions to either pillage valuable resources for export to the all-consuming American maw, or to use these developing nations as test beds for new drugs and procedures that would never pass the scrutiny of any regulatory agency as he did in the masterful The Constant Gardener. Not content to merely reveal the effects of those decisions made in secluded board rooms atop large skyscrapers and carried out in the backwater locales of the Congo, The Mission Song puts us in the room with these decision-makers as they weigh the worth of human lives against the possible profits to be squeezed from their blood-soaked land. Bruno Salvador, or Salvo to his friends, is the bastard son of an Irish priest and a Congolese woman who has used his extensive knowledge of various tribal languages to secure a much-valued post in the translation department of British Intelligence. All goes swimmingly for Salvo until he is asked to serve as translator at a conference to be held at an undisclosed location for undisclosed African power brokers to hammer out the details of a new coup that will bring "peace" to his war torn homeland and enormous profits for the coup's faceless backers. Inadvertently overhearing (and recording) a torture session used to sway a recalcitrant plotter back into the conspiracy, Salvo realizes that this coup is just another aspect of business as usual for his masters. What follows is an exercise in futility as Salvo attempts to gain the ear of someone, anyone, in authority who can call off this coup before yet more blood is poured on the earth. This is not the greatest le Carre that I've read, but neither is it the weakest. It has the feel of a dashed-off effort used to fulfill some contractual obligation more than as a labor of love- those stories that well up inside you and demand to be recounted. Still, it is a fast and entertaining read that provides all the suspense that le Carre is rightly renowned for. Perfect for reading in the park on a sunny day or at the beach as you keep half an eye on your wayward children.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Charles

    I'm a fan of Le Carré, particularly the angrily politicised version we've seen in the last few novels, but I wonder how much longer he'll be able to use his "innocent against the corrupt system" structure without it becoming tired and predictable. To be honest, I think it just has; and that's one of the problems with this novel. The narrator/hero is an interpreter and Le Carré gets a lot of mileage out of the idea of truth, and its manipulation, but inevitably the action, or a large chunk of it, I'm a fan of Le Carré, particularly the angrily politicised version we've seen in the last few novels, but I wonder how much longer he'll be able to use his "innocent against the corrupt system" structure without it becoming tired and predictable. To be honest, I think it just has; and that's one of the problems with this novel. The narrator/hero is an interpreter and Le Carré gets a lot of mileage out of the idea of truth, and its manipulation, but inevitably the action, or a large chunk of it, is verbal, which slows the action down. This isn't the kind of novel that can afford to have not very much happen except discussion for the entire central section, well done though it is. Of course, it's a good read, and certainly a useful primer to Central African politics, though occasionally a little too expository, but it's not a patch on The Constant Gardener.

  9. 4 out of 5

    John Farebrother

    A slight departure from the usual Le Carré variation on a theme, but nevertheless a chip off the old block. Anyone interested in languages and interpreting, and in the eastern DRC, will find a lot to like about this book (as will any vintage Le Carré aficionado). I fall into all three categories, and so unsurprisingly I have read this book three times, and enjoyed it thoroughly each time. It is extremely well researched, for a context so far off the beaten track for most westerners. But the conc A slight departure from the usual Le Carré variation on a theme, but nevertheless a chip off the old block. Anyone interested in languages and interpreting, and in the eastern DRC, will find a lot to like about this book (as will any vintage Le Carré aficionado). I fall into all three categories, and so unsurprisingly I have read this book three times, and enjoyed it thoroughly each time. It is extremely well researched, for a context so far off the beaten track for most westerners. But the conclusion is bog-standard Le Carré - the civil service doesn't hesitate to shit from a great height on anyone it has been happy to use for years in dubious circumstances, as soon as it looks they might become a liability and do the right thing. A brilliant read.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Naddy

    This is first from John Le Carre before that i have never read any of John Le Carre but ofcourse i have heard quite rave reviews from some of the books by him. I picked this book, because i got this in dirt cheap price :) and i like espionage, thrillers. and i like books set up in Africa also movies too like 12 years a slave,. blood diamond, but The mission song lacks thrilling part in many areas where it could be have been. I was not aware of Kivu, Rawandas, congos, literally no knowledge so in This is first from John Le Carre before that i have never read any of John Le Carre but ofcourse i have heard quite rave reviews from some of the books by him. I picked this book, because i got this in dirt cheap price :) and i like espionage, thrillers. and i like books set up in Africa also movies too like 12 years a slave,. blood diamond, but The mission song lacks thrilling part in many areas where it could be have been. I was not aware of Kivu, Rawandas, congos, literally no knowledge so in that part as well it is not that as such insightful, coming to protagonist - Bruno Salvador comes as surprise when it comes to spy novel, he is an interpreter and given the plot he doesn't actually fit, and also misses the character development part, he was attending a dinner when he was assigned the task to interpret in some conference and during the conference he realizes the agenda of conference is misleading, The plan is to step in and install a visionary leader, and deliver democracy from the barrel of a gun. It is a preposterous plot - until you remember how coups in Africa often look like opéra bouffe, but with real blood. Indeed, as a model for the killer-clown soldiers whom Salvo must out-manoeuvre, Le Carré seems to have another putsch in mind. In 2004, a group of Old Etonians, former SAS soldiers and muscular South African mercenaries, with supporters ranging from Mark Thatcher to other political figures abroad, and with the connivance of the British and Spanish secret services, planned an assault on Equatorial Guinea, a country even more unhappy, if that is possible, than the Congo. The idea was to overthrow a man-eating tyrant named Obiang Nguema and install a puppet president, who would then turn over a large slice of the country's considerable oil revenues to what was known as "the Syndicate". This is also the name of the outfit who plan the coup in The Mission Song. And in their swagger and their stupefying greed, Le Carré depicts the sort of sweet reason that is to be found in Europeans whom Africa has sent barking mad. I love sad endings so the ending serves me well, but overall okayish book, so i would rated 2.5/5,

  11. 4 out of 5

    Aquavit

    I found this book frustrating. On the one hand, Carre is taking dead aim with outrage at sub-Saharan African politics, back-room dealings and the general indifference/greed of the remaining global nation-state coterie who appear willing to wait out short breaks in the constant bloodbath to run in and scoop out a chunk of mineral wealth. His quivering outrage is clear. He reiterates it over and over and over, even though the best and brightest part is this almost chess-like philosophical and ling I found this book frustrating. On the one hand, Carre is taking dead aim with outrage at sub-Saharan African politics, back-room dealings and the general indifference/greed of the remaining global nation-state coterie who appear willing to wait out short breaks in the constant bloodbath to run in and scoop out a chunk of mineral wealth. His quivering outrage is clear. He reiterates it over and over and over, even though the best and brightest part is this almost chess-like philosophical and linguistic awakening that Bruno has while he is translating a back-room deal between a faceless Syndicate (global conglomerate) and three Congolese warlords. But, because of the repetition and the endless hand-wringing that Bruno does throughout the entire book, it made it difficult to stay with the plot, and certainly difficult to feel an ounce of sympathy for him as he (quite confusingly since he's highly educated, street-savvy and married to a journalist???) blunders madly from one Bad Person Who Has Clearly Shown Evidence of Not Being A Friend to the next while trying to "out" the back-room deal and avert a new wave of bloodshed. You have a man who knows enough to get away from his home, disable his cell phone and/or only make calls within no real range of his house, but he blindly trusts all of the people he works for in the secret service, and whom he has AUDIO TAPE RECORDINGS of doing enormously, awfully illegal things? REALLY? It was this part which made me feel like I was almost reading a Black Sambo tale "Oh look how charmingly stupid and feckless they are" which I'm quite sure le Carre didn't mean to engender.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Mike

    I picked up this book from a friend's shelf, because I've never read any books by John le Carré and I've always been interested. Unfortunately I was rather disappointed. I should say, however, that at least some of my disappointment was probably a result of incorrect expectations. The rest of the review is a spoiler, so proceed with caution if you want to read this book some day! (view spoiler)[ I was expecting something like a Tom Clancy novel -- after all it's described as a spy novel, and John I picked up this book from a friend's shelf, because I've never read any books by John le Carré and I've always been interested. Unfortunately I was rather disappointed. I should say, however, that at least some of my disappointment was probably a result of incorrect expectations. The rest of the review is a spoiler, so proceed with caution if you want to read this book some day! (view spoiler)[ I was expecting something like a Tom Clancy novel -- after all it's described as a spy novel, and John le Carré is billed as the king of spy novels. It is not. Not at all. 1) In spy novels the main character is supposed to influence the course of events in some way. Maybe he uncovers the plot, or defeats the main villain. Don't get me wrong, the main character doesn't have to be powerful -- in fact they're usually written as one man alone against the world -- but they should have at least some impact on the end result. But not the main character of this book. He has absolutely no impact on the end result, and would have been better off keeping his mouth shut -- because the only thing he achieves is a prison sentence for himself and a deportation for his girlfriend. 2) In spy novels there's usually some kind of happy ending. Sure spy novels tend to be somewhat cynical, and often lots of people die, and I generally think the main character has a pretty lousy life even if the author tries to spruce it up a bit, but still usually good prevails over evil at the end of a spy novel. But not in this book, where the main culprits escape unharmed and only the underlings (and the main character) go to jail. 3) Spy novels usually have a bit of action, or, if they don't have explosions and fight scenes, they at least have tension and suspense. Not this book. Two thirds of this book were spent interpreting a conference. No offence, but I'd rather read about people doing something rather than read about people talking about how they might potentially do something if they can only agree and all be friends. The book was not entirely without suspense, but it was mostly. And even when the main character goes on the run in the final third of the book, he's incredibly incompetent and impotent. All he does is get himself and his girlfriend the short end of the stick. (hide spoiler)] So yes, I was disappointed. He's a good writer, and I'll probably try reading one more of his books in future (hopefully this time with slightly more accurate expectations), but I have to say that I spent most of this book waiting for something to happen (something has to happen soon!...it can't be all set up!...) and nothing ever happened...

  13. 4 out of 5

    Ann

    Listening to this as an audio book. The reader is good, but, oh - will it NEVER end? The main character is so annoying.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Phrodrick

    I come to Mission Song as a fan of John Le Carre’ of many decades. There is not much he has written that I have not read, often more than once. It may be that my let down is a case of over familiarization. It may also be that the otherwise exceptionally fine performance of the reader, David Oyelowo left me feeling too hopeless too soon. For the reader not too studied John Le Carre’s novels, the book is exactly why the author remains one of the great authors of the last 50 years. It may be that I I come to Mission Song as a fan of John Le Carre’ of many decades. There is not much he has written that I have not read, often more than once. It may be that my let down is a case of over familiarization. It may also be that the otherwise exceptionally fine performance of the reader, David Oyelowo left me feeling too hopeless too soon. For the reader not too studied John Le Carre’s novels, the book is exactly why the author remains one of the great authors of the last 50 years. It may be that I have come to know what to expect and therefore missed some of the edges in the book. The Narrator of Mission Song is Bruno Salvo. Outwardly a British citizen of great personal accomplishment and ability. He is a highly skilled interpreter, and master of both languages and their nuances. He is also a Zebra; that is a half cast African and European. His Father was a wayward Catholic priest and missionary. Consequently Salvo was raised according to his luck as a barely tolerated accident of the Catholic Mission to Africa. Because of his advanced abilities in so many languages he has become a contract stringer with English Intelligence. As such he is sub-contracted to an un-named, legally non-existing consortium. The game is afoot. Salvo is asked to be both an active and only apparently neutral part of negotiations among participants in a possible coup to be made in his native Congo. Le Carre’ does a masterful job of defining several possible points of view and competing interests. The coup has implications for and against the people of Congo, creates possible opportunities for the already engaged violent interests in Rhodesia. The Europeans masterminding the coup have openly stated economic interests in a success, but also what may be a legitimate desire to relieve the Congolese people from what had been an unending cycle of civil unrest and corrupt misgovernment. The Congolese contingents include a representative of what may be a sincerely liberating and uniting candidate to lead a better Congo, and competing political, economic and revolutionary power brokers. It is the purpose of this secret meeting to negotiate who will get what and perform what to insure that the coup succeeds, with minimum loss of life. In the end a share of the vast Congolese wealth in natural resources will include a “People’s Share”. This is John Le Carre’. The devil is always in the details and particularly the vagaries of the human motivations. Le Carre’ is a master of such details. Controlling the gradual reveals and the turns in the path to the outcome is what he does best. For too much of the book I felt I knew what was coming. The author almost trumpets these intermediate plot points. In truth I only thought I knew the final outcome. And in the very end Le Carre’ manages to keep his secrets. My let down remains that too much of the tone and mood of the book is the same tone and mood of too many other Le Carre’ books. His craftsmanship remains superb, but points of view and major themes do not vary sufficiently to make this book that much different from others. For most readers, Mission Song will be more than worth their time. I may just need a break.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Philip

    In The Mission Song John le Carré re-visits the world of espionage that we associate with his writing. He is a master of the clandestine, the deniable, the re-definable. Bruno Salvador is a freelance linguist. His parentage is complex, his origins confused, but his skills beyond question. By virtue of an upbringing that had many influences, he develops the ability to absorb languages. Having lived in francophone Africa and then England, he is fluent in both English and French plus an encyclopaed In The Mission Song John le Carré re-visits the world of espionage that we associate with his writing. He is a master of the clandestine, the deniable, the re-definable. Bruno Salvador is a freelance linguist. His parentage is complex, his origins confused, but his skills beyond question. By virtue of an upbringing that had many influences, he develops the ability to absorb languages. Having lived in francophone Africa and then England, he is fluent in both English and French plus an encyclopaedia of central African languages. His unique gifts, considerable skills and highly idiosyncratic methods qualify him for occasional assignments as an interpreter. He is trusted. He is also, he discovers, pretty cheap, and already has considerable experience of working for those aspects of government and officialdom which sometimes transgress legality. He is also, therefore, vulnerable. So when a new assignment – so urgent that he has to skip his wife’s party – drags him to a secret destination, he initially takes everything very much in his stride. But Bruno is much more than a linguist, certainly much more than a translator and, as a result of the application of conscience, considerably more than the interpreter his employers have hired. His perception of language is so acute that it provides him with an extra sense, a means of interpreting the world, no less, not just a method of eliciting meaning. But he also has the intellectual skills to identify consequences, to interpret motives. And it is here where he begs to differ with his paymasters. The Mission Song is the kind of book where revelation of the plot, beyond this mere starting point, would undermine the experience of reading it. Suffice it to say that Bruno’s task is both what is seems to be and also not what it seems. Bruno’s ambivalence in relation to its aims prompts him to go beyond the call of duty. And, in doing so, he learns more about his near-anonymous employers. But, of course, they learn more about him, a reality that eventually has fairly dire consequences. The Mission Song is also a love story, or two, one on the way in and one on the way out. It’s also about privilege and power, plus their use, misuse and abuse. In many ways it inhabits similar territory to John le Carré’s Absolute Friends, but is singularly more successful, especially in the credibility of the eventual denouement. Fans of John le Carré will need no convincing. For those who have found his work less than satisfying, The Mission Song shows the author at his best, presenting a complex, highly credible plot in a skilful, illuminating, informative and yet entertaining way. Its eventual message about the abuse of power is subtly threaded into the very substance of the plot and makes its point with strength and relevance. We know a little more about the world by the end.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Rod Raglin

    The world has changed and so has Le Carré. He has moved from the subtle to the vulgar, from nuance to overt. His hero in his novel The Mission Song, is a departure from the usual quiet civil servant/spy a product of the British public school system, a product of class conformity, a model of diplomacy, firmly routed and strengthened in idealogy. Bruno Salvador is a young man born in the Congo to an Congolese woman and a Irish missionary, a by-product of post colonialism and part of the new, not so The world has changed and so has Le Carré. He has moved from the subtle to the vulgar, from nuance to overt. His hero in his novel The Mission Song, is a departure from the usual quiet civil servant/spy a product of the British public school system, a product of class conformity, a model of diplomacy, firmly routed and strengthened in idealogy. Bruno Salvador is a young man born in the Congo to an Congolese woman and a Irish missionary, a by-product of post colonialism and part of the new, not so Great Britain. Salvador is a gifted professional interpreter specializing in minority African languages. The story unfolds when he is dispatched by his employer, an arm of British Intelligence to interpret/eavesdrop on Congolese power brokers attending a secret conference. As the negotiations proceed it becomes apparent that the outcome will be more exploitation of the people of this war-torn country. Salavador takes exception to this and sets about to stop the military intervention that will give an international syndicate access to the regions coveted natural resources, and big pay-offs to the warlords. Le Carré broadly draws both protagonists and antagonists leaving no doubt who are the bad guys and the good guys and what motivates them. However, the political motivation is not so clear and I could never figure out if the British government was complicit or if the politicians and bureaucrats were doing a bit of freelancing for personal gain. Neither was I convinced that a young man with a promising career would toss it all away for some misplaced nationalistic fervor for the homeland of his youth and the political convictions of a very new lover. Though somewhat didactic at times what saved the novel for me was the insights and mindset of a high-level interpreter and the research into the misfortunes of this woebegone country in central Africa. Was I enlightened, yes, entertained, not much.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Susan

    The beginning and the end of this novel are superb. Le Carre at his best, mixing a thriller plot with humor and biting social criticism. The middle is a confusing mess of African characters, causes, and conspiracies—it’s hard to follow and sometimes tedious. Le Carre creates a marvelous character, Bruno Salvador (“Salvo”) who’s the son of an bog Irish priest who served his whole life in the Congo and a Congolese woman who was sent back to her village after the birth. After his father’s death, by The beginning and the end of this novel are superb. Le Carre at his best, mixing a thriller plot with humor and biting social criticism. The middle is a confusing mess of African characters, causes, and conspiracies—it’s hard to follow and sometimes tedious. Le Carre creates a marvelous character, Bruno Salvador (“Salvo”) who’s the son of an bog Irish priest who served his whole life in the Congo and a Congolese woman who was sent back to her village after the birth. After his father’s death, by a fluke Salvo is declared a British citizen and sent to a Catholic school in Surrey were he was raised by Brother Michael, who uses him sexually but sees to his education using funds from his own rich Catholic family. His dying gift, Aunt Imelda’s watch, plays a significant role in the novel. As the book begins, the naïve but likable Salvo (who narrates his own story) is a top notch translator, speaking not only English, French and Swahili, but most of the dialects of the Congo as well. He’s much in demand in London where he’s married to socialite Penelope, rising newspaper star who married him to peak her father. It’s clear she’s regretting her decision and Salvo doesn’t seem too heart broken though he moves heaven and earth to be on time to a do at the paper honoring an award she’s received. He has to leave the Congolese nurse, Hannah, he’s just met and fallen in love with, though, on a job to translate for a dying man in a North London hospital. Arriving at the party, he’s whisked off by his British government employer with an extra special job for him—one for which he has to sign the Official Secrets Act.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Sam (The Literary Hooker)

    I stole this one off of my husband's shelves. When I finished reading it and told him about the issues I had with the book, he laughed and said, "I guess you haven't read much John le Carré then." So that doesn't bode well for me and any future le Carré reads... The story started off well for me, but it quickly went south. For one thing, I know next to nothing about the Congo and its various political issues, so I probably missed a lot of the subtleties of the plot. But the biggest issue for me w I stole this one off of my husband's shelves. When I finished reading it and told him about the issues I had with the book, he laughed and said, "I guess you haven't read much John le Carré then." So that doesn't bode well for me and any future le Carré reads... The story started off well for me, but it quickly went south. For one thing, I know next to nothing about the Congo and its various political issues, so I probably missed a lot of the subtleties of the plot. But the biggest issue for me was how Salvo reacts after returning to London! I get that this isn't a spy novel in the strict sense, since Salvo is an interpreter and a fairly new one at that, but GODDAMMIT WHYYYYYY would you turn to precisely the same people who offered you the job/were involved in the job and expect them to help you when it turns out the job is shady as fuck?! And then when it fails once, why try it TWO MORE TIMES?! Then there's the whole Hannah thing. talk about a needless love story...and Salvo is just so naive and trusting, the whole thing just drove me nuts! It had potential plot-wise, but really Salvo and his stupid actions ruined it for me.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Jim

    Bruno Salvador, the main character and narrative voice of this novel, is a mixed race British citizen born in the Congo, but now living in England. His superior skills as an interpreter bring him to the attention of British Intelligence, who call on him to attend a secret meeting between Congolese warlords and the representatives of European financiers. The meeting unfolds like a stud poker tournament, each player weighing his hand against the cards he can see and the actions of the other player Bruno Salvador, the main character and narrative voice of this novel, is a mixed race British citizen born in the Congo, but now living in England. His superior skills as an interpreter bring him to the attention of British Intelligence, who call on him to attend a secret meeting between Congolese warlords and the representatives of European financiers. The meeting unfolds like a stud poker tournament, each player weighing his hand against the cards he can see and the actions of the other players. Salvador, through his linguistic talent, deals the cards and gets occasional glimpses of the various players hold cards. What he sees goes against his conscience, as well as that of his new-found lover and makes him take actions that change the course of his life. I thought this was a well done, thoughtful spy novel. A worthwhile read for anyone who enjoys this genre.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Geoffrey

    I enjoyed this departure of sorts by the master of English espionage. The central character, Bruno Salvador, displayed incredible naivete in his role as master interpreter for Her Majesty's Government. The story reveals truths about the world of global politics and nations that most may not know, nor want to. In this case, the realities of Africa are brought to light, though not a new subject. Well-done Mr. LeCarre.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Patrick

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. I give this book 2 stars since I cannot believe that a smug intelligent interpreter like Salvo did not know that everyone who was backing the coup was not in bed with each other. What did his indiscretion accomplish, nothing but the status quo of the Rwandans still owning the Eastern Congo instead of Mwangaza who although belonging to a corrupt coup is at least a Congolese and idealistic. Furthermore I refuse to believe that he sided with Hannah in destroying the coup b/c they were disappointed I give this book 2 stars since I cannot believe that a smug intelligent interpreter like Salvo did not know that everyone who was backing the coup was not in bed with each other. What did his indiscretion accomplish, nothing but the status quo of the Rwandans still owning the Eastern Congo instead of Mwangaza who although belonging to a corrupt coup is at least a Congolese and idealistic. Furthermore I refuse to believe that he sided with Hannah in destroying the coup b/c they were disappointed by the Mwangaza less than idealistic notion of how he would come into power. On the plus side, this book was an extremely fast and easy read. Salvo is an interpreter whose father was an Irish missionary who had sexual relations with an African woman b/c he wanted to know what it felt like to be a man before his death @ the hands of the rebels. B/c he was gifted linguist, Salvo was taken by brother Michael whom showed interest in his prodigious linguistic gifts. Salvo conceit is he is the interpreter that people cannot live without. Salvo seems to me to be a self-absorbed conceited person. Salvo is disappointed that his inattentive career-oriented journalist wife does not care about the well-being of his people while an African nurse cares about her sworn enemy in his dying bed. Salvo and Hannah bonded over empathy of a dying man and their shared past and familiarity of language. Salvo felt he found a soul he could talk to. It turns out that the only reason why Salvo married Penelope was b/c he lost his virginity to her thus confusing lust for love. While Penelope was putting Salvo down as her boy toy, he was proud to be the interpreter for the British NSA but he was suppose to keep it secret. Salvo was too much an eager beaver to be a great spy but his opportunity came to serve Britain in a spy capacity. In his eagerness to serve his country as a James Bond, he overlooks the fact that he has to do shady things in order to accomplish his mission. Salvo also wants to tell Hannah where he is. His mission was to translate for a group of warlords who are coming together to try to make peace in the troubled land of Congo. While the syndicate wants to recoup their investment, they also want peace in the land so they can recoup their investment profitably. The Mwangaza talks of peace and prosperity for all Congolese but he wants to take power from the corrupt politicians in a coup in order to nationalize the Congo's natural resources and kick out the genocidal Rwandans out. The plan is to support an internal uprising and to keep foreign fighters out b/c it is the only way for sustainable peace and stability in the region. They are planning to create chaos so people will accept the Mwangaza as the man of peace and vision that he purports to be. They plan on creating an Eastern Congo uprising so that the centralize government who are not responsive to the needs of Eastern Congo will notice its people and the defective government that they have. Haj, the multi-national, tycoon, wants peace to reign b/c the uncertainty of war even if it might bring him greater wealth in the long run is too great. Haj wants peace with the more united stronger, Rwandans, who are commandeering Eastern Congo. In exchange in backing the Mwangaza for power with Private Contractors, the Syndicate wants sole mining rights for up to 6 months. Haj has a right to be skeptical of the Syndicates plans as the Mwangaza talks a good talk but history suggests that he has to be raised on the shoulders of corrupt institutions and thus he would be more of the same. The Haj wants to let trade be the harbinger of peace but the Syndicate due to its own financial considerations has other plans so they coerced the Haj into their way of thinking by torturing him. The Syndicate bought Haj's cooperation with $3 million and by pointing out that the interest he was protecting was that of American neo-cons backed conglomeration which wanted the disciplined Rwandan to annex the Eastern Congo from the lackadaisical Congolese government. So to the Syndicates eyes, it is better for Mwangaza to rule Eastern Congo than for a foreign power like the Rwandans to rule it. Haj got the $3 million he asked for b/c he knew the Syndicate was too far advance with their plans for domination. For all the idealism of the Mwangaza, Salvo realized he was just another pawn of the power brokers. Once he returns to Britain, Salvo sought to leave his wife Penelope for Hannah, the African nurse he made love to. While Salvo loves that Hannah listens to him, he made a mistake by divulging top-secret information about the Syndicates planned coup of Eastern Congo to her. Hannah opened up about her past as a nursing student who got pregnant by a medical student when she was 16 and Salvo in turn opened up his past. Being the innocent fundamentalist that she is, Hannah advocates bringing down the Mwangaza coup b/c his backers are corrupt. When given the choice of the backing the Rwandans who raped and murdered her cousins while making her uncle watch and backing a flawed takeover of Mwangaza coalition, Hannah chooses exposing the coup. While Hannah convinces Salvo to expose the coup, he decided to expose it to Lord Brinkley who he mistakenly thought was a champion of African rights when he was just another capitalist looking to exploit the Eastern Congo. Unfortunately for Salvo, Brinkley denies ever knowing about the coup plot and insinuating that Salvo was crazy so he can have plausible deniability even though he knew about the whole operation. Furthermore, Brinkley ordered his handlers to look for the missing tapes and papers that Salvo stole from the operation. B/c Salvo wanted to save himself as well as his beloved Hannah from the trials that they might undergo, he stays away from her during the day. Being the innocent idiot couple that they are, they took the news of Mwangaza selling out to the representative of Mwangaza in Europe thinking that he would be outraged enough by the Mwangaza selling out that he would prefer the status quo of the Rwandans ruling Eastern Congo to one of their own. While it is perhaps excusable for Hannah to be unaware of the intricacies of spycraft, it is hard to believe that Salvo a smug smartass realist gets so carried away by Hannah that he believed her that Lord Bentley and Mwangaza's ambassador to Europe would not be in on the deal with the Syndicates role in Mwangaza rise into power. Salvo makes another mistake by going to the British NSA chief to make the Syndicate stop their proposed coup b/c people will get killed. Since no one that Salvo knew would help him, he decided to expose the plot to the media. But, while he went to the media, Hannah stole the recorded tapes that incriminated Lord Brinkley and the torture of Haj and sent them to Haj. The result of this is the botched coup in Eastern Congo with the Syndicate backed rebels held in captivity. By capturing Hannah, the Syndicate forces Salvo to go to them. While being interrogated by Philip, Salvo realizes that Hannah was charged with aiding and abetting terrorists by being involved with the plot in Eastern Congo and thus was deported back to her country. Salvo was declared persona non grata in Britain for his involvement in the coup affair and since his birth certificate was falsified he was not technically a British citizen nor does he exist as a person so he was sent to a Guantanamo type prison where he will indefinitely stay. Meanwhile, Hannah becomes a useful nurse in the Congo.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Val Penny

    David John Moore Cornwell, using the pen name John le Carre, has written so many exciting books that when I found this one in my local library I picked it up without hesitation. During the 1950s and the 1960s, Cornwell worked for the British Intelligence services MI5 and MI6, and began writing novels so his books have a feeling of authority that few writers command. The Mission Song is a story where Bruno Salvador was abandoned by both his Irish father and Congolese mother. As a result of this he David John Moore Cornwell, using the pen name John le Carre, has written so many exciting books that when I found this one in my local library I picked it up without hesitation. During the 1950s and the 1960s, Cornwell worked for the British Intelligence services MI5 and MI6, and began writing novels so his books have a feeling of authority that few writers command. The Mission Song is a story where Bruno Salvador was abandoned by both his Irish father and Congolese mother. As a result of this he looked for someone to guide his life. He found it in Mr. Anderson of British Intelligence. Bruno was brought up in Africa, and is fluent in several African languages. This has made him a top interpreter in London, England useful to businesses, hospitals, diplomats and spies. When he was working for Anderson in a clandestine facility known as the "Chat Room," Salvo (as Bruno is known) translates intercepted phone calls, bugged recordings and snatched voice mail messages. Then Anderson sends him to a mysterious island to interpret a secret conference between Central African warlords. Bruno thinks he is helping Britain bring peace to a bloody corner of the world. However, he hears something he should not have heard. Carre's laser eye for the complexity of the modern world is evident in this book and this novel is full of politics, heart, and the sort of suspense that nobody in the world does better. Having said all that, I did not enjoy this book as much as I thought I would. I found large tracts of it rather boring, although other parts are exciting and tense. I have read other books by le Carre and will, no doubt, read more. Indeed, The Spy Who Came In From The Cold is reviewed on this site: http://bookreviewstoday.info/2015/05/.... However, The Mission Song was not a favourite of mine.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Karyl

    Bruno Salvadore, Salvo to his friends, is a man of amazing linguistic capabilities. Speaking a whole slew of African languages, plus several European ones, he is hired to interpret at a secret summit supposedly aimed at bringing peace to war-torn Congo. Unfortunately, he finds out that the men who are supposedly committed to bringing peace are really only in it to make as much money off the chaos of the situation in the Congo as possible. This is not at all a surprise among the more jaded of us. Bruno Salvadore, Salvo to his friends, is a man of amazing linguistic capabilities. Speaking a whole slew of African languages, plus several European ones, he is hired to interpret at a secret summit supposedly aimed at bringing peace to war-torn Congo. Unfortunately, he finds out that the men who are supposedly committed to bringing peace are really only in it to make as much money off the chaos of the situation in the Congo as possible. This is not at all a surprise among the more jaded of us. John le Carré's writing is quite impressive. His prose, the way he weaves events together, the success he finds with sucking in the reader until she doesn't want to return to her real life -- all of these things add up to a great read. However, I found the middle part of the book to be rather confusing and even a bit slow. Of course, I understood it a bit better by the end, but it felt like a bit of a slog as I went through it. I much preferred reading about Salvo's private life, his marriage to Penelope and the re-awakening of his African self that Hannah helps to engender. Definitely worth a read.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Adrian Fingleton

    Honestly, I sort of gave up on reading John le Carre books a few years ago because they all morphed into one another. Before I started this one - a book club pick, and not by me - I predicted the plot/ending to my fellow members. A good(ish) man will try to 'do the right thing' and be somehow thwarted, derailed, screwed or worse by 'the man/big business/a shadowy Government department'. If the good man is very unlucky, his nearest and dearest will be wiped out in the course of the book. due to h Honestly, I sort of gave up on reading John le Carre books a few years ago because they all morphed into one another. Before I started this one - a book club pick, and not by me - I predicted the plot/ending to my fellow members. A good(ish) man will try to 'do the right thing' and be somehow thwarted, derailed, screwed or worse by 'the man/big business/a shadowy Government department'. If the good man is very unlucky, his nearest and dearest will be wiped out in the course of the book. due to his bravery/stupidity. At a minimum, they will suffer somewhat, as will he. The Mission Song is well written (there is a baseline here, evidently) but it fails to convince me of anything much. There is some fairly basic plot-lining around the murderous regimes along the Eastern DRC border with Rwanda and Uganda, but it does not demonstrate to me any deep insights beyond what the informed reader can glean from WIkipedia or a few good books that explain the Rwanda Genocide, it's aftermath, and the troubled history of the lawless Eastern DRC. So all in all, while it passed a few hours, there are books I think I'd have preferred to use the time reading.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Lisabet Sarai

    I've always felt that le Carre was a brilliant writer, often unfairly dismissed as a genre hack. The Mission Song shows off his versatility. Like most of his novels, The Mission Song highlights the moral ambiguities of the modern world. However, the central character Bruno Salvador, a half Irish/half Congolese foundling with a gift for languages, is far more innocent and idealistic than most of le Carre's heroes. Another delicious difference is Bruno's passionate connection with the Congolese nu I've always felt that le Carre was a brilliant writer, often unfairly dismissed as a genre hack. The Mission Song shows off his versatility. Like most of his novels, The Mission Song highlights the moral ambiguities of the modern world. However, the central character Bruno Salvador, a half Irish/half Congolese foundling with a gift for languages, is far more innocent and idealistic than most of le Carre's heroes. Another delicious difference is Bruno's passionate connection with the Congolese nurse Hannah. Most of le Carre's books have a world-weary cynicism about sex, but in this one the author shows he can communicate the power and wonder of physical love. Finally, I adored the subtle and sympathetic picture of Africa that the book conveys. Recommended... but then, I've never read a book by John le Carre that I would not recommend.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Ken Hammond

    The Mission Song by John le Carré The premise was good overall enjoyed it, weird ending but that's Johns style. Our main character Salvo echoes a rather naive idealistic crusader with definitely misplaced loyalties. A real gun at being a translator that ultimately is his undoing. This tome in parts kind of reminded me of Forsyths Dogs of War the planning and back stage schemes taking place for a military coup. Hoping for a good ending nope not going to happen. Leave you with food for thought about The Mission Song by John le Carré The premise was good overall enjoyed it, weird ending but that's Johns style. Our main character Salvo echoes a rather naive idealistic crusader with definitely misplaced loyalties. A real gun at being a translator that ultimately is his undoing. This tome in parts kind of reminded me of Forsyths Dogs of War the planning and back stage schemes taking place for a military coup. Hoping for a good ending nope not going to happen. Leave you with food for thought about central African political woes tick a big gigantic yes sir. Question will African politics sort it self out answer not in my life time but I've known to be wrong on the odd occasions. Overall started out well got draggy midway then hotted near the end, then like a burst of cold water at the end to remind you its Africa.

  27. 4 out of 5

    William

    A well plotted, engaging, and wonderfully populated thriller that explores the at times self-defeating goals and complexities of African democracies, while underscoring the backhanded practices of Western agencies to undermine individuals, and nations, who stand in their way. Le Carré's "The Mission Song," seems better crafted, clearer, and more engaging in many ways than the near-perfect "Constant Gardener." This is a brilliant novel of espionage, love, and sacrifice that has something to say, t A well plotted, engaging, and wonderfully populated thriller that explores the at times self-defeating goals and complexities of African democracies, while underscoring the backhanded practices of Western agencies to undermine individuals, and nations, who stand in their way. Le Carré's "The Mission Song," seems better crafted, clearer, and more engaging in many ways than the near-perfect "Constant Gardener." This is a brilliant novel of espionage, love, and sacrifice that has something to say, too, about our post-9/11 tactics. I would recommend this novel to anyone.

  28. 5 out of 5

    George Henry

    Is says something when I can only get halfway through a book by one of my favour authors and have to give up. It looked to have all the makings of a good story with good characters until it became too tedious, bogged down in a complex lecture on the problems of Africa. I found myself skipping boring pages and then stopped.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Isabelle Leo

    John at the top of his game linguistically, excellent narrator, and as always, blindsiding me w the emotional connections btwn unexpected parties. Only John can make a boardroom meeting and a file into such riveting drama and riveted i WAS.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Jim B

    Having David Oyelowo as reader of this novel was a stroke of genius. His voice was exactly the voice of the central character of the book, Bruno Salvador. Le Carre always tells a good story. I'm interested in world affairs, so this insight into the nation of Congo brought new insight, but it was too much information for me. The discussion of the men who gathered in a conspiracy could have been edited to 1/3 the length, and the rest of the book would have been just as good. But that may be just m Having David Oyelowo as reader of this novel was a stroke of genius. His voice was exactly the voice of the central character of the book, Bruno Salvador. Le Carre always tells a good story. I'm interested in world affairs, so this insight into the nation of Congo brought new insight, but it was too much information for me. The discussion of the men who gathered in a conspiracy could have been edited to 1/3 the length, and the rest of the book would have been just as good. But that may be just me, hearing this story as I drove to and from work instead of in a long drive. Books are like that; the circumstances of the reader can impact enjoyment of the book.

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