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