In an ‘afterword’ to the book Silverview, Le Carré’s youngest son, Nick Cornwell, tells us that the manuscript for this book was one his father worked on and set aside. He never seemed completely satisfied with it, but it was essentially finished. This was not one of those posthumous agreements allowing a new person to complete an unfinished manuscript. A bit of simple editing was all that was required. Silverview by John Le Carré offers fans a temporary reprieve from the finality of a beloved author’s passing.
Julian Lawndsley has grown a conscience and left his successful career in the stock market to move to a small town by the sea. He opens a bookstore. He is not a reader and knows next to nothing about books, but he has a bank roll, and he has style. Julian is just considering leaving his new life behind to go back to what he knows because business is slow and boring. Then Edward Avon wanders in. Here is a man who is alive and exciting, even if slightly dodgy, and he knows books. He is also a mystery, quite inscrutable. Little does Julian know that he is being used by a spy gone rogue, a man married to a spy who is dying.
This is new territory for Le Carré, with new characters and new locations – no George Smiley, no Russia. Edward had been active in Bosnia, Croatia and Serbia where ethnic cleansing can sicken even the most intrepid spirit. Edward cannot stay objective, and he questions whether an agency that requires its employees to stay objective should even exist. We view events through Julian’s eyes, the view of a mystified bookseller who is currently, in his new life, a fish out of water. The point of view allows Le Carré to fill the reader in little by little, creating that fog of intelligence work so familiar throughout his oeuvre.
Silverview is the house of spies where Edward’s wife lives while she is dying. The fog of secrecy emanates from Silverview. The fog is part of the appeal. It confuses our reader’s view of Edward’s secret lapse from the rules of intelligence. However, his misadventures are not as secret from his handlers as he thinks. Edward and his wife Debbie have a daughter. Lily, who has a two-year-old son, Sam, and no husband. Julian may end up losing his partnership with Edward, but he may have found a new reason to stay in this village by the sea. Edward is up to something but my lips are sealed.