Log in

No account? Create an account

Previous Entry | Next Entry

31 of 52

The Company: A Novel of the CIAThe Company: A Novel of the CIA by Robert Littell

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

If I expect to get through 52 books in 2011, then I need to stop picking up 900 and 1100 page books. Littell's The Company clocks in at around 900 pages. At least 700 of those are well worth the time--I'm not going to quibble about the rest. Given that the book starts in pre-Wall Berlin, and the action ends with the August 1991 coup attempt in the Soviet Union, the length is understandable.

After finishing the book I was struck with a question of who and how much in the book was history and how much was fiction. Apparently mine was not the first mind to pose that question, given what I was able to track down on-line. The central protagonists are ostensibly fictive, but almost all of the other named characters (including numerous presidents, CIA officers, and civilians) are either historical figures or thinly disguised ones--which then leads to questions about how much of the action is "historical" or "thinly disguised." If the novel in fact hews closely to the truth I'm not sure whether I'm prouder of the C.I.A. than I ever expected to be or more appalled at the workings of both our and other governments than peace of mind can coexist with.

That said, Littell makes the characters, even minor or secondary characters like Boris Yeltsin and Kim Philby, leap off the page as people of conviction. I never thought I'd ever have any sympathy for either of them, but this book manages to make me feel that. When it comes to the main characters, he does that in spades--creating characters who can elicit a full range of emotions from the reader. I was impressed.

Apparently this author has written a number of books about modern espionage, especially the CIA. I'm going to see if any of them are shorter than this one--if yes, I'll probably read them. But now it's on to the tome on my night table. It's 200 pages longer than this one. What was I thinking?!

View all my reviews