Friday, July 25, 2008

The Mission Song by John le Carré

I wasn't going to count this book because I didn't actually read it. I listened to part of it while driving home from New Orleans, and the rest while driving home from Atlanta. But Brent made a convincing argument for my counting it.

I must confess that the name John le Carré meant nothing to me prior to this book. I have since been informed that he was written quite a few well-known spy novels, such as The Spy Who Came in from the Cold, The Constant Gardener, The Tailor of Panama, and Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy.

The Mission Song is told in first person past tense, by Bruno Salvo, a top-class interpreter who works for the British Secret Service. Born in the Congo, he now resides in London and is married -- although not happily -- to a prominent tabloid journalist. As the son of an Irish Catholic priest and a Congolese woman, Salvo is somewhat of an outcast. He knows many Congolese languages, as well as French and Enlgish., making him a valuable asset to the secret service.

The story that Salvo recounts is one of political machinations. An unknown entity -- it is hinted that it is some American corporation -- has arranged talks between the various ethnic groups within the Democratic Republic of the Congo, with the stated purpose of brokering peace that would be economically beneficial to all involved parties. But as the summit progresses, Salvo begins to suspect that instead of peace, the goal is really to spark a civil war in the Congo. He realizes that he must do what he can to stop this from happening.

I don't particularly like audiobooks. I think the medium only works well in a small number of cases. Books of essays, such as the works of David Sedaris or Sarah Vowell, work well. Memoirs too. However, the novels that I have listened to have lost something in the translation. John le Carré is a good writer, but I found it harder to appreciate his writing when it was read to me. I plan on actually reading one of his other books.


Amanda said...

The only time I listen to audiobooks is when the only alternatives are either very expensive (I prefer library to bookstore, at least until I'm sure I like a book) or on gutenberg - I can't deal with reading a book on a computer screen.

Brooke said...

Audiobooks are the worst. My theory is that they find the people with the *most* annoying voices and get them to read.