Wednesday 26 September 2018

Book Review: The Russia House by John le Carre

Last Updated: 03 August 2021

The Russia House by John le Carre book cover

AD* | John le Carre's bestselling classic is a timeless spy thriller about the Iron Curtain and the tense relationship between Great Britain and Russia.

John le Carré has earned worldwide acclaim with extraordinary spy novels, including The Russia House, an unequivocal classic. Navigating readers through the shadow worlds of international espionage with critical knowledge culled from his years in British Intelligence, le Carré tracks the dark and devastating trail of a document that could profoundly alter the course of world events.

In Moscow, a sheaf of military secrets changes hands. If it arrives at its destination, and if its import is understood, the consequences could be cataclysmic. Along the way it has an explosive impact on the lives of three people: a Soviet physicist burdened with secrets; a beautiful young Russian woman to whom the papers are entrusted; and Barley Blair, a bewildered English publisher pressed into service by British Intelligence to ferret out the document's source. A magnificent story of love, betrayal, and courage, The Russia House catches history in the act. For as the Iron Curtain begins to rust and crumble, Blair is left to sound a battle cry that may fall on deaf ears.

I am super excited to be participating in this blog tour with a difference... for this is no ordinary blog tour!

On 27th September (tomorrow!), Penguin will complete a major project that has been nine years in the making. The culmination of this exciting project will see twenty-one novels by renowned veteran author John le Carre enter the Penguin Modern Classics range. This will make le Carre the living author with the greatest number of works awarded this classic status - a feat which is certainly not to be overlooked. 

To celebrate, the lovely people at Penguin are hosting a twenty-one-day blog tour, where each stop features a review of a different John le Carre classic. Today, I simply couldn't be happier to be hosting the tour with a review of The Russia House.

John le Carre book blog tour graphic

Le Carre and I

Before I get into the review, I feel like now is as good a time as any to mention that The Russia House is actually the first John le Carre novel I've ever read. Le Carre seems to be one of those authors who is regularly talked about and always highly praised - I just haven't had the time to experience his work yet. In reality, I don't really have an excuse as I have copies of A Most Wanted Man, The Constant Gardener and Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy sitting on my bookshelves! Maybe this tour is just the motivation I need to pick them up and get them read!

Time to Review

With all that out the way - let's get on to the review itself!

The Russia House is a classic John le Carre spy novel, effortlessly combining the intricacies of espionage with character detail and beautiful prose. In fact, one of the first things I noticed was the sheer quality and unique style of the writing - upon reading a single page, it's immediately clear exactly why le Carre is such a highly-regarded author, irrespective of genre.

The story of the book is all wrapped up in the tensions between Russia and the UK, politics that speak of a time long gone yet sadly, one which is still relevant on today's political battlefield. Although the spy trade has moved on considerably since the time when the book was set, it is perhaps a telling reminder that the same tensions still continue to flare up again and again in the modern world.

Characters in The Russia House are guarded yet open - the strength of le Carre's writing paints a picture of each character so well that you almost forget that they are fictional. Dialogue is another strong point, conveying both the main point and subtle subtext with natural ease and effortless flow. 

If The Russia House is a classic John le Carre novel, then I think it's pretty safe to say that Penguin has got the right idea with the Modern Classics accolade!

The Penguin Modern Classics edition of The Russia House is available to buy now.


The generous team at Penguin have also given me a second copy of The Russia House to give away to one lucky reader. Enter via the Rafflecopter widget below!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Terms and Conditions:
1. Giveaway closes on 3rd October 2018 at 11.59pm (GMT)
2. The prize consists of one paperback copy of The Russia House by John le Carre
3. This giveaway is open to residents of the UK aged 18 and over
4. The winner will be randomly generated by Rafflecopter once the giveaway has ended
5. The winner will be informed by email once the giveaway has ended
6. The winner will have 72 hours to claim their prize. If the winner has not responded by this time, another winner will be announced

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* I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review

What's your favourite John le Carre book? Let me know in the comments below!


  1. My partner loves John le Carre. I've not read anything by him yet. I'll have to give him a go.

  2. I am ashamed to admit that I have never read any John le Carre book, I really must read some!

  3. Ive not yet read any that i can recall, do love a good read though this sounds good xx

  4. Many years ago I enjoyed Smiley's People

  5. I've never read any of his books, this is for my son

  6. my hubby said he loved The Perfect Spy, I have never read any of his books

  7. My favourite of the John Le Carre books I've read so far is Smiley's People

  8. Either Tinker, Tailor, Soldier Spy or Our Kind of Traitor. Can't make my mind up between them.

  9. The Spy Who Came in from the Cold