The Russia House Book Summary and Study Guide

Detailed plot synopsis reviews of The Russia House

Barley Blair a bumbling stumbling literary agent, receives classified information at a Moscow book fair. The classified info is from a "super" scientist (named 'Goethe') inside the Soviet weapons bureaucracy. Goethe says all Soviet technology does NOT work and that the arms race is futile: the West has already won. The key issue? Can MI-5 believe this source? Getting in contact with the source forces Blair (Sean Connery) to return to Russia, walk the streets of Moscow, and again contact Goethe. To do this, he must make contact with an old friend of the scientist named Katya (Michele Pfiffer). As the KGB becomes aware of Goethe, and as things fall apart in Russia, Blair must decide if, and how, he can save his new found love Katya.
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That's the movie. The book has all these elements also. But the book has an entirely additional level for, you see, the book is told in the 1st person by someone who is in MI-5. The narrator knows all about this case, even before he starts writing. In fact, he tells you straight off that the plans for Blair went bad and then tells you why. The real story of the book is the narrator's regret about his own life, and the contrasts and jealousies and even admirations the narrator has toward Blair.

In the movie, the conflict is between Blair and the Soviets. In the book, the conflict is really between Blair and the narrator. As you can see, most of the other reviewers don't point this out. But the narrator provides the grounding of the book. We see Blair's choices and heroics through his eyes ... and it is through those heroics that we learn of the narrator's failings. Yes, only Barley Blair could get the secrets from Goethe - but only Barley Blair could get the secrets from our narrator. The narrator's conflicts with Blair allow us to end up knowing two people intimately: Barley Blair, and the tragic and stoical narrator.

The review of this Book prepared by Rob Fisher

Barley Blair, a British publisher, is given a manuscript by the authorities who find him drunk in a pub. He's asked to go to Russia to contact a man named Goethe, a Russian physicist who wants the manuscript published. After threats by the British intelligence community and the CIA, he agrees to be the middleman. His love for a Russian women, Katya, who is the intermediary between himself and Goethe, leads Barley to despair...changing the tone and complexity of the story. As the Russians get wind of the situation, Barely plays into their hands in order save the life of his love object, Katya and her children. His handlers are confused at their joe's behavior. The CIA takes over the operation in order to handle Barely personally. Nobody is able to handle Barley, even after a lie detector test reveals his thoughts and allegiance as truthful beyond a shadow of doubt. But doubts are only the beginning of Barely's deceptions that makes this thriller one that can't be put down easily.
The review of this Book prepared by F. Scott Sinclair

LeCarre presents a work that is both a spy story and an anti-spy story that affects the lives of the three main characters: Bluebird, Katya, and Barley Blair.
The review of this Book prepared by Lena Brown

Chapter Analysis of The Russia House

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Plot & Themes

Composition of Book descript. of violence and chases 20%Planning/preparing, gather info, debate puzzles/motives 50%Feelings, relationships, character bio/development 20%How society works & physical descript. (people, objects, places) 10% Tone of story    -   Dry-cynical Time/era of story:    -   1980's-1999 Spying/Terrorism Thriller    -   Yes Cloak & Dagger Plotlets:    -   main char. spying/sabotage Kid or adult book?    -   Adult or Young Adult Book Who's the terrorist enemy here?    -   spy ring    -   commies! Is Romance a MAJOR (25%+) part of story?    -   Yes

Main Character

Gender    -   Male Profession/status:    -   spy Age:    -   40's-50's Ethnicity/Race    -   British


Europe    -   Yes European country:    -   England/UK    -   Eastern Europe    -   Russia Asia/Pacific    -   Yes Asian country:    -   Russia

Writing Style

Accounts of torture and death?    -   generic/vague references to death/punishment Explicit sex in book?    -   Yes What kind of sex:    -   descript of kissing Amount of dialog    -   roughly even amounts of descript and dialog

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John Le Carre Books Note: the views expressed here are only those of the reviewer(s).
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