The Mission Song

by John le Carré Fiction

  • UK Hodder and Stoughton (2006, 384 pages)

Bruno Salvador, known to friends and enemies alike as Salvo, is the ever-innocent, twenty-nine-year-old orphaned love-child of a Catholic Irish missionary and a Congolese headman's daughter.

Educated first at mission school in the East Congolese province of Kivu, and later at a discreet sanctuary for the secret sons of Rome, Salvo is inspired by his mentor Brother Michael to train as a professional interpreter in the minority African languages of which, almost from birth, he has been an obsessive collector.

Soon a rising star in his profession, he is courted by City corporations, hospitals, law courts, the Immigration services and -- inevitably -- the mushrooming overworld of British Intelligence. He is also courted -- and won -- by the all-white, Surrey-born Penelope, star reporter on one of our great national newspapers, whom with typical impulsiveness he promptly marries.

Yet even as the story opens, a contrary and irresistible love is dawning in him. Despatched to a no-name island in the North Sea to attend a top-secret meeting between Western financiers and East Congolese warlords, Salvo is obliged to interpret matters never intended for his re-awoken African conscience.

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