A surprisingly sweet Le Carre book, which is partially spoiled by a predictable and strident ending. This review is a bit spoilery, so if you are interested in reading the book I would perhaps stop... here.
The story covers 60+ years in the life of Ted Mundy, a British leftist, jack of all trades, and occasional spy. There is his early life in Pakistan, then boarding school in England, protest movements in Germany, lotus eating in America, a return to Britain to serve as a cold war spy, and then finally in late life one more espionage adventure. And of course there is the "Absolute Friend" from the title, Sasha, the German leftist, radical, idealist, and double agent, who is Mundy's companion through much the story.
There are a lot of familiar Le Carre themes in this book, but they have a lighter and happier touch than usual. The main character has a fractured and outcast background that prepares him for spying, but he retains a solid heart. He is psychologically fluid like in the _Tailor of Panama_ or _Little Drummer Girl_, but not so much that he splatters into a thousand little droplets. He does pay a price for his espionage during the Cold War, but the price is not so high that it destroys him. And after 60+ years, he has a happiness and peace and the knowledge that his efforts did some good in the world. Oh! And he has a 20 year old stand in for his childhood crush, which is nice for him, I guess. That takes us up to the final part of the book, where Mundy dips his toe back into the world of espionage. At this point it is like a Nabokov novel that has almost reached the end without something really terrible happening; you know that something is up. The last plot/scenes resolve in pretty much the way you would expect it to if you have read the rest of Le Carre's work. I'm not sure I would call it predictable, just in the sense that if something is sign posted enough you start to suspect a fake out after all and you wrap back around to expecting a different twist. But it is very typically Le Carre. The post script was also somewhat long and over done; it's not so much that I disagree with the general ideas, as I do with the cartoonish levels of malevolence and competence that Le Carre ascribes to some parties. I think that part of the reason the ending didn't age well is that it is very much a product of its time, which was immediately after 9/11 and the Iraq invasion, but before that invasion had become widely known as a fiasco.
Quote of the book: "Lawyers are all assholes."