John le Carre: The Biography (Paperback)
  • John le Carre: The Biography (Paperback)

John le Carre: The Biography (Paperback)

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Paperback 672 Pages / Published: 19/05/2016
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'If there is a contemporary writer who's given me richer pleasure I can't for the moment name them' STEPHEN FRY 'One of the great postwar British novelists, and an unforgettable, unique character' ROBERT HARRIS Long after The Spy Who came in from the Cold made John le Carre a worldwide, bestselling sensation, David Cornwell, the man behind the pseudonym, remained an enigma. In this definitive biography, written with unprecedented access to the man himself, Adam Sisman offers an illuminating portrait of a fascinating and enigmatic writer. In Cornwell's lonely childhood Adam Sisman uncovers the origins of the themes of love and abandonment which dominated le Carre's fiction: the departure of his mother when he was five, followed by 'sixteen hugless years' in the dubious care of his father, a man of energy and charm, a serial seducer and conman who hid the Bentleys in the trees when the bailiffs came calling - a 'totally incomprehensible father' who could 'put a hand on your shoulder and the other in your pocket, both gestures equally sincere'. And in Cornwell's adult life - from recruitment by both MI5 and MI6, through marriage and family life, to his emergence as the master of the spy novel - Sisman explores the idea of espionage and its significance in human terms; the extent to which betrayal is acceptable in exchange for love; and the endless need for forgiveness, especially from oneself. Written with exclusive access to David Cornwell, to his private archive and to the most important people in his life - family, friends, enemies, intelligence ex-colleagues and ex-lovers - and featuring a wealth of previously unseen photographic material, Adam Sisman's extraordinarily insightful and constantly revealing biography brings in from the cold a man whose own life was as complex and confounding and filled with treachery as any of his novels. 'I'm a liar,' Cornwell once wrote. 'Born to lying, bred to it, trained to it by an industry that lies for a living, practised in it as a novelist.' This is the definitive biography of a major writer, described by Richard Osman as 'just the finest, wisest storyteller we had.'

Publisher: Bloomsbury Publishing PLC
ISBN: 9781408849460
Number of pages: 672
Weight: 512 g
Dimensions: 198 x 129 mm

Ultimately it's about love ... this is a very emotional book. John le Carre had an utterly heartbreaking childhood ... This is the best biography of 2015 - a rare achievement that invites rereading -- Edward Wilson * Independent *
Compendious and compelling...Sisman is excellent at the nuts and bolts of writing and of being must be difficult to write the life of a man who is still very much with us, and in the public eye, no matter how much liberty the biographer has been given to tell the story, warts and all. Sisman - a very fine and astute biographer - has done an excellent, not to say exemplary, job under the circumstances ... it is impossible to imagine this Life being bettered -- William Boyd * New Statesman *
This is the way to do it. Why this admirably balanced, patiently detailed biography of John le Carre is not on the Samuel Johnson Prize for Non-Fiction shortlist beats me ... Sisman does full justice to [the] rawness at the heart of le Carre -- David Sexton * Evening Standard *
A perfect biography * Robert Harris on An Honourable Englishman *
A wonderfully absorbing book * Alan Bennett on An Honourable Englishman *
By miles the best biography I have read this year * Max Hastings on An Honourable Englishman *
Admirable * Financial Times *
Balanced, focused and compelling * Economist *
The spy novelist's life is explored and explained with immaculate care and attention to detail * Sunday Times *
This book is testament to Sisman's skill and perseverance ... With his excellent grasp of the wider history, Sisman is good at anchoring Cornwell in this shadowy environment, as he guides his readers through the models for various characters ... Sisman brings admirable clarity to what could have been a meander in a wilderness of mirrors -- Andrew Lycett * Spectator *
A perceptive and elegant interpreter of complex lives -- Jonathan Dimbleby * Radio Times *
Excellent ... Shows how memory, fact and fiction have danced in Le Carre's life ... [A] masterful biography * Catholic Morning Herald *
Absorbing new doorstopper * Western Morning News *
Sisman often came to know the reality of what happened in Cornwell's life better than Cornwell himself did * Newsweek *
Respectful though far from sycophantic - Best Books of 2015 -- Gaby Wood * Daily Telegraph *
This riveting, thorough biography reveals the real world of Cornwell to be every bit as fascinating as his much-loved fiction. The perfect Christmas present for the le Carre fan in your life * Sunday Times *
Cornwell has admitted that he can no longer separate many of the facts of his life from his lies and fictions. For Sisman this is like a red rag to a bull and you can feel the thrill of the chase throughout his terrific John le Carre * Independent *
However gripping John le Carre's novels ... Hang onto your hats, because the author's real life story is equally thrilling. Biographer Adam Sisman peels back layers of le Carre to reveal David Cornwall ... This is a masterpiece of storytelling and factual revelations * Compass *
Fascinating * Metro *
John le Carre will not be the final word on this subject but it could hardly be bettered -- Robert McCrum * Observer *
Sisman pulls it off: this is a well-written and highly readable book which is neither hagiography nor hatchet job ... Within that world he [John le Carre] conveys some of the truths of human nature, endeavour and fallibility. This is a real and rare achievement and in Adam Sisman he has a biographer worthy of it -- Alan Judd * Times Literary Supplement *
Absorbing ... An insightful and highly readable portrait of a writer and a man who has often been classified as elusive and enigmatic as his fictional heroes -- Michiko Kakutani * New York Times *
Perceptive, entertaining * Guardian, 'Book of the Day' *
Extraordinary, absorbing ... The most enthralling life of a writer I've read since I found myself riveted by Samuel Johnson's Life of Milton 40 odd years ago ... [A] magnificent book about an extraordinary man ... Nothing about him [John le Carre] is more shrewd and wise and self-revealing than this superb biography he has elicited from Sisman * Australian *
Excellent * Choice magazine *
A masterpiece * Irish Examiner, 'Books of the Year' *
Meticulous and illuminating ... Thankfully, his biography stops well short of hagiography * Tablet *
[Sisman's] revealing biography, written in blessedly readable prose, makes a three-dimensional figure of a subject who can come across as something of a superman * Daily Telegraph *

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Ben Tarrant

“Very good”

John Le Carré is one of my favorite authors. Because his life experiences have had such a clear impact on his work I was eager to find out more about this insightful writer.
Although a long book, Sisman informs,... More

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