The Secret Life of John le Carré (Hardback)
  • The Secret Life of John le Carré (Hardback)
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The Secret Life of John le Carré (Hardback)

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Hardback 208 Pages
Published: 12/10/2023
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Waterstones Says

A sequel of sorts to Sissman's magisterial biography of the great literary spymaster, The Secret Life of John le Carré reveals the complexities and contradictions of the iconic writer's private life in fascinating detail.

Secrecy came naturally to John le Carré, and there were some secrets that he fought fiercely to keep. Adam Sisman's definitive biography, published in 2015, provided a revealing portrait of this fascinating man; yet some aspects of his subject remained hidden. Nowhere was this more so than in his private life.

Apparently content in his marriage, the novelist conducted a string of love affairs over five decades. To these relationships he brought much of the tradecraft that he had learned as a spy - cover stories, cut-outs and dead letter boxes. These clandestine operations brought an element of danger to his life, but they also meant deceiving those closest to him. Small wonder that betrayal became a running theme in his work.

In trying to manage his biography, the novelist engaged in a succession of skirmishes with his biographer. While he could control what Sisman wrote about him in his lifetime, he accepted that the truth would eventually become known. Following his death in 2020, what had been withheld can now be revealed. The Secret Life of John le Carré reveals a hitherto-hidden perspective on the life and work of the spy-turned-author and a fascinating meditation on the complex relationship between biographer and subject. 'Now that he is dead,' Sisman writes, 'we can know him better.'

Publisher: Profile Books Ltd
ISBN: 9781800817784
Number of pages: 208
Weight: 310 g
Dimensions: 218 x 142 x 32 mm
Edition: Main


MEDIA REVIEWS

A completely fascinating and revelatory book, written with great sagacity, candour and judiciousness - William Boyd, author, Any Human Heart

A fascinating, revelatory appendix ... Sisman's latest book exposes the great spy writer's duplicitous and deceitful relationships with the women in his life, providing new insights into the inner workings of the man who created George Smiley - 'Best Books of the Year 2023', Financial Times

Enjoyable ... moves beyond voyeurism to reveal the deep sadness behind the lies ... Sisman can set the record straight - 'Books of the Year 2023', The Times

[A] seamy, steamy supplement to the biography - 'Books of the Year', Daily Mail

[Sisman] is a delicate writer keen to acknowledge the ambiguity of the biographer's role - Guardian

Scrupulous as a biographer ... Sisman justifies his argument that this coda of his is a necessary one. It enables us to have a clearer view of the man ... It also allows us to understand his novels better ... Psychologically astute. - James Owen. 'Book of the Week', The Times

Complex and consequential ... casts le Carré's life and writing in a fresh light ... a fascinating examination of the biographer's art - Washington Post

Fascinating - New Statesman

Revealing ... shocking - Observer

Fascinating ... painfully honest and anguished - Robert McCrum, Independent

Revelatory ... effectively rewrites the way [le Carré] will be perceived by posterity - William Boyd, 'Books of the Year', Daily Express

Enlightening - Wall Street Journal

Sisman is the biographers' biographer - Church Times

Intriguing ... admirably concise ... sub-themes, such as the practice and ethics of biography and the emotional toll of spying, run through [the book] - 'Books of the Year 2023', Spectator

Entertaining - Irish Independent

Thoughtful, self-aware and nuanced .. Sisman here is, as always, readable, honest, careful - Arts Desk

Given his history of spy novels, it should come as little surprise that the late Le Carré was a man adept at secrecy himself. And here his complicated private life is fully exposed for the first time - i News

A determined and at times forensic attempt to set the record straight ... deeply entertaining - Spectator World

Scintillating - Oldie

Remarkably unflinching ... Sisman uncovers a previously hidden and discomfiting dimension of le Carré ... future accounts will have to wrestle with the bombshells dropped here. - Publisher's Weekly

This is a book for le Carré fans, for anyone interested in the art of fiction, and for anyone interested in the art of biography. - Book Brunch

A one-of-a-kind revisiting of a wondrously productive life lived at the expense of two wives and many lovers ... Sisman demonstrates how betrayal was the leitmotif of both the novelist's life and his art and that however completely he depended on his wives, he depended on a new woman to serve as his inspiration for each book - Kirkus Reviews

Few writers have curated their image so effectively as John le Carré. In this page-turning follow-up to his 2015 biography, published when his subject was still kickingly alive, Adam Sisman completes the task of showing us who he was - a minor spy who became a major novelist, whose most important agents in the field were the women he needed to love and then betray. For le Carré, tradecraft was lovecraft. Much more than What Was Left Out, The Secret Life of John le Carré is not merely the conclusive homage to a compulsively fascinating character, but an insightful study into the biographical process itself. Even David Cornwell, the man who actually was John le Carré, would have saluted him - Nicholas Shakespeare

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“Fascinating insight into the impact 'other' women had on his writing”

I am not a fan of biographies, I read perhaps one a year and I have not read the author’s previous well received biography on John le Carré. What drew me here was the fact that it was dealing with the private world of... More

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