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22 of 24 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Lives within Lives of Anthony Blunt, 17 Jun 2005
This review is from: Anthony Blunt: His Lives (Paperback)
Miranda Carter has written a splendid book about Anthony Blunt, appropriately subtitled, "his lives." Reading about the Cambridge Fellow, Soldier, Double Agent, Art-Historian, Director of the Cortauld Institute, Surveyor of the King's/Queens Pictures, etc., etc., is like peeling an onion, or perhaps--more appropriately--opening a Russian Matrioshka doll. As one probes into a deeper layer one discovers yet another persona, and although one might begin to understand Blunt's motives, one never really gets to know who he really was, thanks to his ability to compartmentalize his multifarious activities and interests.
Although I began the book with considerable prejudice, since Anthony Blunt seems to have prospered while his fellow Cambridge spies were living comparatively miserable lives in Moscow, Ms. Carter's sensitive portrayal of this man, whose aloofness stemmed from a fundamental insecurity, changed my mind. She shows us a man who was unwavering in his ideals and loyal to his friends (He waited until 1964--after Guy Burgess had died and Philby and Maclean were 'safe' in Moscow-- to admit his complicity.). She also portrays a tormented man, whose ability to lose himself in his art-history scholarship preserved his sanity and probably saved his life. Publicly disgraced in 1979, stripped of his knighthood and other honors (after a promise of immunity), deserted by all except a few loyal friends, he died soon after. Miranda Carter depicts him as a man who was courageous but tragically flawed.
This book is meticulously researched, so much so that an average enthusiast of espionage literature may find himself adrift among the dozens of friends, acquaintances and enemies whom Anthony Blunt knew, not only Guy Burgess, Kim Philby and the other Cambridge spy protagonists, but also literary figures, including Julian Bell, Louis MacNeice, W.H. Auden; and other personages--who have engendered their own share of speculation--Victor Rothschild, Michael Straight and Goronwy Rees. Precisely because of the plethora of names, the book presents a fascinating glimpse into a fifty-year history of Great Britain from the 1920's onward. And while probably only the most passionate art historians will read every word about Nicholas Poussin and Baroque Rome, the persistent reader will be rewarded by a colorful and witty glimpse into the outrageous life and times of Guy Burgess (Inexplicably no one has written a biography of the wayward spy, but if they do, it should probably be called "My Noisy War"!).
For those afficionados who cannot get enough of the Cambridge Spies (Judging from the numbers of books still being published about them, half a century later, such readers are numerous.), this book is highly recommended!
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F. S. L'hoir
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