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John le Carré: The Biography by [Sisman, Adam]
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John le Carré: The Biography Kindle Edition

4.5 out of 5 stars 102 customer reviews

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Length: 673 pages Word Wise: Enabled Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled
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Review

Ultimately it's about love ... this is a very emotional book. John le Carré 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 published...it 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 Carré 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 Carré (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 Carré'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 Carré 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 Carré (Independent)

However gripping John le Carré's novels . Hang onto your hats, because the author's real life story is equally thrilling. Biographer Adam Sisman peels back layers of le Carré to reveal David Cornwall ... This is a masterpiece of storytelling and factual revelations (Compass)

Fascinating (Metro)

John le Carré 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 Carré] 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 Carré] 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)

Review

'Compendious and compelling ... it is impossible to imagine this life being bettered.' (New Statesman)

'The spy novelist's life is explored and explained with immaculate care and attention to detail ... This riveting, thorough biography reveals the real world of Cornwell to be every bit as fascinating as his much-loved fiction.' (The Sunday Times)

'Ultimately it's about love ... this is a very emotional book. John le Carré had an utterly heartbreaking childhood ... This is the best biography of 2015 – a rare achievement that invites rereading.' (The Independent)

Product details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 8314 KB
  • Print Length: 673 pages
  • Publisher: Bloomsbury Publishing; 1 edition (19 Oct. 2015)
  • Sold by: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B015T8Y1IY
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Enabled
  • Screen Reader: Supported
  • Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars 102 customer reviews
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #14,090 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
For Christmas, I gave my mother this biography since she has read almost all of Le Carré's novels. Within four days she had this to say:

"I must admit that I felt a bit daunted when you handed me that enormous tome about Le Carre as it runs to 600 pages, plus notes - but it is, so far, and I am now on page 55, utterly unputdownable!

"Adam Sisman writes in incredible detail but he makes it all the detail interesting and with strong threads going through it so you are always waiting for the outcome of this or that, and as soon as one thread comes to a conclusion you are hooked by one of the other threads which is developing alongside!

"And of course it makes you want to reread all the books because Sisman tells you who each character is based on - so you can decipher the key and learn who was the original of each character in each book.

"It's a terrific Christmas present - physically as well as mentally.
Thank you, darling, for such a thoughtful gift and now I must end this email and get back to the great book I am reading..............."

It appears that she is enjoying it :)
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This book is full of surprises: how rich JLC's writing has made him and from so early on; how dreadful his childhood was; what a terrible and ever-present shadow his con-man father cast over his life; what JLC actually did as a spy; how complex his friendships and other relationships have been. You can see why he is by nature secretive and had misgivings about any biography. But actually, for such a complicated and scarred man, he emerges from this as engaging company and strangely honourable; someone for whom being a famous writer (and it's easy to forget just how famous) has not been easy. This bio does a good job of taking you through his life and each successive novel. The pacing is right, the space devoted to each part of his life is in proportion, and the background information (for instance about the secret services in the UK or what the plot of The Spy Who Came In From The Cold is really about) just right. This book has attracted a bit of criticism - for instance that he's referred to as David Cornwell throughout (but that's how he sees himself and what those who know him call him). But if you like any of his novels (Tinker, Tailor is for me a masterpiece) then this biography is first class.
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Format: Hardcover
In fiction set in the world of espionage, there is basically John Le Carré, and then there is everybody else. Although other former spies have written decent novels (curiously enough, John Bingham, with whom Le Carré once shared an office is one) and some good novelists (William Boyd for example) have written espionage novels, Le Carré has been in a class of his own for fifty years now. Mostly this is because of authenticity - Le Carré knows what politics and government are actually like, and anyone who has worked in a government, even in the Pensions Department, will recognise this instantly.
A man who's life was based on duplicity and lies, the son of a monstrous con-man father, an unavowed operative for two intelligence services and subsequently a best-selling novelist cries out for a biography, and now he has one. In fact, Le Carré's earlier life, up to his forties, is by far the best part of Mr Sisman's book, and he takes us carefully though the snobbery and prejudice, the betrayals and confusions, the personal misery and professional frustration, and the false starts and the final success. He shows us a man who was in but not of the Establishment, and who came to resent it with bitter fury, a man who had lied so often about his past that he had forgotten what the truth was, if he ever knew.
The heart of the book lies in the two thirds of it that deal with the period until the seventies. After that, I'm afraid, there's a real sense of finish-the-job. The book turns into a series of mini-essays built around each of his books and a few films, with the origins conscientiously described, the plots sketched in, and then a selection of the reviews.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This biography bears the hallmarks of Adam Sisman's style - tireless research, cautious and responsible use of sources, an ability to draw moral questions in clear relief, yet leave ethical judgements to the reader. It is also a compelling work - informative, readable, with anecdotes, insights and impressions of David Cornwell culled from a wide variety of sources.

Any le Carré fan will become absorbed in the man's life, from his unusual childhood to his passionate adoption of causes late in life. Ronnie Cornwell, le Carré's father, was introduced to readers in "A Perfect Spy". In Adam Sisman's biography the extent of his larcenous activity is revealed and its effect on le Carré's life addressed. In this and in other potentially controversial questions Sisman remains unbiassed and informative, allowing the reader to pronounce judgement. That objectivity runs through the book and is an important element of Sisman's style.

Wholeheartedly recommended for any reader curious about David Cornwell, the man, his life, his writing methods and his often turbulent emotional life. The weaving together of his literary and personal lives is consistently successful and engaging.
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