So far, in March’s 12 in 12 Challenge, the books I have read have been biographies about groups of people – a family, a couple of friends/companions and two people who lived in the same house. The next book is a memoir by an individual about things that have happened in his life. The book is The Pigeon Tunnel and the writer is John Le Carre best known for his spy novels.
I have been a fan of Le Carre’s writing since I read my father’s copy of Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy and watched the TV adaptation with Alec Guinness when it was first shown. I have read most of his subsequent novels with my favourites possibly being The Honourable Schoolboy and Little Drummer Girl. I like the world weary writing and the author’s view that some things have to be done but they don’t glorify anyone.
The biography/memoir is a selection of stories from the author’s life about events that happened to him. It is not a whole narrative and there are not a lot of details about his family life but what there is is fascinating. The author was employed by our secret service and has also done a lot of travelling for research. It is obvious that he knows a lot of influential people and has interesting contacts so the stories he tells are of a world that I know very little about. There are stories set in embassies and war zones and they all reflect the world view that I detected when I read his novels.
One of the most interesting parts of the book is the revelations about his father and the way that he was brought up. His father was a chancer and a con artist and the stories about him are eye watering. The author points out that the character of Rick in A Perfect Spy is a depiction of his father so it is worth reading that book too. By benefit of a private education, not always paid for, and an ability with languages the author gained his place in the secret service and thus his rise in social class and respectability. It is definitely an unusual story and you can see why he has become a very private man.
This is really a book of short stories about the author’s life that you can dip in and out of. I found it absorbing and easy to read. You don’t have to have read any of the author’s novels to enjoy this – it is an insight into a world that very few of us know anything about or will experience.