John le Carré

  • by Adam Sisman
  • Narrated by Michael Jayston
  • 26 hrs and 34 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook

Publisher's Summary

The definitive biography of the internationally adored author of The Spy Who Came in from the Cold, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, and A Perfect Spy - arguably one of the most important and influential writers of the post-World War II period - by the National Book Critics Circle Award-winning biographer Adam Sisman.
In this definitive biography - blessed by John le Carré himself - Adam Sisman reveals the man behind the best-selling persona. In John le Carré, Sisman shines a spotlight on David Cornwell, an expert at hiding in plain sight - "born to lying," he wrote in 2002, "bred to it, trained to it by an industry that lies for a living, practiced in it as a novelist."
Of course the pseudonym "John le Carré" has helped to keep the public at a distance. Sisman probes Cornwell's unusual upbringing, abandoned by his mother at the age of only five and raised by his con man father (when not in prison), and explores his background in British intelligence as well as his struggle to become a writer,and his personal life. Sisman has benefited from unfettered access to le Carré's private archive, talked to the most important people in his life, and interviewed the man himself at length.
Who is John le Carré? Intriguing, thorough, and packed with entertaining detail, this biography will be a treat for the legions of le Carré fans.


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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful


Would you consider the audio edition of John le Carré to be better than the print version?

I have not tried to read it however Michael Jayston does an incredible job and draws you in.

What other book might you compare John le Carré to, and why?

I have nothing to compare this with at present.

What about Michael Jayston’s performance did you like?

His voice and his delivery, Just great.

Was there a moment in the book that particularly moved you?

Well I am half way through having heard some of the abridged version on BBC Radio 4 which introduced me to this biography. I am gripped!

Any additional comments?

Well worth buying particularly as an example of truth being vastly more interesting as well as stranger than fiction

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- Francis


This book is a comprehensive account of John LeCarre’s (David Conwell) life, from childhood until his eighties. The level of detail is impressive and it is clear that Sisman has thoroughly researched his subject. It included interviewing LeCarrie himself, reading letters to and from him, reading his books and relating what critics thought about them. And a wide range of people that knew and worked with LeCarre have been quoted.

LeCarrie seems to have come from a dysfunctional family and his life has been a complex one. This book provides the reader with a detailed, chronological, ‘ warts and all’ account. In fact, his story could be the source of a riveting TV series, documentary, or even a feature film. So if you want to know about LeCarrie then this is a good book for you.

In many ways you get two biographies for the price of one, since LeCarrie’s fathers’ life (Ron) is also covered in some detail. The fact that Ron was an incorrigible globetrotting confidence trickster who made an lost fortunes, spent some time at Her Majesty’s pleasure and rubbed shoulders with people as diverse as the Kray twins, pop stars and the aristocracy significantly enriched the book.

On the down side, I was uncomfortable with the level of detail that Sisman presented. We get to know about furtive glances, or holding hands, as well the feelings of LeCarrie and the people he interacted with. At one level it bought the story alive, rather than being a sterile list of things and events, on the other hand these details seemed unbelievable to me and it felt as if the book was oscillating between a ‘faction’ novel and a biography. Two thirds of the way through the book, the imposition of the author’s imagination lead to a psychoanalytical interpretation of a LeCarre’s book in terms of the relationship between father and son that I felt was speculative and unnecessary. Overall, I would have preferred a shorter and less embroidered narrative.

A comment about the narrator. The book is very well read by Michael Jayston (whom I think gave the definitive reading of the Geoffrey Household novel Rogue Male). However, in this case, I am not completely convinced that he was an ideal choice, as there were times when his acting skills added to parts of this book feeling like a novel.

In summary, this book tells you as much as you will probably want to know about John LeCarrie… and much more.
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- Mark H

Book Details

  • Release Date: 19-10-2015
  • Publisher: Audible Studios for Bloomsbury