• John le Carré

  • The Biography
  • By: Adam Sisman
  • Narrated by: Michael Page
  • Length: 25 hrs and 47 mins
  • 4.4 out of 5 stars (157 ratings)

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John le Carré  By  cover art

John le Carré

By: Adam Sisman
Narrated by: Michael Page
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Publisher's summary

In this definitive biography - blessed by John le Carré himself - Adam Sisman reveals the man behind the bestselling 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.

©2015 Adam Sisman (P)2015 Brilliance Audio, all rights reserved. Original personal archives, photographs, documents, letters and other materials © 2015 David Cornwell.

Critic reviews

"Whether listeners are being taken through le Carré's publishing history or his relationship with his publishers, [narrator Michael] Page moves through the eight decades of Cornwell's life with the right balance of energy and erudition. An audiobook biography to savor." ( AudioFile)

What listeners say about John le Carré

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The writer who came in from the cold

Having read all 23 of John Le Carre's novels I was keen to learn more about the man I have spent so many hours with.

Mr Sisman has written an excellent biography. I had no idea JLC had experienced so much in life. From his con man father to getting a knife to his throat in Kenya. From his days in the secret service to his exile to Cornwall. It's all here. Fascinating.

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5 people found this helpful

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Very interesting

What made the experience of listening to John le Carré the most enjoyable?

The early parts of the book are fascinating, what a varied life. Later its a bit boring.

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3 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars

More, please, but hold the asparagus.

We listened to this marvelous book together every day. It is riveting, not only because of its subject but because it is so well written and so well narrated. We did laugh at some of the "researcher's" compulsion to include more than necessary. At one point we are told of a get together with friends and the author for some reason felt it necessary to describe the black asparagus that was served. Overall an excellent read.

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2 people found this helpful

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    4 out of 5 stars

a bit too long, too much " reviewing the reviews"

too much time talking about what reviewers think , which is largely a waste... anyone picked up this book is almost certainly read mr. Crowe work, and doesn't really care what various reviewers thought at various times , and since he claims not to care , it really should play no role in his biography other than when it had a significant impact on the direction he took in his writing. understanding the complexities that go into the man who writes the book is really extraordinary, and if the biography were Thirty to 40% shorter , everything that matters would still be be there... The writer should have followed Elmore Leonard's advice... "Leave out the bits the reader wants to skip anyway"

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    2 out of 5 stars

too long!

did a detailed, interesting job covering the writing, release, and aftermath of The Spy Who Came in from the Cold. I wish Sisman had done the same for Our Game and Single & Single but they are glossed over in a minute. And an inordinate amount of time was spent on jlc's father and childhood, which felt a but repetitive after five hours of it.

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Starting to put LeCarre in perspective

With a long and successful career writing as John Le Carre, the writer David Cornwell will surely be the subject of many biographies and much literary criticism as time passes. Susan's biography is an excellent start and will surely remain a key source. An enjoyable listen.

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1 person found this helpful

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    3 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars

Couldn't get past chapter 1

Michael Page's voice is very grating to my ears. I'm sure I would have finished the book if it were narrated by someone with a smoother sounding and less 'snobby' voice.

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    3 out of 5 stars

Too much clutter

The author did a lot of research on Le Carré. Do you really want to know all of it? I’m on chapter 10 & trying to decide whether to continue. I’m mostly interested in a traditional literary biography, one that answers the question “How is the life reflected in the works?” But for my taste, there is way too much information about other stuff, like cricket. The problem isn’t just that I don’t care about (say) cricket. The problem is there are several other topics besides cricket that get long discussions by the author, so many that the narrative drive gets lost in all the digressions.

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    5 out of 5 stars
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Wonderful account of a life lived for books.

David Cornwall's life is a great study of the 20th Century. As he noted, one is influenced, as an adult, by early home life, education, and career. His was facinating, if not painful at times but relatable and inviable. His work ethic was impressive and he provides a mirror for the modern world to examine changing morales regarding our fellow man.

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Review of John le Carré’s Biography

Well researched and narrated . Gives great insight into the man and genesis of his writings.

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