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About the Author

Adam Sisman is the author of "A. J. P. Taylor: A Biography". He lives near Bath with his wife, the novelist Robyn Sisman, & their two children. (Bowker Author Biography)

Includes the names: Adam Sisman, Adam Sisman

Image credit: reading at the National Book Festival, Washington, D.C. By slowking4 - Own work, GFDL 1.2, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=72267085

Works by Adam Sisman

Associated Works

One Hundred Letters from Hugh Trevor-Roper (2014) — Editor — 45 copies
Slightly Foxed 68: Ring Out, Wild Bells (2020) — Contributor — 24 copies
Slightly Foxed 71: Jocelin's Folly (2021) — Contributor — 21 copies
Slightly Foxed 53: Circus Tricks (2017) — Contributor — 17 copies
Slightly Foxed 61: The Paris Effect (2019) — Contributor — 16 copies


Common Knowledge



Sneaker, Womanizer, Lover, Spy
Review of the Harper (US) hardcover (October 24, 2023) of the Profile Books (UK) original (October 12, 2023).

The revelations in The Secret Life of John le Carré do add background to his writing of espionage novels as he apparently carried on a lifetime of extramarital affairs using the various methods used by the spies in his fiction. This included various cut-outs, dead-drops, aliases and safe houses. It all provided fodder for the writing as well, as many lovers would later recognize themselves fictionalized as heroines in the books.

Sisman's book is an addendum to his earlier John le Carré: The Biography (2015) published in Carré's lifetime, for which the biographer agreed to hold back on the author's love life in order to gain access to Carré for personal interviews and private archives.

Not all of this is new to veteran Carré watchers, the writer's own The Naive and Sentimental Lover (1971) was a fictionalized account of his affair with Susan Kennaway and his friendship with her husband James Kennaway. At least one lover, Sue Dawson, writing as Suleika Dawson, has penned her own memoir of their affair in The Secret Heart: John le Carré: an intimate memoir (2022).

I read The Secret Life... as part of my current ongoing Carré binge which began with seeing the biographical film The Pigeon Tunnel (2023) at the recent Toronto International Film Festival.

Other Reviews
The Constant Philanderer, by Anthony Cummins, The Guardian, October 15, 2023.

Trivia and Links
An earlier article revealed the upcoming publication of The Secret Life... at Biography to Reveal Secrets Held Back While Author Was Alive, by Sarah Shaffi, The Guardian, March 1, 2023.

See photograph at https://media.rightmove.co.uk/49k/48638/139336214/48638_TRS210037_IMG_00_0000.jp...
John le Carré's home in Cornwall, England which was recently put up for sale. Image sourced from RightMove Co. UK. [Note: Links were working as of November 2, 2023. Image and link may no longer be available once the house is sold.]
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alanteder | Nov 2, 2023 |
Ugh. I don't know, the title promised a whole lot more than the book delivered. Even Kirkus Reviews failed me here. This is a story about British academia and how they were blindsided by a fraudulent parson/student/professor/researcher...take your pick. I imagine that if I was more familiar with the structure of British academia it might make more sense, but really what I saw was a systematic failure of an insulated group of academics to deal with this wackadoodle character, who keeps popping up using variations on the same deceptions he has employed in the past. The writing was fine, but the story just held very little interest after the first couple of chapters. A well written tale but of a mediocre series of events and a mediocre criminal. Sorry, but not recommended.… (more)
Cantsaywhy | 6 other reviews | Feb 19, 2023 |
Another gem on my quest for all things Johnson. Posits convincingly that Boswell wasn’t the fool and toady everyone thought he was. Probably manic-depressive, obsessive-compulsive and an alcoholic (I should know), but brilliant and likable. A man before his time. Changed the way biography is written and wrote the biography that set the bar.
Gumbywan | 6 other reviews | Jun 27, 2022 |
A very straightforward account of the complicated relationship between the two giants of the first generation of English Romantic poets. Sisman for the most part steers clear of speculation and theorising and gives us a critical summary what we know from first-hand accounts, taking us through their (surprisingly similar) backgrounds and the radical politics of the 1790s to their first meetings and the year they spent in Somerset together, then the German interlude and the Wordsworths' move back to the Lake District.

Although Sisman is reluctant to draw any explicit conclusions, he seems to confirm the picture we have of William Wordsworth as an efficient, ambitious poetry-making machine, remorselessly processing the input from Dorothy's sharp eyes and Coleridge's lively intellect and turning it into marketable verse, whilst Coleridge flutters from one grand plan to another, talking non-stop but never finishing anything, and destroying his physical and mental health with drugs, alcohol, and the pursuit of the Other Sara. The young Coleridge, in particular, must have been a fascinating, magnetic personality, and we have to wonder how he had the insight to take up with someone as superficially dull as Wordsworth and stick to him. I suppose, with a lot of hindsight, it's only thanks to his association with Wordsworth that we remember him as anything more than the author of a couple of brilliant, but isolated and random, poems, but no-one would have predicted that in the 1790s.

As with most biographies, it's a shame this one had to follow the two poets into the later stages of their lives, so that we have to close the book on them as ageing, pompous and reactionary bores, rather than the reckless firebrands they (almost) were in their twenties...
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1 vote
thorold | 2 other reviews | Mar 10, 2022 |



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