The Pigeon Tunnel by John le Carré
Stories from My Life

74%

13 Critic Reviews

He leaves the impression that he has thoroughly enjoyed being a spy and for all his readers know, he still is. He admits with what sounds like a wicked chuckle, that people kept asking his advice on how to become a spy and, of course, he can’t tell them. Perhaps all he can do is tell them to read his books.
-Washington Times

Synopsis

“Recounted with the storytelling élan of a master raconteur — by turns dramatic and funny, charming, tart and melancholy.” -Michiko Kakutani, The New York Times

The New York Times bestselling memoir from John le Carré, the legendary author of Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, SpyThe Spy Who Came in from the Cold; and The Night Manager, now an Emmy-nominated television series starring Tom Hiddleston and Hugh Laurie. John le Carré’s new novel, A Legacy of Spies, will be available from Viking in Fall 2017.

From his years serving in British Intelligence during the Cold War, to a career as a writer that took him from war-torn Cambodia to Beirut on the cusp of the 1982 Israeli invasion to Russia before and after the collapse of the Berlin Wall, le Carré has always written from the heart of modern times. In this, his first memoir, le Carré is as funny as he is incisive, reading into the events he witnesses the same moral ambiguity with which he imbues his novels. Whether he's writing about the parrot at a Beirut hotel that could perfectly mimic machine gun fire or the opening bars of Beethoven’s Fifth; visiting Rwanda’s museums of the unburied dead in the aftermath of the genocide; celebrating New Year’s Eve 1982 with Yasser Arafat and his high command; interviewing a German woman terrorist in her desert prison in the Negev; listening to the wisdoms of the great physicist, dissident, and Nobel Prize winner Andrei Sakharov; meeting with two former heads of the KGB; watching Alec Guinness prepare for his role as George Smiley in the legendary BBC TV adaptations of Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy and Smiley’s People; or describing the female aid worker who inspired the main character in The Constant Gardener, le Carré endows each happening with vividness and humor, now making us laugh out loud, now inviting us to think anew about events and people we believed we understood.

Best of all, le Carré gives us a glimpse of a writer’s journey over more than six decades, and his own hunt for the human spark that has given so much life and heart to his fictional characters.
 

About John le Carré

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JOHN LE CARRÉ, the author of twenty-two novels, is the pseudonym for David Cornwell, who was a member of the British Foreign Service from 1959 to 1964. Many of his books have been made into films, including The Constant Gardener; The Russia House; The Little Drummer Girl; and Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy.
 
Published September 6, 2016 by Penguin Books. 310 pages
Genres: Biographies & Memoirs, Political & Social Sciences. Non-fiction
Bestseller Status:
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Peak Rank on Sep 25 2016
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Weeks as Bestseller
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Critic reviews for The Pigeon Tunnel
All: 13 | Positive: 13 | Negative: 0

Kirkus

Good
on Jul 25 2016

...for all the cinematic glamour of le Carré’s experiences, reflections on the workaday realities of fiction writing may provide the most engaging aspect of this colorful valediction. A satisfying recollection of a literary life well-lived.

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NY Times

Above average
Reviewed by Walter Isaacson on Sep 13 2016

we have this, a delightful collection of charming and occasionally insightful tales, which climaxes in a chapter that could have been, and one hopes someday will be, the focus of a truly profound John le Carré book.

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Star Tribune

Above average
Reviewed by Malcolm Forbes on Sep 09 2016

No other story in “The Pigeon Tunnel” is as substantial, but practically all contain some wry anecdote, deft character study or nugget-like revelation. Let’s hope that this memoir isn’t a last word, and that Le Carré has more tales to tell.

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Washington Times

Good
Reviewed by Muriel Dobbin on Oct 05 2016

He leaves the impression that he has thoroughly enjoyed being a spy and for all his readers know, he still is. He admits with what sounds like a wicked chuckle, that people kept asking his advice on how to become a spy and, of course, he can’t tell them. Perhaps all he can do is tell them to read his books.

Read Full Review of The Pigeon Tunnel: Stories fr... | See more reviews from Washington Times

The Telegraph

Above average
Reviewed by Gaby Wood on Sep 10 2016

Le Carré’s voice – that wry parcel of the familiar and the formal, always attuned to pace – is gripping whatever the tale, and his eye for human detail is as sharp in fact as it is in fiction...

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NY Times

Good
Reviewed by Walter Isaacson on Sep 13 2016

...a delightful collection of charming and occasionally insightful tales, which climaxes in a chapter that could have been, and one hopes someday will be, the focus of a truly profound John le Carré book.

Read Full Review of The Pigeon Tunnel: Stories fr... | See more reviews from NY Times

NY Times

Above average
Reviewed by Michiko Kakutani on Sep 01 2016

“The Pigeon Tunnel” is not an autobiography — and certainly doesn’t add many factual details to Mr. Sisman’s thoughtful portrait. Rather, it’s a collection of reminiscences (some, familiar from published essays) that provide glimpses of the author over the years, hopping and skipping through time...

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USA Today

Above average
Reviewed by Gene Seymour on Sep 06 2016

With all that content kept off-limits, The Pigeon Tunnel still comes across as an illuminating, self-effacing and pleasurable inquiry into le Carré’s creative process, offering globe-spanning thrills of a different, but no less captivating kind than those associated with the novels.

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Tampa Bay Times

Good
Reviewed by RICHARD DANIELSON on Nov 10 2016

In any le Carré book, there's always something to be second-guessed by both the characters and the reader. That's part of the fun. In that way, The Pigeon Tunnel may not be so different than the novels. It certainly reads just as well.

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Scotsman.com

Above average
Reviewed by Allan Massie on Sep 10 2016

There is no one quite like him, but just what he himself is like is another secret he keeps hidden – if, that is, he knows the answer to it himself. The mask is never quite removed, just lifted for a brief and misleading glimpse.

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Guardian

Above average
Reviewed by Nicholas Lezard on May 10 2017

The lesson we learn is that everything is unreliable: our memories, our cover stories, and the grander narratives nations tell to justify their actions. And only Le Carré, it becomes clear, could have made this point so convincingly.

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Guardian

Above average
Reviewed by Robert McCrum on Sep 11 2016

“Le Carré” wants to be hailed as a great writer, but “Cornwell”, who is steeped in German Romantic literature, knows that his craft will always be patronised by the “commentariat”. None of this will matter much to his devoted fans, who will encounter a natural storyteller doing what he does best, and marvel that he can still work his magic at 84.

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Guardian

Good
Reviewed by William Boyd on Sep 08 2016

That being said, this is a fascinating and important book (I would urge an index for the paperback). Anyone interested in Le Carré and his significant contribution to the literature of the 20th and 21st centuries will want to read these engaging meanderings through various aspects of his life and career.

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