In Cornwell's lonely childhood Adam Sisman uncovers the origins of the themes of love and abandonment which have dominated le Carré's fiction: the departure of his mother when he was five, followed by 'sixteen hugless years' in the dubious care of his father, a man of energy and charm, a serial seducer and conman who hid the Bentleys in the trees when the bailiffs came calling - a 'totally incomprehensible father' who could 'put a hand on your shoulder and the other in your pocket, both gestures equally sincere'. And in Cornwell's adult life - from recruitment by both MI5 and MI6, through marriage and family life, to his emergence as the master of the spy novel - Sisman explores the idea of espionage and its significance in human terms; the extent to which betrayal is acceptable in exchange for love; and the endless need for forgiveness, especially from oneself.
Written with exclusive access to David Cornwell himself, to his private archive and to the most important people in his life - family, friends, enemies, intelligence ex-colleagues and ex-lovers - and featuring a wealth of previously unseen photographic material, Adam Sisman's extraordinarily insightful and constantly revealing biography brings in from the cold a man whose own life has been as complex and confounding and filled with treachery as any of his novels. 'I'm a liar,' Cornwell has written. 'Born to lying, bred to it, trained to it by an industry that lies for a living, practised in it as a novelist.'
This is the definitive biography of a major writer, described by Ian McEwan as 'perhaps the most significant novelist of the second half of the twentieth century in Britain'.