Monday, August 18, 2014

Review: A Spy Among Friends, Kim Philby and the Great Betrayal by Ben Macintyre, Afterword by John Le Carre'

Publisher: Crown Publishing, July 29, 2014
Genre: Non-fiction, Spies, Espionage, Great Britain
Format: Hardcover
Pages: 384
Rating: 4 Stars
Source: To comply with new regulations introduced by the Federal Trade Commission. I received a free copy from Crown Publishing , through Blogging for Books for the purpose of review.

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From The Telegraph-A Spy Among Friends.

A review from The Wall Street Journal-A Spy Among Friends.

Interview with the author: Ben Macintyre. 


Summary:
Kim Philby, is known as the greatest spy in history. He'd began working in British Intelligence, MI6, during World War II. He continued working as a spy during the Cold War Era, but by the early 1960s he'd began working as a journalist in Beirut. He had a magnetic personality, gaining trust by his wit, intellect, and charm. But, he was a master at disguising his real agenda because he was also a spy for the Soviet Union. He gave them information that he'd learned through his fellow British and American agents. A few drinks and agents spilled information that Philby used against the free world. Philby was English by birth, but Russian Communist politically. He was a lousy husband, yet an affectionate father. He was a trusted friend, yet politically disloyal and advantageous. His closest friend was British agent Nicholas Elliott. At their parting in the early 1960s, serious questions were raised if Elliott helped Philby disappear. Author Ben Macintyre, has written a candid account of Philby's life, in regards to his personal life, and his work for British and Soviet intelligence.

My Thoughts:
My favorite aspect of A Spy Among Friends, is the reality of life as a spy. This is not a fictional account reminiscent of James Bond, but the real look at the men and women who spied for both the free world and for Communism. Their long suffering spouses, long absences from home, a hard life of alcohol, trust and mistrust, and guilt over fellow agents deaths, are all explored in the book.
Both Philby and Elliott are not men of integrity, whether in their personal life or in their political life, they make the rules. After reading their stories I did not feel any sort of trust in either men. By the end of the book, Elliott appeared to have let Philby undertake him again, even after he'd learned what Philby had done for decades. But I wonder?
In the beginning of the book there were moments of sluggish reading, the book picked up mid-way and I had a hard time laying it down.
Philby's psyche is examined. I could not help but be amazed at this unusual human. Capable of befriending and murder. I find it ironic that Philby is a betrayer, yet became so enraged when he was betrayed.
Throughout the book attention is given to Philby and Elliott's relationship, and in regards to their task for MI6. The emphasis on how a trusted agent and friend could be so devious as to betray country and friend.

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