Book Review: MI6: Life And Death In The British Secret Service – By Gordon Corera

The blurb: 

“The story of MI6 is the story of the human fcator that lies at the heart of spying. From shadowy work in the bars of post-war Vienna to recent high-tech missions in Iraq and Libya, secret agents are forced to play a bewildering variety of roles: as psychiatrists, confidants and interrogators. From the spymaster in London and the agents they run their elusive enemies, relationships are what drive espionage. These thrilling and often moving stories illustrate the dangers and moral ambiguities that come with working for British intelligence and reveal how the fictional worlds of Bond and le Carre have been drawn from reality and have in turn shaped the real world of spies. 

Grand dramas such as the rise and fall of the Berlin Wall and the September 11th attacks provide the backdrop for these stories of the men and women who have spied, lied and in some cases died in the service of the state.” 

Why did I choose to read this book? 

Firstly, the general idea of spies has always intrigued me in the same way they intrigue others. I wanted to know more about spies and the adventures that MI6 seem to have more of than their domestic counterparts. 

Secondly, I’m naturally quite an inquisitive person.

What do I think about this book? 

Firstly, it’s quite a dense read. The honest answer is as you near the end, the book starts growing more and more pages and it gets slower and slower to finish. You find that most chapters almost are like the Holmes and Watson equivalent of spy short stories. You can read the chapters episodically or read it from start to finish, yet it still maintains it’s non-fiction historical book quality.

Secondly, I’ve always had a fascination and love for history and its quirky, remarkable and sometimes downright dangerous. There are those like Daphne Park, who is both an outlier and revolutionary in how espionage works and develops in her chosen industry. Although discretion is still number one for obvious reasons, I can’t help but think of what it would have been like to be in the company of Park’s or others like her. Just to have the role and recognition must have taken a lot of stubborness to get on in the workplace despite others holding her back because of her gender. The women in such positions that Park had and higher up, might not have been given the opportunity for such a job had the likes of Park not achieved what she had. 

To conclude, although most of this work and the responsibility of this work remains at the door of such achievers who must remain anonymous, I have a new found respect for them and for those who endanger themselves and others to protect Queen and country. 


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