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MI5 and Me: A Coronet Among the Spooks
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‘A Jilly Cooper heroine in a John le Carre world’ (Libby Purves, TLS); a beguiling comic memoir about a young woman who discovers her father is a spy (and was the model for John le Carre’s George Smiley) and goes to work as a secretary in 1950s MI5 It seems to me now that everyone who came to our house in those days was a spy… When Lottie is summoned to her father’s office at the age of eighteen, she is astonished to learn that this aloof, unexciting parent is a spy. Even more perturbing is his view that she should stop drifting around and get a proper job, something patriotic and worthwhile. So Lottie finds herself outside MI5’s Mayfair headquarters in a dreary suit, feeling naked without her false eyelashes. Miserably assigned to the formidable Dragon, Lottie longs to escape, or for anything to release her from the torment of typing. Thankfully the serene Arabella is on hand to decode the enigmas of office life – from the strange disappearance of some security films to the career-transforming properties of garlic. But as Lottie’s home fills with actors doubling as spies, and Arabella’s mother is besieged by fishy telephone calls, Lottie begins to feel well and truly spooked. This unique memoir is a window into 1950s Britain: a country where Russian agents infiltrate the highest echelons, where debutantes are typists and where Englishness is both a nationality and a code of behaviour. Discretion and honour meet secrecy and suspicion in this enchanting, extraordinary and hilarious true story.
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