The Pigeon Tunnel: Stories From My Life by John Le Carré

There is something delightful about a well-spoken British accent, and even more delightful when the person with that accent narrates an audiobook. Neil Gaiman does an outstanding job at this. Simon Vance is another. And now, I have learned, so does David John Moore Cornwell, or as most readers know him, John Le Carré.

I just finished reading/listening to his newest book, a memoir, The Pigeon Tunnel: Stories From My Life, and I really enjoyed it. I knew Le Carré mainly from the remake of Tinker, Tailor, Soldier,Spy, but his name was familiar to me even before that. I have a memory of seeing one of his books on a shelf in our house when I was growing up. I can’t recall what book it was, but I remember it, in hardback, sitting on the shelf with assorted other books like Eye of the Needle by Ken Follett.

The experience of listening to The Pigeon Tunnel was like sitting across a small table in same intimate restaurant in Europe, with Le Carré seated across from you, sipping at drinks, and listening to him tell you stories from his life. I knew Le Carré was a writer, of course, but I’d had no idea he’d actually been a spy for MI6. His stories were fascinating, often sprinkled with humor, and some of them had me laughing out loud. (One in which, while in Moscow, the KGB men assigned to follow Le Carré while he dined with his brother, got drunk on a bottle of Vodka and followed the wrong brother back to the hotel was hilarious.

I also found it interesting how the “stories from my life” morphed into the stories he wrote for publication. In many of the anecdotes Le Carré tells in the book, he often concludes with how a person, or event in that particular anecdote ultimately led to a novel, or a character in a novel in one of his book.

His meetings with world leaders, or celebrities, were equally fascinating. And, of course, his smooth, and natural narration of the tale gave the stories an additional dimension. This is not Ian Flemming’s MI6, packed with action, but it was at least as interesting.