A Spy Among Friends: Kim Philby and the Great Betrayal by Ben Macintyre
I like spy stories, and this is a good one, not the least for the fact that it is all true. The author states in the beginning of the book that he set out to write a somewhat different account of this well known story. He intended to tell the story of the man, and that he did. It is an amazing story of an extraordinary man.
First in terms of Kim Philby himself, it is amazing how he could maintain such a divided personality as to be there with family and friends while he was at the same time selling them all out. It almost sounds like a schizophrenic split.
Second, the power of the man and his charm over others is truly amazing, a spy among spies and so far above and beyond them.
Third, the other astounding fact is that for over thirty years, actually for a lifetime, he maintained the conviction that what he was doing was the right thing for him to do. He did not doubt it, serving Communism, for one minute.
Fourth, it is even more astounding that he lived untouched, though detached from the service, for another ten years before he had to flee to Russia.
Finally, according to the memoir he wrote while in Russia, he felt no compunction or guilt about the people, both men and women, both spies and otherwise, that he sent to their deaths. They were all necessary victims of the cause he served, in his view.
In the end, though, that is all the author does— describe the man. He offers little insight into what accounted for his uniqueness and extraordinariness. In that I found the book somewhat disappointing. What really explains such a deviant person? How could he live such a compartmentalized life for so many years, a lifetime in terms of career? I guess that book is still to be written