...recounted with the storytelling élan of a master raconteur — by turns dramatic and funny, charming, tart and melancholy ... this volume is filled with wonderfully drawn portraits of writers, spies, politicians, war reporters and actors who possess a palpable physicality and verve.
The Pigeon Tunnel is written in episodic chapters that can be read like short stories. Every sentence strives for effect. Mr. le Carré never relaxes control over his readers. Wherever he goes, he watches relentlessly and is collecting copy. Resentful anger and virile aggression are kept in check so that his descriptions are pungent but never spiteful ... There are many beautifully prepared anecdotes, which only seem probable if swallowed in a quick gulp, but The Pigeon Tunnel remains a powerful, punchy book full of irate provocations—and a smashing read.
The result is not so much a memoir as a collection of memories, many of them containing tantalizing intimations of a powerful autobiography that still yearns to be written ... Le Carré still writes his books with a pen, and they read that way; there were times I wished he had better tools to cut, paste and delete ... These minor lapses are redeemed when we get to the long and poignant chapter in which le Carré wrestles with the memory of his father...Le Carré’s colorful depictions of his father not only make this book a delight, they reveal how the author became such a master of deception tales.
That is the memoir’s beauty. Apart from stories of a Romantic wanderer through powerful haunts it offers thrills of recognition as le Carré’s archetypes spring to life ... They may be half imaginary but they feel like truth.
...well written, pithy and not in the least vainglorious ... The more you know about Le Carré, the more you will relish The Pigeon Tunnel ... this is a fascinating and important book. Anyone interested in Le Carré and his significant contribution to the literature of the 20th and 21st centuries will want to read these engaging meanderings through various aspects of his life and career.
...with beguilingly barbed wit and seductive self-deprecation, throws light on the life that shaped that fiction ... The Pigeon Tunnel is packed with perfectly crafted vignettes that bring Cold War tensions, movie-business absurdities, and gnarly Third World politics to life ... Keep the slippery nature of le Carré’s 'facts' in mind as you read, and you’ll come away from the book deeply informed on both the man and his era.
The Pigeon Tunnel is a special kind of treat for anyone who has allowed John le Carré to lead them down alleyways and into the world’s shadiest corners ... the literary equivalent of a long night spent in the company of a grand storyteller, who has saved up a lifetime of his best tales to share with you over several rounds of fine scotch.
...[a] remarkable memoir ... The deeply affecting chapter on Cornwell [his father] is not merely the best part of the book, it may well be the best thing le Carré has ever written ... The Pigeon Tunnel shows that le Carré is at his best not when he renders scenes or snappy dialogue but when he simply observes. He has a marvelous eye.
le Carré plays fair with the reader at the outset by declaring that he is not using this occasion to write at length about his family life; nor he is going to add any details about his real-life spy work...With all that content kept off-limits, The Pigeon Tunnel still comes across as an illuminating, self-effacing and pleasurable inquiry into le Carré’s creative process, offering globe-spanning thrills of a different, but no less captivating kind than those associated with the novels.
...this memoir is a glittering treasure-chest of great stories — some sobering, some funny, but always incisive, witty and spellbinding. The prose is silky smooth, and the voice is effortlessly fluent. The anecdotes glide between present and past tenses, providing the added intimacy of a born storyteller ... despite his selectiveness, le Carré has always been a peerless storyteller — and central to both espionage and novel writing is the ability to make up stuff and get others to buy it. No matter. Even when taken with a grain of salt, The Pigeon Tunnel is pure pleasure.
Once again, Le Carré remains tight-lipped about key details of his intelligence work, but he offsets this reticence by offering fascinating insight into the people and places that have informed his writing ... No other story in The Pigeon Tunnel is as substantial [as the chapter on his father], but practically all contain some wry anecdote, deft character study or nugget-like revelation.
The Pigeon Tunnel is anything but a standard 'and then this happened to me' autobiography. Instead, the volume presents a series of artfully told anecdotes, grouped thematically rather than chronologically, from an eventful, accomplished and lengthy career ... The most interesting chapters are those in which le Carré offers a glimpse of the people and situations that fueled his fiction ... His personal revelations are mild and therefore perhaps disappointing, but fans of le Carré will be mostly content he chose to expose himself to the light of public scrutiny at all.
The chapter on his father is the best thing about The Pigeon Tunnel. His bitter memories of Ronnie are the closest this highly guarded author comes to self-revelation ... In his account of Ronnie, le Carré is unsparing, still a little angry, but not unforgiving ... His books are the cry of an outsider who has been on the inside, and who cares enough about his country to be outraged by what he saw.
[LeCarre] brings the stuff, often with humor and an unexpected twist ... In any le Carré book, there's always something to be second-guessed by both the characters and the reader. That's part of the fun. In that way, The Pigeon Tunnel may not be so different than the novels. It certainly reads just as well.
Here and elsewhere, David asks himself whether his childhood—con man father, absent mother—led him inexorably toward the spy profession...Much to his credit, he does not make a facile link between childhood lying, adolescent disguise, and the deceits of intelligence work ... While David Cornwell still declines to talk about much of his secret work, out of personal rather than national loyalty, he is scorching about the pretensions of espionage and its lack of accountability.