From the bestselling author comes a beguiling comic memoir about a young woman who discovers her father is a spy (and was the model for John le Carré'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 Charlotte Bingham, daughter of an obscure aristocrat, was summoned to her father's office aged eighteen, she never expected to discover that this aloof, soberly-dressed parent was a spy. Even more ominous than The Facts was his suggestion that she should stop drifting around working for the sort of people her mother could never ask to dinner and get a proper job, something patriotic and worthwhile.
So Lottie finds herself outside MI5's Mayfair offices in a dreary suit, feeling naked without her false eyelashes. Miserably assigned to the formidable Dragon, Lottie wishes for pneumonia, or anything to release her from the torment of typing. But as another secretary, the serene Arabella, starts illuminating the mysteries of MI5, and Lottie's home fills with actors doubling as spies, Lottie begins to feel well and truly spooked.
This hilarious memoir from the bestselling author of Coronet Among the Weeds 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, honour and office politics meet secrecy, suspicion and film stars in this enchanting, extraordinary true story.
An astonishing tale ... She still has all the exuberant delight of a teenager in telling stories to make herself and other people laugh. Long may she write -- Lynn Barber * Sunday Times *
A hilarious and candid account of her time at MI5: the shady characters her father invites home, and anecdotes of office life both absurd yet believable. Filled with period detail, Bingham's memoir is entertaining and extraordinary -- Hannah Beckerman * Observer *
Much fun, brilliant, sly ... The more cynical of us might expect treachery, backstabbing and boardroom power-grabs, but what Lottie finds is "good folk and true, working away in the defence of our lovely country, full of integrity, and so much fun". Given the charming, flighty narrative that results, it would be a hard-hearted reader who'd find fault with that * Spectator *
A stone-cold comic classic ... Joyfully silly, with undercurrents of real danger * Tatler *
Sparky and larky ... Amusing -- Lucy Hughes-Hallett * Guardian *