Adam Sisman offers an excerpt from his book John le Carre: The Biography in the Daily Mail.
David Cornwell grew up in a world devoid of female affection. When he was five his mother walked out of the family home for good, leaving him and his older brother to be brought up by their controlling, conman father, and at a series of all-boy prep and public schools.
Later in his life David would write to his brother about the effect of their mother’s desertion, saying: ‘We were frozen children, & will always remain so.’
In 1954 he married Ann Sharp, the daughter of an air vice-marshal, with whom he had three sons. For a time they lived happily, David progressing from schoolmaster at Eton to MI5, then MI6. But their relationship began to turn stale, not helped by Cornwell’s burgeoning career as a novelist – using the pen name John le Carré.
Despite his fame, he stopped short of full-blown affairs, until he met the glamorous Susan Kennaway, and his home life started to unravel in dramatic fashion…
The publication of David’s third novel, The Spy Who Came In From The Cold, in 1963, changed his life irrevocably. In America it became the bestselling novel of the year, far outselling the latest James Bond book. To publicise it, David flew to the States, where he was treated like a star.
As he was slowly coming to appreciate, he would never again be short of money, provided that he kept writing. While this opened up many possibilities, it also created problems. His enormous success would attract envy, even in those who loved him.
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