The Pigeon Tunnel – Stories from my Life – John le Carré



le Carré ‘s stories based on his long life reads like a souped up version of one of his spy novels. Oxford student, teacher at Eton, recruited by M15 and then by M16 during the Cold War era; his civilian life as a writer. He’s met them all: mighty British Establishment figures, prime minister and politicians, former espionage colleagues, diplomats, no less than three heads of the KGB, traitors, fellow writers, Hollywood producers and actors. I loved his account of Richard Burton who acted the part of Smiley in The Spy who came in from the cold; and Sir Alec Guinness Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy.

He’s a very productive writer .Twenty three novels to his credit. I enjoyed this book far more than some of his novels. I read his early novels The Spy who Came in from the Cold, A Small town in Germany, The Constant Gardner but not his more recent books. I didn’t enjoy his convoluted shadowy stories , but I recently enjoyed two films The Night Manager (done so well by the BBC for TV) and The Tailor of Panama. Reading about his research for his stories, for example, visiting Panama, makes one realise that his success is the result of hard work and research.

I wonder : does he tell all?. Of course not, because he’s still bound by the British Official Secrets Act, but he does succeed in giving a good idea of some episodes, even if they’re not name and location specific. Having read the book I wonder how many seemingly mild and innocuous men, who work in some branch of government service, might actually be spies?

Reading le Carré ‘s memoir reminds me yet again, how amateurish the British spy services sounds , based so far as I can see, on the upper class Old Boy Network . I snarkily think: no wonder the traitorous Kim Philby deceived them for decades! I suppose my perceptions of secret agents are heavily influence by 007 Bond movies, and no doubt the truth is vastly different if we did but know it.
A fascinating book : recommended.




THE WAY I SEE IT – The Musings of a Black Woman in the Rainbow Nation – Lerato Tshabalala




Pasop, wena!* You have no more family secrets, or any other secrets for that matter, because if you know sis Lerato, she will tell all! A thoroughly modern, urban black lady tells it how it is. South Africa, warts, maids, relatives , rascally building contractors, and all the other joys of life in the Rainbow Nation.

I was entertained, shocked, amazed, and laughing. If you’re a white reader, prepare to experience the same. Actually, I suspect if you are ANY category of South African reader, brace yourself. Sassy, fresh, original. Not quite a Must Read, but pretty damn close.

*Pasop, wena! Look out you!




2017 introduced me to some new authors. Happy discoveries were the essays of Rebecca Solnit (American); the novels of Miriam Toews (Canadian) and esteemed English novelist Margaret Drabble.


I find as I age that I am reading more non-fiction. Its appeal grows as the years roll by. Let’s face it, there are only a certain number of permutations on the Basic Plots, and sooner or later they begin to sound horribly familiar. I suppose inevitably one becomes jaded with popular novels, same-old-same-old etc. But that said: I still love to read, whatever the genre.

Inspired by Bookish Beck’s detailed 2017 summary I did a quick sweep through my Book Journal and discovered that during the year most of my reading was in the Fiction category, with Non-Fiction coming in at just under 30%. Did I prefer Female to Male authors? An almost even 50/50 split – by happenchance, not by design on my part.


This year I read 89 books . I’d hoped to make it a neat 100, but hey! who’s counting? Well, actually, I was but … oh, never mind.

I’m not a huge fan of targets, but I promised myself that I would read 18 books out of my TBR pile. Score? I managed 16. Close but no cigar. Trouble is, I belong to a Book Club at my local Library, and every month introduces me to fresh temptations. And when it comes to books, my willpower is not that strong. So the TBR pile hasn’t diminished that much, due to my book club’s monthly offerings, plus my inability to pass up a book sale. Maybe I should devote January to reading only the TBR pile? Now there’s a notion!

However, I can proudly report that I did manage to stick to my self-promise that I wouldn’t buy any new books between 1 January and 31 March 2017. Of course on 1 April, there I was on-line, wrecking my credit card again and eagerly watching my postbox for the parcels.

Naturally I attended a number of book sales throughout the year, and found some terrific bargains. The McGregor annual book sale in support of the Donkey Sanctuary was a highlight (see my post The McGregor Booksale posted in December); as was the huge Booksellers’ Winter Sale held at the V&A Waterfront ( see my post in June: A genuine book sale).
I’m still formulating my Bookish Promises for 2018. As age roars on and my eyesight etetriorates, I probably won’t bother with the classics that I have never tackled. Sorry, Virginia Woolf – way too late now. Maybe I’ll make a determined assault on the TBR pile, perhaps donating some of the pile to charity, and focus on the books that I really, really want to read.

I’m flirting with the notion of Audiobooks, and also the notion of buying a Kindle. My only interest in the Kindle is that you can enlarge the text to a readable size. Still under consideration.

Promises or no promises, declining eyesight or not, I’m looking forward to another year of reading more wonderful books! I wonder what you’ve set your sights on?







Ratings: 5* – Outstanding! 4*+ – Good to very good; 3* – average; 2* – run-of-the-mill; 1* – dismal; zero * – no comment. DNF – did not finish

At this late stage of the year, some really good reads came my way, courtesy of the Milnerton Library. The Margaret Drabble novel was wonderful. I can’t wait to read more of her novels.
The next wonderful read was Gail Honeyman’s story Eleanor Oliphant : Awwww – I just want to give Eleanor a big, big hug. Funny, touching, horrifying, sad. A great read.
And my third (dare I say) jewel in the crown (pun intended) was Vaseem Khan’s Mumbai mystery. Loved it. Can’t wait to read more.
For once I read a thriller, but it was a sort of cross-genre novel, it definitely had its toes in the Horror category. I don’t read Horror, and having read Steve Mosby’s story, I have remembered why!


5* The Dark Flood Rises – Margaret Drabble. Everything a good novel should be – colourful characters, superb writing and an exploration of …. themes. Reviewed on this blog.


4.5* The Perplexing Theft of the Jewel in the Crown – Vaseem Khan. I love Indian novels, & this mystery set in Mumbai featuring Inspecotr Chopra (|Retd) was a real gem. Heartily recommended. See review:

4*Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine – Gail Honeyman. Eleanor’s cautious re-entry into life. The redemptive power of friendship.


3.5* Born a Crime – Trevor Noah. Growing up in the 90s in SA; feisty, funny and throught provoking
3* Another Man’s Mocasins – Craig Johnson. Sheriff Walt Longmire’s Vietnam war exploits raise their ugly head again in modern day Absaroka County, with grim results.
3* I Know Who Did This – Steve Mosby. A thriller/horror novel. Intricately plotted and gripping. Reviewed on GR :



1* After Alice – Gregory Maguire. Beloved childrens’ stories are not successful when re-worked. Pretentious. Reviewed on GR: