A Divided Life

A Divided Life : A Biography of Donald Maclean

3.84 (31 ratings by Goodreads)
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In this perceptive biography of Donald Maclean, Robert Cecil draws on hs close acquaintance with the man, first at Cambridge and then as his colleague in the Diplomatic Service, to give an insider's view of Maclean and his circle of ideological spies: Burgess, Philby and Blunt. He details Maclean's recruitment as an agent by the Comintern in 1934, his early years in Paris, marriage, breakdown in Cairo and ultimate flight, with Burgess, to the Soviet Union.

The heart of the book is Maclean's years in Washington from 1944-48, a time when crucial decisions about the post-war world were being made. Maclean was assigned top secret work connected with the development of the atomic bomb - the 'Manhattan Project'. He was undoubtedly Stalin's best source in Washington, and Russian knowledge of US nuclear capabilities fuelled the atomic-weaponry race. His treachery did immense damage to Anglo-American relations. The other casualty, which Cecil is well-placed to describe, was to the gentlemanly culture of the Foreign Office and the sense of trust within the Service.
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Product details

  • Paperback | 290 pages
  • 140 x 216 x 16.76mm | 371.95g
  • London, United Kingdom
  • English
  • 1786080591
  • 9781786080592

Review quote

"A riveting portrait."
Publishers Weekly

"A splendidly perceptive life of Donald Maclean... [Cecil] provides, for the first time, a clear and detailed account by a Foreign Office colleague who knew Maclean, came from a similar background, and comprehends the unspoken assumptions of his time and class."
The Economist

"[Cecil's] insider's account both of uneasy U.S.-British relations and of the intelligence establishment's equivocal reaction to these scandals is an undercover story in its own right."

"The portrait of Maclean is convincing and the assessment of the damage done to Anglo-American interests... is knowledgeable and shrewd."
Financial Times

"Delivered in a crisp, literate. no-nonsense style, this compact biography offers an agreeably narrow focus on a spy-tangle that often seems dauntingly dense."
Kirkus Reviews

"Cecil has the rare benefit of having known most of the key players personally, and his account of the defection of Burgess and Maclean demolishes the idea that either Philby or Sir Roger Hollis conspired to tip them off."
Sunday Times

"This is as much the inside story of those momentous events as we are likely to learn, intimate and revealing, told with candour and wit. A far better read than the average spy fiction, it throws light on the dark corners of an amazing career."
Manchester Evening News

"The author confounds all expectations and keeps the narrative bowling along like the most seasoned thriller writer."
Geoff Fowler

"Detailed, authoritative, sympathetic, scholarly biography of British diplomat/Soviet spy Donald Duart Maclean (1913-1983), who defected to the Soviet Union with Guy Burgess in 1951."
National Intelligence Book Center

"Cecil is also a first-rate historian, able to distinguish between what is known and what is conjectured and careful to alert the reader to the distinction. It is this unique combination which makes the book worth reading."
Zara Steiner

"Cecil's book is fascinating on Maclean's pressures and the way he had to live under them. And unlike Burgess, Maclean was indeed committed to communism and remained so until his death. Robert Cecil shows the human, doubting, tortured side of Maclean's personality and he reveals it in fascinating anecdotal detail."
The Birmingham Post

"His insider's account both of uneasy US - British relations and of the intelligence establishment's equivocal reaction to these scandals is an undercover story in its own right."

"Robert Cecil's biography of Donald Maclean is sympathetic, hardheaded and clear. Mr. Cecil is just the right person to assess Donald Maclean because he is balanced, not at all divided himself, and thus able to see how the divided life could so logically grow out of the concerns a young Englishman had about the rise of fascism in the 30s."
The Book Review

"With Maclean, you understand the waste and futility of it all. The Cambridge spies are today irrelevances, footnotes to another age. Only the British could pick so doggedly over such old bones."
London Review of Books
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Rating details

31 ratings
3.84 out of 5 stars
5 19% (6)
4 48% (15)
3 29% (9)
2 3% (1)
1 0% (0)
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