It seems to me now that everyone who came to our house in those days was a spy…
When Lottie is summoned to her father’s office at the age of eighteen, she is astonished to learn that this aloof, unexciting parent is a spy. Even more perturbing is his view that she should stop drifting around and get a proper job, something patriotic and worthwhile.
So Lottie finds herself outside MI5’s Mayfair headquarters in a dreary suit, feeling naked without her false eyelashes. Miserably assigned to the formidable Dragon, Lottie longs to escape, or for anything to release her from the torment of typing. Thankfully the serene Arabella is on hand to decode the enigmas of office life – from the strange disappearance of some security films to the career-transforming properties of garlic. But as Lottie’s home fills with actors doubling as spies, and Arabella’s mother is besieged by fishy telephone calls, Lottie begins to feel well and truly spooked.
This unique memoir 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 and honour meet secrecy and suspicion in this enchanting, extraordinary and hilarious 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
Imagine a Jilly Cooper heroine in an early John le Carré world … It offers to our over-anxious age of Putin-dread, Corbynism and cybercrime an enthrallingly nostalgic portrait of a post-war Britain, an idyll where even the security services breathe a kind of sweet innocence
Libby Purves, Times Literary Supplement
Charlotte Bingham wrote her first book, Coronet Among the Weeds, a memoir of her life as a debutante, at the age of 19. It was published in 1963 and became an instant bestseller. Her father, John Bingham, the 7th Baron Clanmorris, was a member of MI5 where Charlotte Bingham worked as a secretary. He was an inspiration for John le Carré’s character George Smiley. Charlotte Bingham went on to write thirty-three internationally bestselling novels and the memoir MI5 and Me. In partnership with her late husband Terence Brady, she wrote a number of successful, plays, films and TV series including Upstairs Downstairs and Take Three Girls. She lives in Somerset.