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____________________________ The eye-opening memoir from the first female Director-General of MI5 Stella Rimington worked for MI5 between 1969 and 1996, one of the most turbulent and dramatic periods in global history. Working in all the main fields of the Service's responsibilities - counter-subversion, counter-espionage and counter-terrorism - she became successively D ____________________________ The eye-opening memoir from the first female Director-General of MI5 Stella Rimington worked for MI5 between 1969 and 1996, one of the most turbulent and dramatic periods in global history. Working in all the main fields of the Service's responsibilities - counter-subversion, counter-espionage and counter-terrorism - she became successively Director of all three branches, and finally Director-General of MI5 in 1992. She was the first woman to hold the post and the first Director-General whose name was publicly announced on appointment. In Open Secret, she continues her work of opening up elements of the work of our security services to public scrutiny, revealing the surprising culture of MI5 and shedding light on some of the most fascinating events in 20th century history from the ultimate insider viewpoint.


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____________________________ The eye-opening memoir from the first female Director-General of MI5 Stella Rimington worked for MI5 between 1969 and 1996, one of the most turbulent and dramatic periods in global history. Working in all the main fields of the Service's responsibilities - counter-subversion, counter-espionage and counter-terrorism - she became successively D ____________________________ The eye-opening memoir from the first female Director-General of MI5 Stella Rimington worked for MI5 between 1969 and 1996, one of the most turbulent and dramatic periods in global history. Working in all the main fields of the Service's responsibilities - counter-subversion, counter-espionage and counter-terrorism - she became successively Director of all three branches, and finally Director-General of MI5 in 1992. She was the first woman to hold the post and the first Director-General whose name was publicly announced on appointment. In Open Secret, she continues her work of opening up elements of the work of our security services to public scrutiny, revealing the surprising culture of MI5 and shedding light on some of the most fascinating events in 20th century history from the ultimate insider viewpoint.

30 review for Open Secret: The Autobiography of the Former Director-General of MI5

  1. 4 out of 5

    Petra-X Off having adventures

    A remarkable story of a remarkable woman climbing to the very top of the British Secret Service told in a dry and tedious way and all the time I am thinking she isn't going to give a damn thing away that hasn't been cleared by security services. And I was right: we learn absolutely nada about MI5, all the machinations of the spies are still secret. Annoying, frustrating and makes you think, although this isn't very charitable, that the book is a big wank to make lots of money. The most interestin A remarkable story of a remarkable woman climbing to the very top of the British Secret Service told in a dry and tedious way and all the time I am thinking she isn't going to give a damn thing away that hasn't been cleared by security services. And I was right: we learn absolutely nada about MI5, all the machinations of the spies are still secret. Annoying, frustrating and makes you think, although this isn't very charitable, that the book is a big wank to make lots of money. The most interesting things about the book were her persistence in pushing for promotions and lying to her daughters about what her real job was. Read this if you are a fan of Rimington's novels and want some insight into the author. Don't read this if you didn't even know Rimington wrote novels and want some insight into working for MI5. 2.5 rounded up to 3. I didn't really like it or dislike it, it just left me cold. That's ok, I'll probably forget about it soon.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Jenni Ogden

    I struggled to get through this autobiography, but persisted because I was booked in to hear the author in person at the Auckland Writers' and Readers' Festival. The story of her life as the first woman Director-General of the MI5 was written in a very matter-of-fact style, recounting her life in chronological sequence. It included her private life (marriage and divorce and the issues she faced bringing up two daughters alone when her job status had to remain a secret) but these aspects as well I struggled to get through this autobiography, but persisted because I was booked in to hear the author in person at the Auckland Writers' and Readers' Festival. The story of her life as the first woman Director-General of the MI5 was written in a very matter-of-fact style, recounting her life in chronological sequence. It included her private life (marriage and divorce and the issues she faced bringing up two daughters alone when her job status had to remain a secret) but these aspects as well were recounted in a rather dry, emotionless way. If the reader forgets the writing style and concentrates on the content it is clear that her life story is remarkable, and a case of fact being stranger than fiction. It is a shame that the tension and emotional turmoil she must surely have experienced did not come through. The book had to be vetted by the MI5 before publication to ensure she didn't let out any security secrets but this was not the problem with the style. Now retired, Dame Rimington writes thrillers which I have yet to read but from all accounts they are a much faster read than her autobiography! In stark contrast to her autobiography writing style, as a Festival speaker she was warm, engaging, informative and amusing!

  3. 4 out of 5

    Jennifer (JC-S)

    I enjoyed this book particularly because I can recognise so many of the challenges Ms Rimington describes. I’ve just finished reading Ms Rimington’s novels and thought I would like to know more about the woman behind them. This book provides an interesting snapshot of the times in which Ms Rimington worked: the changing face of security-related work; the changing expectations of women in the workforce and the ever present challenges of tradeoff between family and career that many of us (whether m I enjoyed this book particularly because I can recognise so many of the challenges Ms Rimington describes. I’ve just finished reading Ms Rimington’s novels and thought I would like to know more about the woman behind them. This book provides an interesting snapshot of the times in which Ms Rimington worked: the changing face of security-related work; the changing expectations of women in the workforce and the ever present challenges of tradeoff between family and career that many of us (whether male or female) will recognise. The book itself is more a careful memoir than an autobiography as, clearly, Ms Rimington had to write within certain constraints in order to be allowed to publish at all. I found the book useful and interesting on three levels: 1. Ms Rimington’s persistence in seeking promotion within a field which was considered to be a male domain; 2. Her recounting of the acknowledgement of the existence and broad responsibilities of MI5 during its shift from the shadows to statutory accountability; and 3. Some of the challenges she and her family faced in trying to combine family life with her career. Many people, particularly women who’ve chosen to combine career with family will relate to the challenges faced by Ms Rimington. Some of us, familiar with some of the events broadly recounted in the book will be interested in reading Ms Rimington’s perspective. Reading the book 7 years after publication, it is perhaps difficult to appreciate the negative publicity engendered at the time. Perhaps we have travelled some distance after all.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Renee-lauren

    Recommended. A good autobiography though the writing style is horrid, which is why I've knocked off one entire star. Once one manages to navigate the writing style -- and that may require rereading long comma-filled sentences several times -- you'll find a fast-paced, informative, and entertaining retelling of Rimington's life. Don't look for intimate details of MI5 operations or the cloak and dagger machinations a la Le Carré either. Instead, as a young woman professional, I took note of the "l Recommended. A good autobiography though the writing style is horrid, which is why I've knocked off one entire star. Once one manages to navigate the writing style -- and that may require rereading long comma-filled sentences several times -- you'll find a fast-paced, informative, and entertaining retelling of Rimington's life. Don't look for intimate details of MI5 operations or the cloak and dagger machinations a la Le Carré either. Instead, as a young woman professional, I took note of the "lessons" of how to succeed in male dominated organizations or situations: speak up and be confident (read: be assertive but don't whine or be obnoxious), do good work and consistently, ask after the positions and responsibilities you want (read: closed mouths don't get fed), be prepared, be persistent, and don't be afraid to take risks (read: don't say a reactive "no"...take on positions or responsibilities that seem "frightening" or too much or even too dull, you can do it). O, how exasperating to see that "journalists'" preoccupation with what a woman public figure (biz or public service) wears is so longstanding. As Rimington described some of the furor in the Brit press I couldn't help but think of Sheryl Sandberg, Michelle Obama, Hillary Clinton and, yes, Sarah Palin. I also thought of some of the not nice things I've thought of a superior's wardrobe...fine clothing choice can be distracting in its beauty or dishevelment BUT it doesn't dictate ability and while it's good to see women bosses dressed well and appropriately, can we all move on already?

  5. 5 out of 5

    PattyMacDotComma

    I saw Stella Rimington interviewed and thought what a fascinating life she must have had, but I did wonder how could she give away all her secrets. I was right - her life was certainly fascinating but her telling of it wasn't, and she didn't give away anything new. What she did illustrate well was the entrenched old-boy network of British society that she managed to work to her advantage to get to the top. She was good at what she did and she seemed to be good at not bucking the system any more t I saw Stella Rimington interviewed and thought what a fascinating life she must have had, but I did wonder how could she give away all her secrets. I was right - her life was certainly fascinating but her telling of it wasn't, and she didn't give away anything new. What she did illustrate well was the entrenched old-boy network of British society that she managed to work to her advantage to get to the top. She was good at what she did and she seemed to be good at not bucking the system any more than necessary to get her point across. Her talents were recognised and she made it to the top, albeit with enormous publicity and personal hounding by the media, a first for MI5. She intersperses her account with short anecdotes, many of which seem to go nowhere. I kept waiting for some sort of moral or punch line, but they just ended. I've made up this example: "One day I took my dog to the park for our daily walk and saw the most suspicious-looking man bent over at the base of a tree pulling up his socks. This was often a clue that there was a drop about to be made or an exchange of information, so I was always on the lookout for this sort of thing." And that's it. No follow-up on the man, the sock-pulling-up or what kind of contact he might have been initiating. She just went home for dinner. Her book was somewhat informative but not nearly as interesting as I'd hoped and not nearly as interesting as she herself obviously is. I've read good reviews of her fiction, so I might give that a try. Perhaps she'll reveal more in the guise of fiction.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Julie Goring

    A grown up read. A great modern book for girls in particular, outlining the struggle of a woman in a man's world, but culminating in her success at changing male attitudes. Not a feminist book at all, just a straightforward chronicle of the achievement of her goals A grown up read. A great modern book for girls in particular, outlining the struggle of a woman in a man's world, but culminating in her success at changing male attitudes. Not a feminist book at all, just a straightforward chronicle of the achievement of her goals

  7. 4 out of 5

    Kkraemer

    This autobiography traces the life of a woman who marries and follows her husband (and his career) early on, takes a job to have something to do, and ends up the director of M15. Utterly amazing. In her recollections, there is so much about how people lived when they were on foreign postings, how they adjusted when they returned, how the Agency changed over time. Being a head spook, of course, she tells just a bit about some of the incidents and activities that occurred, but nothing is given that This autobiography traces the life of a woman who marries and follows her husband (and his career) early on, takes a job to have something to do, and ends up the director of M15. Utterly amazing. In her recollections, there is so much about how people lived when they were on foreign postings, how they adjusted when they returned, how the Agency changed over time. Being a head spook, of course, she tells just a bit about some of the incidents and activities that occurred, but nothing is given that would be "insider" or any sort of threat to security. Instead, she describes a world where anything/everything is carefully evaluated to determine its strategic advantage, even when political advantage is often the motivation of those outside the Agency. Within, she says, it was entirely strategic advantage that was the watchword, protecting the UK and, later, the West from aggression by the Soviets, the IRA, and the terrorists of many stripes. Clearly, tactics changed as the motivations and methods of attacks changed, and insomuch as is reasonable and sensible, she attempts to outline some of the effects of these changes. Sensible. Reasonable. Effective. These terms, used again and again, make me feel more secure.

  8. 4 out of 5

    dr raman

    Eloquently written in British style masterly intermixing the details of an important organisational work with prose of day to day struggles

  9. 5 out of 5

    Erik Somelar

    Relaxing read. Best classified as a primary narrative source on women's position in UK civil service 50 years ago, on diplomatic life in India, on many things that are not particularly spying-related. She was the head of counter-intelligence, not a spymaster. Very sympathetic author, a no-nonsense voice. Relaxing read. Best classified as a primary narrative source on women's position in UK civil service 50 years ago, on diplomatic life in India, on many things that are not particularly spying-related. She was the head of counter-intelligence, not a spymaster. Very sympathetic author, a no-nonsense voice.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Hannah

    The dull reality of espionage. I know you can't give away state secrets but I'm sure this could have been better. There isn't enough detail or emotion in the anecdotes for them to be absorbing. Perhaps her life of secrets and stiff upper lip childhood have resulted in too much reserve for a memoir. The dull reality of espionage. I know you can't give away state secrets but I'm sure this could have been better. There isn't enough detail or emotion in the anecdotes for them to be absorbing. Perhaps her life of secrets and stiff upper lip childhood have resulted in too much reserve for a memoir.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Sally

    Fascinating. I wanted to read this after hearing an interview with Stella Rimington not long after it was released and have since read all of her Liz Carlysle books, so wanted to read about her as the author of those also. This is a dry read when compared with the fiction series authored by Stella Rimington. However she has lead a very interesting life and it was fascinating to read about. The challenges she faced came from the career she was drafted into, its inherent sexism and discrimination Fascinating. I wanted to read this after hearing an interview with Stella Rimington not long after it was released and have since read all of her Liz Carlysle books, so wanted to read about her as the author of those also. This is a dry read when compared with the fiction series authored by Stella Rimington. However she has lead a very interesting life and it was fascinating to read about. The challenges she faced came from the career she was drafted into, its inherent sexism and discrimination she faced as a result (both from within and after being named as head of the service from the press also) , the changes that the service underwent whilst she was employed by it and the challenges of being a working mother as well as the difficulties of being publicly named. I learned a few things of interest and am glad to have read it.

  12. 5 out of 5

    John Fullerton

    If there's a single message in this memoir it's that Britain's Security Service, sometimes known as MI5, sticks to the definition of subversion contained in the Security Service Act of 1989, namely, that subversion amounts to actions 'intended to overthrow or undermine parliamentary democracy by political, industrial or violent means'. This seems straightforward, but it isn't, not really. Under the terms of the Act, MI5 can monitor CND not for the views and activities of its members, but the way If there's a single message in this memoir it's that Britain's Security Service, sometimes known as MI5, sticks to the definition of subversion contained in the Security Service Act of 1989, namely, that subversion amounts to actions 'intended to overthrow or undermine parliamentary democracy by political, industrial or violent means'. This seems straightforward, but it isn't, not really. Under the terms of the Act, MI5 can monitor CND not for the views and activities of its members, but the way in which the Russians or any other foreign power might want to influence or take over control of the organisation for their own ends. Rimington dismisses the widespread suspicion that MI5 participated in the breaking of the miners' strike by Margaret Thatcher's government. Dissent was not her affair, she insists. Foreign meddling was. Is she telling the truth? Did MI5 perhaps monitor those NUM leaders and members who were Communists and influenced by the then Soviet Union? I knew one who fled - temporarily - to East Germany and made no secret of his pro-Soviet stance as a member of the Communist Party of Great Britain. It's a fine line indeed. Which brings me to the current situation. Is the Scottish National Party, voted into power at Holyrood in Edinburgh with a huge popular mandate in successive elections, seen as a 'threat to parliamentary democracy' - that is, UK parliamentary democracy as opposed to devolved Scottish democracy? Is the increasingly probable break-up of the Union a threat that justifies MI5 surveillance? Does MI5 monitor pro-independence activists in Scotland? It is suspected that this is the case by some - but is the suspicion justified? Has MI5 investigated Russian donations to Tory politicians and to the Tory Party? Has Boris Johnson's relations with certain Russians and Ukrainians been monitored? Both actions would seem not simply justified but essential in defending the realm from potential enemies. It's some 20 years since Stella Rimington's memoir was first published and much has changed since then. Much more is known about MI5 - which is as it should be. She was, for a time, quite a celebrity for daring to write her autobiography. But there are no great revelations, no secrets are revealed, and despite the fuss made by the government of the day, Rimington has betrayed no operational and strategic operations and she has been kind (or discreet) when it comes to her colleagues and political masters. She was careful to submit her typescript to the Service and there were undoubtedly some sections that were deleted and others modified.. The first half of the memoir is about a rather ordinary, middle class Home Counties woman, no intellectual and not especially imaginative, and her preoccupations with her degree in English from Edinburgh, her partner, children, an exploding boiler, rats in the ceiling, an invasion of bees and nanny and money problems. At one point she drives from Delhi to Afghanistan and makes a few rather condescending if not downright racist remarks about the Afghans - which she probably thinks are amusing. They're not. She walks bare-legged and sleeveless without a headscarf through an Afghan market and is taken aback when local lads hanging about on the corner prepare to throw stones at her. British exceptionalism at its best - or worst. Yes, it's mostly boring - and she's not a natural writer. At times one can't help suspecting she's finding it hard work to write as we find it hard work to read. Rimington's practical, down to earth and steely self - along with a subdued sense of humour - only shows itself in the second half, and she writes more confidently of how she established a career in the Service, in breaking out of the patriarchal straitjacket - something unheard of for a woman in the 1960s, 70s and even the 80s. Understandably it's something she felt very strongly about. But if the reader is hoping for some special insight into how counter-intelligence works, how spies are recruited and run, or for organisational details of the Security Service, then this is the decidedly the wrong book.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Rosalie

    I had a small personal connection that motivated me to read this autobiography; I went to see a talk at the University of Edinburgh in 2016 about espionage and Stella Rimington was one of the guest speakers. I had, being an American, never heard of her before and thought her story was very inspiring which led me to buy her book. I was greatly looking forward to reading the full story, and I think it was definitely a good read. However, I do not feel I necessarily learned all that much about espi I had a small personal connection that motivated me to read this autobiography; I went to see a talk at the University of Edinburgh in 2016 about espionage and Stella Rimington was one of the guest speakers. I had, being an American, never heard of her before and thought her story was very inspiring which led me to buy her book. I was greatly looking forward to reading the full story, and I think it was definitely a good read. However, I do not feel I necessarily learned all that much about espionage or the workings of MI5, which was probably her intention as she couldn't reveal state secrets. This would not have been such a drawback for me had she discussed more about how she grew in her role and what she personally did to achieve successes; I am not insinuating that she should have detailed her job functions, more like her work ethic or the ways in which she went about impressing her superiors to continue to get promotions. As someone in the field of International Relations, I was looking to this book as a bit of an inspirational view into the life of a woman who succeeded and rose to the top in a similar field. I was definitely disappointed when she wrote about how she ended up in the service to begin with, which you can all read for yourselves :) My only other complaint is that she wrote in a way that was entirely too people-pleasing. She never seemed to be able to give a solid opinion on someone/something and never seemed to take a solid stance! This bothered me a lot especially when I got to wondering if a man would've felt the need to take that same approach (gender norms....) All in all, an interesting read especially when discussing issues such as Cold War relations, the IRA, and the fascinating period she experienced when the Cold War had ended.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Carolyn

    When I read the introduction to the first of Stella Rimington's Liz Carlyle fiction series, I decided I also wanted to read her memoir and I did so more or less in parallel. The writing in the memoir is no where near as sharp (it made me wonder what different editorial skills were brought to bear on each) but the content was so interesting I didn't really notice it. Two things particularly absorbed me. Firstly there was the story of a woman who started working for MI5 almost by accident and foun When I read the introduction to the first of Stella Rimington's Liz Carlyle fiction series, I decided I also wanted to read her memoir and I did so more or less in parallel. The writing in the memoir is no where near as sharp (it made me wonder what different editorial skills were brought to bear on each) but the content was so interesting I didn't really notice it. Two things particularly absorbed me. Firstly there was the story of a woman who started working for MI5 almost by accident and found it to be the epitome of the English old boy network. Not only did she gradually challenge the status quo but as times changed took every advantage of her opportunities, conscious that she made life difficult for her daughters in many ways, not least because the work she did was secret. She was the first female director of MI5 and her discussion of the way she managed the department and her staff was a great example of how women work differently and build team performance. Secondly, Rimington described the need for counter-espionage convincingly. Having had some family involvement in what are incorrectly labelled 'spy agencies' I appreciated her thoughtful analysis of the importance of protecting a country's interests against foreign intelligence and the balance that needs to be struck between protection and civil rights. People have less trouble being convinced of the need for counter-terrorism, which MI5 was involved in from the time of the rise of the IRA. Now we face the challenge of cyber espionage and, I hope, are grateful that there are those, like Stella Rimington in the past, who are clear-sighted and incisive in their measures to protect the values we hold and who also know where to draw the line against the invasion of our privacy. Three and a half stars.

  15. 5 out of 5

    christopher mannall

    I read this book very recently; ' Looking at the author' s age and my own , I was able to relate to her frustrations when she touched on her early exploits. Most families from 1939 -47 struggled to understand what their partners had endured during those long lonely years of limited news and censored letters months apart. As children we all had tales to tell of separation and deep un-happiness. Who knows, if the current explosion of mental health issues ,unheard of during those years are not roo I read this book very recently; ' Looking at the author' s age and my own , I was able to relate to her frustrations when she touched on her early exploits. Most families from 1939 -47 struggled to understand what their partners had endured during those long lonely years of limited news and censored letters months apart. As children we all had tales to tell of separation and deep un-happiness. Who knows, if the current explosion of mental health issues ,unheard of during those years are not rooted in the long long road of the 50s,60s,70s,80s, 90s and the millenialrecovery culminating in the world financial crash of 2008 or of what 2020 BREXIT will bring Our generation had the stories our grandparents told of their war 1914 - 1918. When so many were killed and survivors were invalided home - deaf ,burned,maimed, gassed or interned and shell shocked ,drowned or just survived from torpedo attacks or mines. The Author's experiences and my own were almost copy books of civil and public service management skills and the curiously disjointed and insular rivalries which still existed between all career civil servants in their guarded grading or record systems with rigid boundaries so built that hurricanes could almost hardly happen. So the writing and publication of this biography belongs to its own time. Stella Rimmington and countless civilians have lived those times walked the walks but not whilst under cover or having to justify critiques from cynical readers who lack historical horizons.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Pixie

    This book is a somewhat enlightening biography about working for the secret service but as is clearly expressed throughout the novel, there were limitations on how much actual detail could be revealed. 21st century readers might be somewhat aghast as to how stuffy and traditional M15 was in its apparent white maleness quite adequately fulfilling the 'pale, male and stale' stereotype which Stella Rimington was up against, and with her growing awareness of her workplace ceiling. To give her full c This book is a somewhat enlightening biography about working for the secret service but as is clearly expressed throughout the novel, there were limitations on how much actual detail could be revealed. 21st century readers might be somewhat aghast as to how stuffy and traditional M15 was in its apparent white maleness quite adequately fulfilling the 'pale, male and stale' stereotype which Stella Rimington was up against, and with her growing awareness of her workplace ceiling. To give her full credit, she overcomes a lot of these hurdles mostly due to her persistent nature, probably innate to her character and success in her job in the first place -- having started out in an archivist role which eventually channeled her to the 'secret service'. She makes great play of her somewhat humble beginnings, having been born in the 1930s, surviving WWII, and trying to set a career path for herself in the infamous housewifery and family priorities for women in the 1950s. Some of this detail rang very true but as her career path continues up the ladder, there is less and less to grasp onto in terms of her actual work experiences, although there are fair helpings of family & marital issues. I think I prefer reading her Liz Carlyle novels to get a taste and insight into the real stuff, albeit fictional, to again hide the secretive nature of real M15 work. this was a good bio read but only a limited and somewhat generalised reveal about M15 itself.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Ken Punter

    As it says on the cover the emphasis is on 'autobiography' rather than memoir, that's probably unsurprising given the nature of a career one of the UK's intelligence agencies. It doesn't give much away concerning the operational workings of MI5 but even so it's a readable account of the life and career of their first female Director General. There's enough information here about the background, history and changing strategy of MI5 to satisfy a passing curiosity (particularly the adjustments to t As it says on the cover the emphasis is on 'autobiography' rather than memoir, that's probably unsurprising given the nature of a career one of the UK's intelligence agencies. It doesn't give much away concerning the operational workings of MI5 but even so it's a readable account of the life and career of their first female Director General. There's enough information here about the background, history and changing strategy of MI5 to satisfy a passing curiosity (particularly the adjustments to the changing geopolitics after the fall of communism), however its greater value is the account of a pioneering, successful woman reaching the highest levels of 'government'. Definitely worth a read if you're interested in politics, issues of national security or even mid/late 20th century social history. Since retirement Stella Rimington has become an author of 'spy' stories. I can't vouch for those yet (although the first Liz Carlyle novel's now on the list). The only other literary commentary is that she has Bond as pure fantasy while le Carre has the atmosphere of Britain's secret services of the late 60's-mid 70's pretty much nailed.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Alastair Campbell

    I enjoyed this book. The style of writing is slightly laboured; flowing prose is not a Stella Remington strongpoint. But the book conveys in a clear fascinating way the ebbs and flows of her life as she reached the pinnacle of her career and became a pioneer for women in her achievements. I note that many other Reviews criticise the book for failing to show enough emotion, or not revealing any secrets. I don’t want an autobiography to over emote. Any reader with an iota of empathy and imaginatio I enjoyed this book. The style of writing is slightly laboured; flowing prose is not a Stella Remington strongpoint. But the book conveys in a clear fascinating way the ebbs and flows of her life as she reached the pinnacle of her career and became a pioneer for women in her achievements. I note that many other Reviews criticise the book for failing to show enough emotion, or not revealing any secrets. I don’t want an autobiography to over emote. Any reader with an iota of empathy and imagination can imagine the stresses and difficulties Mrs Remington will have undergone as she coped with a failing marriage, family life with two children and a high achieving career. If I wanted emotion I would have read a Bronte novel. And of course she is not going to reveal any state secrets. It would be naive to even hope she might. This book has told me exactly what I wanted to know; the life story of an interesting and successful public servant involved in the fascinating development of one of the Security Services.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Jemma

    A good account of the realities of working in a secret service and also of being a working woman, in an age where that was still unusual even in mainstream occupations. Not quite as interesting as you may expect though, probably because of the hurdles the book needed to leap to reach publication. In many ways her life before MI5 is the most interesting bit, presumably because she was freer to write about it and her prose generally sparkles there. Although, the use of "oldest", instead of "eldest A good account of the realities of working in a secret service and also of being a working woman, in an age where that was still unusual even in mainstream occupations. Not quite as interesting as you may expect though, probably because of the hurdles the book needed to leap to reach publication. In many ways her life before MI5 is the most interesting bit, presumably because she was freer to write about it and her prose generally sparkles there. Although, the use of "oldest", instead of "eldest" and a few other such oddities do seem stylistically weak coming from a Literature graduate.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Baba

    Despite pressure form the Government Rimmington went on to get her book publish and what we learnt first off is that she was never going to give up any secrets! . Rimington give a good idea of what the agency does and of her career path and insights into each of her roles... such a tough career for a women in a field so thoroughly dominated by men. But what Rimington proves beyond doubt her integrity, professionalism and sound knowledge and more important balanced view of modern history and world Despite pressure form the Government Rimmington went on to get her book publish and what we learnt first off is that she was never going to give up any secrets! . Rimington give a good idea of what the agency does and of her career path and insights into each of her roles... such a tough career for a women in a field so thoroughly dominated by men. But what Rimington proves beyond doubt her integrity, professionalism and sound knowledge and more important balanced view of modern history and world affairs

  21. 5 out of 5

    Sarah

    This book has been sat in my kindle for about 4 years and I'd just never got around to reading, until now! I am furious with myself for waiting so long, the book was absolutely fascinating. To discover Stella's journey from a quiet young girl scarred by the war to develop to into a strong, confident leader of MI5 was utterly fascinating. I am in awe. It is very interesting book that covers much of British post war history, I would highly recommend to other readers. I will now be adding Stella Ri This book has been sat in my kindle for about 4 years and I'd just never got around to reading, until now! I am furious with myself for waiting so long, the book was absolutely fascinating. To discover Stella's journey from a quiet young girl scarred by the war to develop to into a strong, confident leader of MI5 was utterly fascinating. I am in awe. It is very interesting book that covers much of British post war history, I would highly recommend to other readers. I will now be adding Stella Rimington's fictional work to my to-read list.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Michael Moriarty

    BEST SECRET LAID BARE BEST SECRET EVER BARED! Uhortunateley I came upon Stella Rimmington about 10 years' too late. It is something that I sorely regret and can only attempt to make up for it by telling all my family and friends about her Open Secret and her own spy - Liz Carlyle. All are beautifully written and reader-friendly. What is more - a lesson to all journalists - nary a split infinitive! Michael Moriarty, FCIJ. BEST SECRET LAID BARE BEST SECRET EVER BARED! Uhortunateley I came upon Stella Rimmington about 10 years' too late. It is something that I sorely regret and can only attempt to make up for it by telling all my family and friends about her Open Secret and her own spy - Liz Carlyle. All are beautifully written and reader-friendly. What is more - a lesson to all journalists - nary a split infinitive! Michael Moriarty, FCIJ.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Florence Carr-Jones

    Was quite slow but enjoyable. Was fascinating in content, as she really did lead quite a remarkable life, but what I found more so interesting was that her life was as much a commentary on the evolution of MI5 as it was on the evolution of women in the workplace. What also make this autobiography great was the fact I really liked Rimmington, just came across like a really nice down to earth person with some amazing anecdotes.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Mr Alister Cryan

    Both open and discreet In reading her autobiography you are offered an insight into Stella Rimington's life and why she was made Director General of M15. There was no scandal in the publication as she would not appear to offer up sensitive information yet you feel also that she understands what should not be published. There is an episode here which is repeated in her novel "Close Call". A fascinating read. Both open and discreet In reading her autobiography you are offered an insight into Stella Rimington's life and why she was made Director General of M15. There was no scandal in the publication as she would not appear to offer up sensitive information yet you feel also that she understands what should not be published. There is an episode here which is repeated in her novel "Close Call". A fascinating read.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Francesca Pashby

    This began well and I was absorbed in the early chapters, finding it very interesting how Rimington managed to get so far as 'a woman' ... but once it got into the details of the late 1980s, I found myself drifting away and I actually skim-read from chapter 15 onwards. However, I take my hat off to her for being a trailblazer ... and I really enjoy her fiction writing! This began well and I was absorbed in the early chapters, finding it very interesting how Rimington managed to get so far as 'a woman' ... but once it got into the details of the late 1980s, I found myself drifting away and I actually skim-read from chapter 15 onwards. However, I take my hat off to her for being a trailblazer ... and I really enjoy her fiction writing!

  26. 4 out of 5

    Mike Mitchell

    Interesting biography of the (retired) Director of British MI5. But I was hoping for a bit more detail about the security services in the cold war, and perhaps less of her early life. Got a bit dull at the end where she moans about unfairness of treatment of public sector workers compared to those in business. (conveniently forgetting their better job security and gold-plated pensions!)

  27. 5 out of 5

    Angela Lewis

    An excellent read. As much as I have enjoyed her novels, this is her best writing in my view. Her account of the unique position she held with the Secret Service and life until and around it is fascinating.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Naomi

    I do love an autobiography. It’s understandable that you don’t get much in the way of detail or depth in this book but it does make it feel slightly flat - you feel you never really get to know the author (which makes perfect sense). I did enjoy the stories of her interactions with Whitehall.

  29. 4 out of 5

    laurence anthony sutton

    Good read Very interesting and informative. Great achievement. An inspiration to women struggling to navigate and achieve their ambitions through the many difficulties and challenges they face

  30. 4 out of 5

    Michelle

    Remarkable woman who smashed the glass ceilings of MI5. What should have been a thrilling portrayal of all things undercover...was actually rather tedious. Her account, although well written, shows us her modesty of character...... but I was really hoping for more.

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