Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Review: A Secret Well Kept by Constance Kell

I think, the title - "A Secret Well Kept: The Untold Story of Sir Vernon Kell, Founder of MI5"  - is a little misleading. What this is, in fact, is a quite acceptable memoir of a life shared between two people which is told in the first person narrative by Lady Constance Kell. The story, told in a charming and free flowing manner, is interspersed with anecdotes of her husband's military and diplomatic career, and then his work in the creation and establishment of MI5. A juicy spy story this is not (which is sort of what I was looking for - the nuts and bolts).

Having said that, I honestly found the story of Lady Kell more interesting than that of her husband. Here was a young Irish woman who, following her marriage, accompanied her husband to China, survived the Boxer Rebellion, had some adventures of her own in China, traversed the trans-Siberian Railway back to Europe and England; witness the outbreak of WWI, survived the great influenza epidemic of 1918, saw the creation of the Irish Free State in 1921 and the outbreak of WWII! Through her husband, she rubbed shoulders with an array of interesting folk from politician, diplomats and royalty. What a woman!

For the life of Sir Vernon, Stewart Binn's introduction in the bool was really all that was required to sum up his life.

Recommendation: read it for the story of Lady Kell.
See also: Rare family photos - Express Newspaper

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