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Young Philby

3.44 of 5 stars 3.44  ·  rating details  ·  215 ratings  ·  69 reviews
A Kirkus Best Fiction Book of 2012

A Kansas City StarTop Book the Year

When Kim Philby fled to Moscow in 1963, he became the most notorious double agent in the history of espionage. Recruited into His Majesty’s Secret Intelligence Serviceat the beginning of World War II, he rose rapidly in the ranks to become the chief liaison officer with the CIA in Washington after the war...more
ebook, 288 pages
Published November 13th 2012 by Thomas Dunne Books (first published January 1st 2011)
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Kim Philby could possibly be the most notorious double agent in espionage history. Recruited by the Secret Intelligent Service during World War II, he began spying for the Russians on the British intelligence service. Robert Littell’s Young Philby follows what little we know about his early years up till what made him a great double (or should we say triple?) agent.

Kim Philby was a real high-ranking British intelligence officer who worked as a double agent serving as both an NKVD and KGB operati...more
Robert Farwell
It has been awhile since I've read Robert Littell. This wasn't one of his best novels (*** 1/2), but it was still fascinating. At its core, 'Young Philby' is an ahistorical, fictionalized telling of the early life and background of Kim Philby, the most famous of the Cambridge Five.

Littell's fictionalized account imagines the possibility that Philby was actually more than just a double agent. I would tell you more, but then I would have to kill you. Anyway, 'Young Philby' was well-written, well-...more
Readable fictional account of the life of Harold Adrian Russell "Kim" Philby, who was a Soviet agent/spy and was a member of the Cambridge Five.

The story at a fast pace but with contributions in the first person by different people in each chapter this at times felt very disjointed, and although clear [that it was a different person telling the story] it was not obvious who was "narrating" at the outset and left the reader to guess for some pages.

For me as it is a novel this format meant charac...more
Roger Pettit
I am fascinated by anything to do with espionage. That, and the fact that I recently read and enjoyed 'A Spy Among Friends' by Ben Macintyre, meant that I had high hopes of this fictionalised account of the early years of Kim Philby's cloak and dagger activities. Unfortunately, 'Young Philby' is a tad disappointing. It's not a bad book. But it never really reaches the heights. It's a workmanlike, competent novel. But it's also a strangely dull one. It never lives up to the comment from author Fr...more
Paul Pessolano
”Young Philby” by Robert Littell, published by Thomas Dunne Books.

Category – Spy/Biography

To enjoy this book and get the most out of it the reader must have some knowledge of Harold Philby.

Philby may well have been the most talked about double agent in history. He was a graduate of Cambridge University and the son of an eccentric father. His first attempt at the spy or espionage game started in 1933 when he went to Vienna and became part of the Austrian Socialists and Communists.

He and four of...more
Matthew Kresal
I’ve been thinking for a while now that someone really needed to write a novel about Kim Philby, the most successful of the Cambridge Spies. Littell’s novel focuses, as the title suggests, on the early years of Philby’s career as told through the letters and reminiscences of those who knew or were connected to him during the period including fellow Cambridge spy Guy Burgess and, for a single chapter, Philby himself. For the vast majority of its length, the novel succeeds with its mix of viewpoin...more
Historical fiction of the infamous double agent in the 30's who was recruited by the Soviets along with four other Cambridge leftist intellectuals. After Philby defected he caused much turmoil among the Allies and precipitated the CIA's mole hunt which wrecked havoc within the agency.

This book presents an interesting perspective on Philby in the 30's. At school, then onward to Vienna on this motorbike trying to avert a coup by Hitler's cronies, and then as a journalist in the Spanish Civil War -...more
High Wycombe Library
At times, whilst reading Young Philby it is easy to believe that you are reading a factual account of Kim Philby's early years, such is the air of authenticity with which bestselling author Robert Littell has imbued his novel. Written in the form of letters and memoirs of those who knew him, Young Philby is an atmospheric novel of one of history's most infamous double agents. ^GE

If you liked Young Philby why not try:
A Foreign Country by Charles Cumming
The Russia House by John Le Carre
Christopher Culp
Entertaining, thought-provoking, and thoroughly enjoyable. Littell uses first person with different narrators of each chapter to great effect as a way of exploring a possible early life of notorious spy Kim Philby. His book weaves a plausible and very engaging tale. As historical fiction in the espionage genre goes, this is a strong contribution. I finished the book thinking that Littell made a good case for his hypothetical scenario, and, regardless, told a terrific story in the process. A nice...more
In the world of spies and counterspies, uncertainty is a constant: a cause of sleepless nights for some practitioners, an aphrodisiac for others. For Robert Littell it is grist for his latest espionage novel.
Littell’s “what if” premise supposes that Harold Adrian Russell Philby — nicknamed Kim after Kipling’s fictional spy — was not the person we have been led to believe. who enjoy cold war espionage, spy tradecraft, World War II history, or plain old-fashioned good writing will appreciate this...more
Cormac Farrell
SPOILER ALERT. I'll be talking about a twist at the end of this book which you won't want to know if you're about to read it. It's an excellent book and the imagined dialogue really gives it a very realistic feel. I've read a lot about Philby, and I can certainly attest to the accuracy of the various goings on in his colorful life, and it's all going tally ho until, "bang"! Littel takes a giant leap of the imagination which turns it all on it's head. There is really nothing to suggest that HAR P...more
Very interesting and well written fictional account of Philby's early life. I loved the narrative device of having multiple characters telling the story of their interactions with Philby. It gives a sense of the enigmatic nature of the Philby story, everyone has a view but no one really knows. Great stuff.
Yves Panis
Un grand Robert Littell. Avec une fin étonnante et troublante. Romancée ? À voir...Littell est de toutes les façons le plus grand ecrivain actuel dans la catégorie espionnage. Il est à l'espionnage ce que le rhum est au baba. Enfin je trouve...
John Hooper
This is an excellent novel about a famous spy. The author uses facts from Philby's early life in Vienna and weaves a story that indicates that Philby might have been a triple agent. It is a great book like al of Robert Littell's books.

Young Philby is an interesting semi-fictionalization of Kim Philby's early life, positing the fact that he may, in fact, have been a triple agent, working overtly for the British, covertly for Communist Russia, and even more covertly for the British again. Littell doesn't quite pull it off, mainly due to a lack of any truly convincing evidence in favor of the theory, but he leaves things sufficiently vague that anything becomes possible.

The book is arranged as a series o...more
You can't help thinking that this is an interesting idea for a book, the story of one of the most famous real-life spies, told from the point of view of Philby's own life. Now the book and it's publicity material is quite tricky about the background of this book. Whilst there's nothing there to indicate whether or not this is a true story or fictional, it's written in a way that implies that the whole thing is the true story of Kim Philby's early years.

YOUNG PHILBY is however, a novel. It expan...more
Kevin Coombs
This is one of Littell's shorter books, and it perhaps should not have been. The reason I make that point is because the story is speculative fiction, suggesting that Harold Adrian Russell "Kim" Philby was actually a "triple" agent, not a double. Philby famously spied for the Russians before and after World War II, and served as a high-ranking member of Her Majesty's Secret Intelligence Service during much of that time. While Littell makes his suggestions interesting enough, he doesn't invest en...more
I love books
Harold Philby, Kim per gli amici, è un giovane inglese di buona famiglia; il padre (o come Kim lo definisce, quel sant’uomo di mio padre), ha abbandonato la fredda Inghilterra per lo sconfinato deserto arabico ma ha mantenuto i contatti con i più importanti membri del governo inglese. L’improvvisa fuga di Kim da Londra suscita scalpore, il suo desiderio di prendere parte attivamente alla lotta contro i regimi di destra del centro Europa prevale sul buon senso e sulla volontà paterna; arrivato a...more
Wilde Sky
A fictional account of the early career of a soviet spy working at the heart of the British establishment, told through letters / reminiscences of those connected with him.

I found this book engrossing / a real page turner and the twist at the end was satisfying (but probably untrue).

If you enjoy historical espionage thrillers you’ll probably enjoy this book.
David Lowther
Young Philby was a bit of a curate's egg of a book. I got a little bored with the beginning, set in Vienna in 1934, but the action picked up when Philby returned to England.
One of the book's great strengths was the portrayal of Philby himself who, despite initial appearances, comes over as a man who knows what he wants and knows exactly how to get it. He seldom panics and is thoroughly reliable. This is quite unlike his fellow spy Guy Burgess who drowned any uncertainties in drink. His character...more
Andrew Parnell
Well that book raised more questions than it answered on whether Kim Philby was a traitor, a double agent or even a triple agent. I quite enjoyed the different characters first person narrative style.
I say mr. Littell this b b b b book would make a splendid start to a series.
Paul Higham
I liked this a lot. Picked it up after reading the Ben Macintyre book on Philby and found it a nice counterweight. A good historical novel, the multiple narrator style worked well.
Sheppard Ferguson
For both a subjective description of the pre-WWII period in Europe and England and a kind of exegesis of political thought in that rapidly changing period, Young Philby is terrific: thoughtful and nuanced. The book enters Alan Furst's territory managing to be more detailed and analytical about the attitudes and perspectives of the intelligentsia. Possibly, this is because Furst's books are always plot driven with drama and danger starting on page one, Littell's book is less action oriented than...more
ok read but some of it seemed a little self serving. Characters making predictions that turn out to be true because the author has the benefit of hindsight.
Young Philby is an interesting look at the role of spies in WWII. I enjoyed the novel, but found it difficult to follow because each chapter was narrated by a different character with no warnings or transitions. Each narrator has a connection to Kim Phibly, and imparts his or her interactions with him. By the story's end, I wasn't entirely sure what had happened or who Philby was actually spying for. Nonetheless, I enjoyed the writing style enough to finish this book. The afterword is insightful...more
Very entertaining fictional account of the life of Kim Philby, the great double agent.
This was a pretty good book. Short and succinct. Told from several perspectives, this novel explores the early career of Harold "Kim" Philby, a member of the infamous Cambridge Five spy ring. The tone is light and breezy. Hardcore spy novel fans might dismiss this as a cute bit of fluff while those with a less passionate interest in the espionage genre will find this to be a fun and quick paced book. This is an excellent read for travel or the beach.
Reid Nichols
I know this is a bit of a niche read, but it is amazing. You should bring an understanding of the characters before reading this book- better yet, read The Company by Little. The Company is even more amazing but much longer. Young Philly is fiction, but it has real historical relevance as it suggests something I had not considered about cold war events. Basically, for me this is a must read which did not disappoint.
Robert Littell's Young Philby is a fascinating treatise on the early years of Kim Philby, the celebrated Soviet spy. All the chapters are written from the perspective of many of the individuals that were a part of his early life. This novel gives the reader possible insights into how he became one of the most infamous double or possibly triple agents in the British and Soviet Intelligence agencies. A great read!!
David Orphal
Fantastic book. I just love the author!
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An American author residing in France. He specializes in spy novels that often concern the CIA and the Soviet Union. He became a journalist and worked many years for Newsweek during the Cold War. He's also an amateur mountain climber and is the father of award-winning novelist Jonathan Littell.
More about Robert Littell...
The Company Legends The Amateur The Stalin Epigram The Once and Future Spy

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