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Light and Shadow: Memoirs of a Spy's Son
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Light and Shadow: Memoirs of a Spy's Son

4.19  ·  Rating details ·  835 ratings  ·  109 reviews
*This is an updated edition released posthumously with an afterword by fellow ABC journalist, and friend, Tony Jones*

Mark Colvin is a broadcasting legend. He is the voice of ABC Radio’s leading current affairs program PM; he was a founding broadcaster for the groundbreaking youth station Double J; he initiated The World Today program; and he’s one of the most popular and i
Paperback, 310 pages
Published October 30th 2017 by Melbourne University Press (first published 2016)
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Average rating 4.19  · 
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 ·  835 ratings  ·  109 reviews

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Start your review of Light and Shadow: Memoirs of a Spy's Son
With all the spies in the news, this is a timely update by a spy's son (and so much more).

UPDATE March 2018. Melbourne University Press has issued an updated edition (with a new cover) and a wonderful piece at the end "In Memory of Mark Colvin" by his great friend and colleague, Tony Jones. Tony tells of Mark's broadcast that inspired him to set his sights above the local newspaper and get into foreign correspondence work.

Tony shares a bit of their long history together and his own insights i
Jan 02, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
So vivid - whether it's London, Canberra or Outer Mongolia. An enthralling memoir for anyone interested in global politics, being a reporter in places like Iran, the world of spying or just the back story of that great radio voice. ...more
Lyn Elliott
Mark Colvin had one of the most beautiful voices on Australian radio, as a news journalist, foreign correspondent and current affairs program presenter for the ABC, Australia’s national broadcaster.

His English father, ostensibly a diplomat but actually an MI6 spy, was often posted out of England, and Colvin’s earliest memories are of Vienna and Berlin.

At age 9 he was sent to boarding school in England, where vicious beatings were administered by a sadistic deputy head, replaced by the head afte
Claire Preston
So much of interest in this book that I think I will read it again to take in all the facts. But I thought that was part of its problem, it was too dense in information to really enjoy. I liked the second half of the book more when the story turned to Mark Colvin's career than that of his childhood and his father's role as a spy. But I was left wanting to know more about his later years, which aren't really covered. I feel a sequel coming on! ...more
Jun 28, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2017
Overall very good. Fascinating insights into the Iranian revolution and the logistics of being a foreign correspondent (and broadcasting generally) in the 80s
*Thanks to NetGalley, the publishers and the author, for providing me with a free e-copy of this book in exchange for my free and honest review!*

Mark Colvin has a great voice and makes the entire book very entertaining and enjoyable to read and at the same time manages to make you feel as if everything he talks about is something that is happening -kind of like watching a movie! which is something not many authors manage to do!
So kudos to Colvin for really bringing a lively story into book forma
Jun 11, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Brilliant autobiography of a highly respected Australian journalist, with insight into why he was so good at what he did. His account of his English prep school was sad but honest, and his insight into so many parts of the world is amazing. I heard it on an audiobook, with Mark himself reading. I recommend hearing it this way. Mark died recently, of complications of an illness contracted in his travels as a foreign correspondent. He will be missed.
I loved this book wholeheartedly. Such an in depth history, from Mark's first memories at the age of 2. It was a wonderful insight into machinations around the world. I could feel it filling in the missing jigsaw pieces for me, for example in Australia politics and the Cold War. ...more
Pip Jennings
Nov 24, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I enjoyed this book immensely. Mark Colvin writes a wonderful memoir of his parents and his journalistic adventures. I found it exceedingly interesting.
Mar 10, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: mya, bio
I didn’t know anything about Mark Colvin before reading this book, but thoroughly enjoyed finding out about his life as a broadcaster.

He talks of a happy childhood, living in several countries. He remembers staying in his grandmother’s house in England one winter. His grandfather had been a Navy man and the house was decorated with portraits of Nelson and there was a display case full of medals. His grandmother sounds like a big character, very well-spoken and old-school. His father was largely
Helen O'Toole
Jan 21, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Upon hearing of the death of Mark Colvin's death at age 65 after twenty years of dreadful ill health, his fellow ABC Radio friend, Richard Fidler wrote this: He had this beautiful mind, full of history & literature & Music, it swam around in his head all the time, and informed everything he did, but he wore his Education very lightly.”
I used to listen to Mark Colvin every weekday afternoon as he presented the ABC Radio PM Current Affairs program for twenty years. I respected him as a journalist
Diane Morter
Mar 16, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I always enjoyed hearing Mark Colvin on PM and The World Today (ABC 774), so when I heard he had written a book, I went into the Wheeler Centre to hear him talk. Really enjoyed the talk and bought the book which I have just finished. I found it fascinating as he was a bit younger than me, so has lived through the same historical events, e.g. Whitlam and Fraser years, Iranian hostage crisis and the genocide in Rwanda. Being a journalist he wrote extremely well and for such a brilliant man he was ...more
Kirsten Marr
May 26, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
If I could do half stars I would add a half to the rating.
This was a good memoir of a great journalist. As Tony Jones puts it “one of the last greats from a bygone era of journalism.” (Pg299)
It tells his story of his foreign journalism and his beginnings as well as portions of life with his father profession as a child and teen not knowing what he actually was. It’s also a great account of some major historical moments he himself witnessed.
Helen Ginbey
What a diverse range of experiences Mark had, he seemed perpetually interested & clearly a fascinating man. I enjoyed the history tour & world events interpreted through his lens. I admire his voracious love of 'telling the story' & the last two words of the memoir made me smile, curious to the very end of his days. ...more
Jan 19, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Mark Colvin truly lived an amazing life and this book provides a brief insight into some of it, covering the early years of his life to the early 1990s. His writing is engaging and the stories compelling. It really is a shame he died so young - a second volume of his life from the 1990s onwards would also be a great read, and may have remedied the only downside I found to this book, which there was not much insight into his children and immediate family (which was odd because the theme of the bo ...more
Anthea Mills
Jan 18, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Mark Colvin was the epitome of Australian journalism. This book records his amazing childhood and career, while juxtaposing his vocation with his father's life as an MI6 agent. Art, literature, music,
major world events and political change set the scene for this compelling and well written memoir.
Rod Hunt
Feb 10, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A great read. An eloquent, intelligent description of a marvellous life set in a well explained context. If you are interested in the media, Australian or world politics, espionage or the Cold War, this is a must read. One of those books that makes you want to read more.
Nov 02, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Loved this - learnt stuff - love Colvin’s voice
Sep 02, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I enjoyed the book, but would have liked more about the man himself and less about the historical events. Dates and names gloss over me!
Ron Brown
Oct 02, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I clearly remember an early 1980s report by Mark Colvin on 2JJ from the streets of Kabul and him describing the stench of human death and how it adheres to your nasal passages. It was an example of the quality journalism that this man practised his whole life.
Reading Light and Shadow was like holding up a mirror to my life. Colvin was six months younger than me. He lived and experienced so many of the events that have made up the story of the last half century. I particularly identify with his t
Peter Lees
Aug 19, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Mark Colvin's memoir provides a fascinating insight into the world of radio journalism, and later, as a foreign correspondent. This is particularly so as Mark was reporting from foreign shores well before the role of a foreign correspondent was popularised, and the advent of television programs such as Foreign Correspondent and the like. This was a time of limited digital technology which has revolutionised journalism and the media.

Mark's intellect and knowledge of world affairs is stunning. His
Sally Edsall
A wonderful book. You can hear Colvin's distinctive voice throughout. Melds stories of his journalistic career with his relationship with his father & father's career as a Cold War MI6 spy.

Colvin was part of my life from my teenage years listening to Double Jay through to PM most recently. He, like John Clarke, was one of those public figures whom you invite into your home, whose presence you look forward to, and for whom you join with others, also unknown to you, in grief.,

Plus: we had similar
This was a fascinating story of a father and son, by one of Australia's best loved journalists who unfortunately died a couple of weeks ago. I listened to the audiobook which Mark read himself so it made it even more personal. It was a bit disjointed at times, but then so was his life. I am the same age as Mark Colvin, but his experience of growing up in "Swinging London" is a world apart from my own growing up in what was then rather dull Melbourne and this adds to the enjoyment. I also saw som ...more
Christopher Bounds
I miss Mark Colvin's precise voice and insightful journalism: he was the epitome of professional ABC journalism and stood out like a giant above the self-indulgent crap that poses as journalism in much of Australian commercial media. What a well-written memoir and how sad that such a pioneer is now silent. ...more
Jo Hyde
Jan 03, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition

Well done Mark !
An incredibly interesting read of world affairs from one inquisitive mind.
Both Mark's and his father's careers provide a really engaging view of world politics in our life time.
Dilly Dalley
I'm not sure where to start with this book. It is such a rich, detailed, fascinating, entertaining and sad book that it is hard to sum up in a review. I'm struggling to put my impressions into words. Perhaps I'll start with something that Mark Colvin mentions at the end of the book - gratitude to Louise Adler, his publisher, for encouraging him to write his memoir. What a loss to the world it would have been if he hadn't put his life experience into words for us. What an amazing life he led. Wha ...more
Lily Mulholland
This is a wonderful memoir by one of Australia’s most loved broadcasters. Mark Colvin was a legend of Australian radio and, in his prime, television, having spent his entire career working at Auntie, Australia’s national broadcaster, the Australian Broadcasting Commission (ABC).

After covering conflict in some of the most remote and dangerous places in the world, he was struck by a number of chronic illnesses and spent the last two decades of his life in and out of hospital from where he continu
May 12, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Mark Colvin died on 11 May 2017, days after I finished reading this book. The outpouring of grief and memories from journalist colleagues that worked with him, political figures that admired and appreciated his integrity and rigour amongst a culture of superficiality, and his audience both through the media and via his Twitter feed was both genuine and a testament to the outsized impact he had as a broadcast legend. It is to our lasting benefit that we have his memoir, which tells not only of bo ...more
Kim Wingerei
Oct 06, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Even if you don't know the name, you will remember the mellifluous soothing voice of the late Mark Colvin - ABC foreign correspondent for decades, including presenter on Four Corners, Lateline and many more. A legend of good old fashioned journalism at its best. He sadly passed away far too early in 2017. His autobiography - 'Lights ad Shadow: Memoirs of a Spy's Son' is a terrific read.
From covering the American hostage crisis in Tehran in 1979 to the Rwanda genocides in 1992, Colvin reported fi
Carinya Kappler
Apr 14, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The author Mark Colvin was an ABC journalist and radio presenter for many decades.
This amazing series of recollections, memories, news stories, and family connections is worthy of many re-reads. It is a dichotomy between professional excellence and personal insecurity. This book represents the author's outstanding linguistic ability plus his intense need to tell many exciting exotic tales while revealing as little as he can about himself in the process. He is the master of understatement often s
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