Love and Deception: Philby in Beirut by James Hanning; Beirut Spy: The St George Hotel Bar – International Intrigue in the Middle East by Saïd K Aburish - review by Adam Sisman

Adam Sisman

Sleeping with the Enemy

Love and Deception: Philby in Beirut


Corsair 408pp £25

Beirut Spy: The St George Hotel Bar – International Intrigue in the Middle East


Unicorn 256pp £16.99

On 12 September 1956 Eleanor Brewer was having a lunchtime drink with friends at the bar of the St George Hotel in Beirut when someone pointed out Kim Philby. She was a tall, attractive woman of forty-two from Seattle, unhappily married to a New York Times correspondent, and bored. Philby was expected. Before leaving Beirut on an extended reporting trip, Eleanor’s husband, Sam, had asked her to look out for him.

Eleanor invited Philby to join her party. She was immediately impressed by his ‘exceptional’ manners. He was a year older than she was, handsome, with intense blue eyes. She quickly found that she could talk freely to him. Here was ‘a man who had seen a lot of the world,’ she wrote later, ‘who was experienced, yet seemed to have suffered.’ Like other women before, she was beguiled by his charm and touched by his apparent vulnerability. He spoke with an endearing stammer. A certain old-fashioned reserve set him apart, contrasting with the easy familiarity of the journalists who gathered at the St George bar.

Eleanor knew something about him already, of course. It was common knowledge that Philby had worked for the Secret Intelligence Service (MI6).

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