Review: Secrets and Lies / The Trial of Christine Keeler, Christine Keeler

Rating: 3 out of 5

I finished this a long while ago now, but I wanted to wait with a review such that I’d also have watched the recent series ‘The Trial of Christine Keeler’ given how closely the two are interlinked. I enjoyed both — I’ve heard of the Profumo Affair before, and especially after my readings into Kim Philby another Soviet spy story seemed promising — but after the read and watch, I’d say that they send quite mixed messages.

Firstly, this is the most relevant viewpoint one could have into the entire story. To hear Ms Keeler speak in her own words is the best explanation that we can have for this series of events — and, yet, that also means that when we accept it as the truth, there are certain conclusions we can make from it.

My main one was that there was no show of contrition by Ms Keeler for her actions as a proxy-Soviet agent. How can one ask questions of the type “When are the missiles going to be ready?” and not realize that these should not be passed on to the principal enemy of one’s country? I could understand why Mr Philby betrayed his country — he believed. In the case of Ms Keeler, there was no belief, no understanding, only a continuous stance of ignorance.

The BBC series took a wider pass and the viewer sees both Mr Profumo and his wife Valerie in a far bigger role than they appear in the book. Profumo’s arrogance is his downfall, and there’s no surprise about that. He is, overall, played out rather marvellously. Far better, however, is the depiction of Valerie Profumo, and it looked to me that she got some of the best scenes / monologues in the series altogether (though perhaps at least partially motivated by some of the internal monologues Ms Keeler put forward in her autobiography) — namely, on the way men with power get what they want from women.

Also, it is clear from the outset that the level of detail as provided by the book is a lot better. I found the omission of several important ideas — such as Ms Keeler’s ‘agent’ trying to spend her money for his purposes — a bit of a letdown. Similarly, the episodes with Lucky were haphazard and confusing in the series while these developed more naturally though the course of the book.

Overall, then, a worthy look into a confusing time in British politics. I’d recommend the book over the series, though both if not short on time.

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