This is the first autobiography of the first female head of MI5, the UK's internal security agency. It was published in 2001, to a wave of negative publicity. Apart from the politicians who disparaged the apparent breach of security, there were quite a few negative reviews stating that Ms. Rimington wrote out of feeling of guilt at having disrupted her daughters lives by her choice of career.
Overall the book does not reveal anything about MI5, other than the thinking behind the decision to openly acknowledge its existence, and expose it to more parliamentary oversight, which happened during the 1990s. Ms. Rimington does describe in convincing terms the struggle to be taken seriously, as a female professional, during her time in MI5 from the late 1960s. She seems to have met the challenges with great determination. Her personal life seems to have been greatly affected by her work, though her marriage seems to have been rocky in any case. She lived with her daughters in London, however there were many intrusions and changes of address necessitated by
The needs of security and the fear of exposure and publicity. There is an authentic feel from one story, where she was secretly meeting a potential agent in London, when she got a call that her daughter was ill, Rimington had to borrow money from the potential agent for taxi fare, cut short the meeting and go to pick up her daughter.
I liked the book, as I had not expected much information about MI5, and found it very honest about her personal struggle. There is the usual stuff about MI5's failures being public and its successes being secret, and what a motivated bunch they are. I would have preferred some discussion about how MI5 (along with other agencies) missed the collapse of the USSR, did not forecast the IRA ceasefire; however I was not expecting it.
One indication of the difficulties Rimington experienced in getting the book published is the ending - there is an Afterword, a Postcript and an Epilogue; all in various ways trying to counter the criticism she was enduring.