Plugging the holes in a spotty education.

Sunday, April 09, 2006

Nobody does it better

I grew up in a house full of books. Not an intellectual house, like in a Woody Allen movie where the shelves are filled with Rilke, Schopenhauer and other great names. Nope, our bookcases had paperbacks stacked two-deep: Agatha Christie, Louis L’Amour, P.G. Wodehouse, John Jakes. All the popular writers were welcome. And I read them all.

Well, just about all.

Shame-Faced Admission™: I’d never read a James Bond novel. That is to say, an Ian Fleming novel whose main character was James Bond. There they were on the shelf: five, maybe ten volumes in red covers, but I never picked one up.

I can’t say exactly why. Maybe it was seeing Live and Let Die at 10 years old. The movie seemed silly and complicated. It certainly didn’t send me rushing to the novels. Not when Bertie Wooster was in the house.

But after seeing some Sean Connery Bond films I knew it was time to read a 007 novel. I’ve just finished my first: The Spy Who Loved Me.

The chief thing to know about this book is that James Bond is not the main character. Not by a long shot. The narrator is a Canadian woman named Vivienne Michel. Shapely of figure and ill-treated by men, she is taking a respite from her romantic complications in an Adirondack motel about to close for the season. She spends the first half of the book thinking back on how her naiveté and bad luck with men have led her to this isolated haven in the woods.

I kept waiting for super villains and secret lairs, but no luck. Or should I say great luck. By the time the bad guys show up we know this girl and hope she can save herself. Turns out she doesn’t have to because James Bond shows up too. There’s no steel-toothed henchman on his trail, just a flat tire causing him to stop at the motel. Of course he saves the day and our heroine gets a well-deserved romp with her hero. Most importantly she learns how a real man is quite different from the cads she’s known.

After their brief night together Vivienne wonders if their encounter will spoil her for other men. I wonder the same thing myself. Will the other Ian Fleming 007 novels, the ones with the global weapons and directives from M, pale in comparison with this one? Like Vivienne, I guess I won’t know until I try.


Blogger Bill said...

If you think the James Bond novels are going to be like the movies, you might be surprised. The Spy Who Loved Me isn't really that different from the others, except of course for the point of view.

7:17 AM

Blogger Romy said...

It sounds like I'll be pleasantly surprised then. Time to head to the bookstore!

12:19 PM

Blogger Uncle Patrick said...

Indeed! The first (and, so far, only) Ian Flemming Bond novel I have read was Casino Royale. It is so much better than the movie! But then, just about anything would be better than that movie.

4:06 PM

Anonymous Dave Cuthbertson said...

Fleming wrote in an age when the Brits could not take more than £50 out of the country in a year and there was no real economy air travel.Food and clothing were stillrationed at home.

This gives the books based on 007 and his lifestyle a flavour which the 60's books began to lose and those born later may not understand.

Fleming was also a journalist whose researches into diamond smuggling went into my recommended Bond book "Diamonds are Forever". It is quite different from the movie.
Have you read Len Deighton? A brilliant writer..

12:59 PM

Blogger Romy said...

The only Len Deighton I've read so far is SS-GB, many years ago. Maybe it's time to get some more. (I should have borrowed them from my mom before she brought them back to her local paperback trading post.) I do love spy novels - Le Carre is a favorite and lately Alan Furst.

8:59 AM


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