Brian's Reviews > The Spy Who Loved Me

The Spy Who Loved Me by Ian Fleming
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Sep 30, 11

Read in September, 2011

* The tenth Bond book.

* Having already experimented with a James Bond story that wasn't about Bond at all (the marvelous "Quantum of Solace"), Fleming here tells a Bond story in the voice of a young French-Canadian woman held hostage by a couple of underworld thugs in an otherwise deserted motel in the Adirondacks. It's not as good as the earlier short story, but it's a daring change of pace, and gripping once the action starts.

* Before that, roughly the first third of the novel, we have Vivienne's reminiscences of her early life and the affairs that eventually led her to the motel at exactly the wrong time. Or was it, in fact, the right time? One of the thugs is named Sluggsy, and the truth is Vivienne has been abused by slugs all her adult life. Bond provides a welcome dash of contrast.

* For all the misguided talk of misogyny in the Bond novels, and the more accurate charges of chauvinism, I wonder how people will react to the treatment of men in this book. They're all scum, with the questionable exception of Bond himself. (Bond, at heart, is a softie, and Fleming, too, I think. Unable to stop himself from having Bond fall for the women he meets, it's as if Fleming was delighted, at last, to tell a story in which he didn't have to worry about that. And the only way he could do it? By claiming--tongue in cheek, of course--that he didn't write it.)

* Fleming evidently wasn't happy with the book's critical reception and allowed only the title to be used when he sold the movie rights. That, I think, was a cowardly mistake, in the sense that the Bond film franchise could itself have done with a change of pace. I applaud Fleming for trying something so out of character, and even though it certainly isn't one of the best Bond books, it has its quirky place among them.



* The tenth Bond film (Roger Moore).

* As mentioned, Fleming allowed only the title to be used, so there's no other connection between book and film (unless you count Jaws' teeth, a hint of which can be found in the book).

* This, however, opens the field to one of the best ideas of the series: Bond working together with a female Russian agent. Ah, no, that's not actually correct. It would have been a great idea for a real movie (or one of Fleming's novels), but plunked down in a Bond movie, it naturally goes to waste, freighted as it with the inevitable baggage of Bond's absolute superiority and the need for the woman agent to succumb to Bond's charms with the least provocation imaginable. (It is significant that when Anya mentions the death of Bond's wife, Bond emphatically changes the subject, but not long after Anya discovers that Bond killed her fiance, she's happily sleeping with Bond.)

* Considered by some to be Roger Moore's best Bond movie, and it certainly has its moments. It is without question the film I would most highly recommend to 13- to 14-year-old boys. (In Barbara Bach and Caroline Munro, there is much fuel for heated fantasy.) But that's also its problem; the adult mind has a rough time with the story, particularly the crux of it--the liaison between the English and Russian Secret Services. I'm sure Fleming was tossing in his grave when he saw a Russian agent being ushered through Q's workshop and airlifted onto an American nuclear submarine. In typical fashion, the sheer scale of the film is its undoing.

* On second thought, I won't give the screenwriters full credit for the idea of pairing Bond with a woman agent. Though Vivienne of the novel was no agent, she did end up working with him to some degree. Which is, really, all that can said of Anya in the film.

* Great theme song, sung by Carly Simon.
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