Boxall's 1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die discussion

The Secret Agent
This topic is about The Secret Agent
77 views
1001 Monthly Group Read > September {2019} Discussion -- THE SECRET AGENT by Joseph Conrad

Comments Showing 1-11 of 11 (11 new)    post a comment »
dateDown arrow    newest »

message 1: by Charity (new)

Charity (charityross) Time to discuss!


message 2: by Sean (last edited Sep 15, 2019 08:04AM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Sean (fordest) | 719 comments Mod
This was my first Joseph Conrad. His writing is so descriptive. I was amazed at his ability to make me see what he was describing.

I liked this book. I just didn't love it. All the discussion about anarchy and the philosophizing that the anarchists did just kinda blew past me and dulled the experience. But I did like the story. (view spoiler)

The net effect this book had was making me want to read more Conrad. I look forward to more amazing, dark, and descriptive content. Even if I have to wade through some other stuff.


message 3: by George P. (last edited Oct 14, 2019 09:22PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

George P. | 1001 comments Mod
I just noticed I never posted about reading this book. I finished it Sep 16th and rated it four stars.
I have read Conrad's Heart of Darkness twice (it's great), the second time a few years ago, and read his short story The Secret Sharer earlier this year (very good), and read Lord Jim decades ago. I plan to read Nostromo in the future and maybe a reread of Lord Jim some day.
It seems that in Secret Agent the embassy that the main character was working for was the Russian, though Conrad didn't want to say that, so I was a little confused on that score until I read it somewhere.
I agree with Sean that Conrad's ability to make you feel present in the scene was very impressive. His characters are always very vivid and lifelike. It's also impressive that he was able to portray the culture of Britain so vividly when he was born and raised in Poland, and didn't really begin to learn English until he was in his 20's, working on English merchant ships.
Some of my Goodreads friends have read this and rated it four stars, and others rated three stars. I think it's very good and more people should read it.


Bryan--Pumpkin Connoisseur (theindefatigablebertmcguinn) | 629 comments I read this a few years ago--I had some difficulty with it then, though I think I'm a different reader now than I was then. Back then, I thought Conrad's prose was turgid. I've had a small urge to go back and reread this--basically to see how I've changed as a reader. I read a few of Conrad's other works last year--some of the shorts, and Nostromo and Lord Jim. Jim I thought was great. I was only so-so about Nostromo.

Rereading this one is kind of on the back-burner though--I've got too much stuff I still want to read the first time.


Ella (ellamc) I've had my copy out for a month & still haven't cracked it. Getting on it this weekend at the latest. Thanks for leaving these threads around.


Sean (fordest) | 719 comments Mod
George P. wrote: "It seems that in Secret Agent the embassy that the main character was working for was the Russian, though Conrad didn't want to say that, so I was a little confused on that score until I read it somewhere..."

At first I had thought the Embassy was French. But that didn't sit right for me so I think I just put it off as being... some undetermined, less-than-allied nation..." Russia makes a lot of sense now.


Marlise (mawz76) | 29 comments I'm still planning to get to this one eventually.


Ella (ellamc) I did finish this eventually, and I'm so glad I did. It's very different from what I expected - and feels so timely in so many ways. I'm not a big conspiracy theorist, but it's hard not to be while reading this because it correlates to certain modern events so very well. I keep reading stories about how the FBI allowed people to almost do XYZ and even assisted them in some ways. It felt a bit creepy in some ways to read this because you can see how it could all go so very wrong so easily.

I don't know much about Conrad's personal politics, but from his writing, he seems almost ahead of his times in the books I've read by him. I now want to get to more of his work, so it's been added to my TBR pile.


Marlise (mawz76) | 29 comments I finished the audiobook on this from librivox. Like Sean I didn't love it overall. But I did love the last few chapters which offered a couple great surprises. I only wish I could have been that enthralled throughout. Listening to audiobook, some of the male characters kind of blended together and I had to rewind at times to figure out who was speaking or being talked about. I gave this 3 stars.


message 10: by Sean (new) - rated it 3 stars

Sean (fordest) | 719 comments Mod
Marlise wrote: "I finished the audiobook on this from librivox. Like Sean I didn't love it overall. But I did love the last few chapters which offered a couple great surprises. I only wish I could have been that e..."

I agree with you that it did get better toward the end. I like the little suprises and actually started to care what was going to happen to the characters.


Marlise (mawz76) | 29 comments Same here Sean!


back to top