For my first, and probably only, foray into James Bond this was definitely a good one. Compared to other spy novels I’ve read like The Talented Mr. Ripley or The Thin Man, I enjoyed this one the most! I’m not sure if it is because of the history of the novel, or because of the character James Bond.
So it will come as no surprise, that this is my local library’s books into movies book group February read. What is surprising is that I suggested it. I did so because for some random reason, I have always been obsessed with the title—it’s one of those iconic titles that everyone knows and for some reason it’s always stuck with me even though I’ve never seen the movie or read the book. The second reason is that it’s February and well, Valentine’s Day. And finally Caroline made another connection: oh Russia, like Sochi, and the Olympics. So yet another great reason.
Even though I thoroughly enjoyed the novel, I struggled with part one of the novel. I had so many expectations of what a James Bond novel was, from the movies I’ve seen, that the set up felt entirely way too slow to me! However, I forgot by the end of the novel a major character and then realized oh shit I know what’s going to happen all of a sudden! It was great to have that intake of breath and moment of shock and I then rapidly read through the last few chapters!
However, what I enjoyed most about the book was that Ian Fleming was clearly a reader’s writer. He has a way with language and a way with writing scenes and characters that just makes them stick with you. From his cheeky nod to another iconic British author, Agatha Christie, “‘There is always excitement on the Orient Express,’ Kerim got to his feet.” (212), to his observations on sadness, “The trains on the other lines were engineless and unattended – waiting for tomorrow. Only Track No. 3, and its platform, throbbed with the tragic poetry of departure.” (191), Fleming keeps the reader’s attention and takes the reader where he wants.
The most interesting thing I learned from this book was that Ian Fleming wrote the novel Chitty Chitty Bang Bang! This was in the author’s bio at the end of the novel and my mouth dropped open when I read it. My first response was shockand my next response was that’s hilariously brilliant! He originally wrote it for his two sons and the novel was eventually turned into the stage musical and the famous movie.
Recommendation: I would definitely recommend this book. Although the novel isn’t as suspenseful as I assumed it would be, I felt it was well written and I thoroughly enjoyed the story. I’m not going to lie the cliff hanger at the end was horrible (in a great way) and if I would’ve read this upon first release I would’ve freaked out.
Opening Line: “The naked man who lay splayed out on his face beside the swimming pool might have been dead.”
Closing Line: “Bond pivoted slowly on his heel and crashed headlong to the wine-red floor.” (Whited out.)
Additional Quote from From Russia with Love
“Kronsteen was not interested in human beings – not even in his own children. Nor did the categories of ‘good’ and ‘bad’ have a place in his vocabulary. To him all people were chess pieces. He was only interested in their reactions to the movements of other pieces. To foretell their reactions, which was the greater part of his job, one had to understand their individual characteristics. Their basic instincts were immutable. Self-preservation, sex and the instinct of the herd – in that order.” (62)