Trying to escape her tangled past, Vivienne Michel has run away to the American backwoods, ending up at the Dreamy Pines Motor Court. A far cry from the privileged world she was born to, the motel is also the destination of two hardened killers – the perverse Sol Horror and the deadly Sluggsy Morant – who have her in their sadistic sights.
When a coolly charismatic Englishman turns up, Viv is not just hopeful, but fascinated.
I already seem to have got myself in some verbal fisticuffs on Goodreads over my rating and opinions of this book. It’s a bit silly, in my opinion, as I didn’t actually dislike it. I just didn’t like some of the themes and think it could really offend people. Honestly, this book wouldn’t have been published if it was written today- it’s way too sexist and racist for now. But, considering Fleming to be a man of his time, I can forgive it.
Now, I am a Bond fan. I grew up on Bond movies. I know what Bond is and everything he stands for, and totally accept that. Hell, I get a kick out of it. It’s just too fun not to! The Spy Who Loved Me is actually one of my favourites, because of Jaws. He’s such an awesome villain!
If you’ve seen the movie for this Bond story and think you know it- think again. I was thinking of Jaws, skiing, submarine cars etc… they are not here. The movie resembles this book only in name.
It is narrated in the first person by Vivienne Michel, rather than in the standard Bond style. The book is divided into three parts: the first details Vivienne’s clumsy first relationships and why she is in a backwater hotel, the second has the gangsters showing up to cause trouble and the third is when Bond shows up and shit gets real.
Yes, Bond doesn’t turn up until the third section.
I think seeing Bond from this perspective is quite interesting. It would have been better if Viv wasn’t such a Mary-Sue, but the concept is definitely a good one. The problem is Viv’s tendency to be not very useful and the fact that Fleming has written from the female perspective dismally. There’s definitely still enough to go on here, but I just wish it had been executed better.
Then there are the racist bits, mostly through off the cuff remarks about Germans. There is one nasty bit about a Lebanese girl being hairy, petulant and extremely smelly, as opposed to all the nice white girls… Definitely back in the 60’s here. I cringed internally but kept on, as it’s definitely a product of it’s time.
Then there’s the bad, bad paragraph that made me actually say “Ooooh, that’s a bit far”:
“All women love semi-rape. They love to be taken. It was his sweet brutality against my bruised body that had made his act of love so piercingly wonderful. That and the coinciding of nerves completely relaxed after the removal of tension and danger, the warmth of gratitude, and a woman’s natural feeling for her hero.”
I can see where he’s getting at, but this is poor, poor word choice by today’s standards- possibly by 60’s standards too.
Also, this is the first time I’ve ever seen a love scene where the woman is turned on by the fact that the man is sunburnt. SUNBURNT. With a very white bum. Oh baby, oh baby. Doesn’t that just get your engine revving, ladies.
The first section was slow, but fine. It did well at introducing Viv, though she isn’t the most interesting character to be inside the head of.
The second section was actually really good. It gave off the right amount of threat and menace to make me nervous and excited to see how she got out of such a bad situation. The villains were a two dimensional, but I don’t expect any more from a novel of this length or style- again, remembering what we’re dealing with here.
The third was good also, loads of action and sex. The sex scenes were poor, as I’ve mentioned already, but they did give me a giggle. My favourite line was: “I smell like Cleopatra”, which is exactly what one wants their one night stand to say! The action scenes were really good though, definitely the perfect Bond style.
I wouldn’t say the spy loved Viv. It’s more like The Spy Who Fucked Me, but that would never have got printed!
The book is fine, despite its shortcomings. It’s definitely a 1960’s novel through and through, and probably appealed to many men in its day. It’s intended to be a man’s book- again, probably why it was written the way it is, but there’s enough to keep women happy enough too. It kept me busy for an evening and reminded me a bit of why I find Bond such a hell of a lot of fun.
Anyway, I have now learned not to fuck with James Bond fanboys. Turns out that I’m just some kind of Oprah loving, hippy, politically correct female who needs to learn her place. Isn’t that interesting?
2.5/5 stars (Which to me is a decent enough rating- it deserves it)