Saturday, June 29, 2024


 When I first read The Spy Who Loved Me more than 50 years ago, this was by far my least favorite of Ian Fleming's James Bond books. --  It still is.  And going back and reading through book reviews from 1962 when the book was released, my opinion was shared by reviewers of the time.

Still, it is an interesting trip back into early 1960s America. And while it is quite different than any of the other Bond books, it is still an interesting addition to the series, if for no other reason than a peek inside Ian Fleming's mind. 

The Spy Who Loved Me is written in a first person female perspective by the fictional Vivienne "Viv" Michel, a young Canadian woman. James Bond does not even make his appearance until two-thirds of the way through the book. The first half is Viv Michel telling about her life and loves which result in her being a caretaker for a night of an isolated motel in upstate New York. When a couple of thugs burst in on her, we have the stage set for Bond's appearance.

There's no saving of the world here. Just saving a young woman. 

Accounts of Fleming's life at this point more than hint that Fleming was struggling with coming up with new plots for his books. The fact that his three books after Goldfinger were a short story collection, a novelized screenplay that landed him in legal trouble ("Thunderball"), and this out-of-character book, bears evidence that indeed Fleming was struggling with the Bond plots. But the end of the book contains some fascinating reflections by Fleming on the character he has created. Those observations alone make the book worth reading.

The book was so poorly received that Fleming ordered that the book not be released in a paperback version and that it not be released in the United States. When the movie rights to the series were sold, Fleming included The Spy Who Loved Me, but with the caveat that while a film could use the title, the plot of the novel could not be used for a movie. 

Of course when the Bond book sales skyrocketed, The Spy Who Loved Me did appear in the United States and in paperback editions.

Is this book worth reading? It depends. For a casual Bond reader, this is the one I would skip. But if you are a true fan of the Bond book and want a full picture of Fleming and his character, you need to read this one, too. 

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