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December 29, 2011 / magickittenblogs

From Russia, with… Love?


In the interest of doing a bit of research into the spy/thriller genre, I recently read From Russia, with Love by Ian Fleming; this was my first ever Fleming Bond, although I had previously enjoyed Devil May Care by Sebastian Faulks and Charlie Higson’s Young Bond series (which I highly recommend).  I’ve also seen the film numerous times, so thought I was on fairly safe ground with this as a starting point.

I’m still not quite sure what I made of it.  I think the book has to be read bearing heavily in mind that it was written in 1956/7 – my lefty liberal sensibilities struggled to accept the moral compass of the story and characters, especially the attitude to women.  Perhaps I was being naive, should have expected it and shouldn’t be bothered by it but I think there’s a good reason why Faulks’ Bond doesn’t include such comments.  The example that really stands out to me, at which point I really had to make a conscious decision to keep reading, is when Kerim remarks to Bond that all women secretly desire to be carried off to a cave and raped.  He also describes winning a “hellcat” who he kept chained, and beat – his mother came to his house and discovered the woman, but the woman refused to leave him despite being freed.  This, Kerim says, tells us a lot about the nature of women.

Dear God… The character saying these things is someone who Bond later describes as the best of men.  Are these comments in any way excusable or understandable?  I hope that Fleming scholars would be able to tell me that the author didn’t subscribe to the above views. And Kerim is clearly supposed to be Foreign with a capital F.  Which in turns speaks volumes about the way that Foreigners with a capital F were viewed by the British at the time…

Well, despite all this, and a relatively slow opening, I persevered and quite enjoyed the final third of the book, where it all gets a bit more exciting.  Reading it was certainly an educational experience; I think I may read more Bond in the future – I have Carte Blanche by Jeffery Deaver on the list – but when it comes to the Fleming novels, I think I may stick to the films from now onwards.



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