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This review is from: The Spy Who Loved Me (Coronet Books) (Paperback)
Imagine being alone, totally alone, in a remote location during a storm, when all of a sudden, cold, merciless, danger, comes-a-knocking at your door.
This is the situation facing Vivienne Michel, a lovely French-Canadian motel receptionist at the Dreamy Pines Motor Court in upstate New York when she is paid a visit by danger in the shape of two loathesome gangsters. In 'Horror' Horowitz and 'Sluggsy' Morant, Fleming conjures up two of his more hideously thuggish creations in this gem of a tale.
The plot of this novel is basically one of a 'damsel in distress' as Vivienne, who narrates the story throughout, has to confront her worst
nightmares in the shape of the motel owners bully boys who, for some reason, seem determined to hurt her and then kill her. The 'knight in shining armour' is of course, 'you know who,' who doesn't actually show up until two-thirds of the way through the book. However when Vivienne rather fearfully opens the door to be confronted by a man who was, 'good-looking, in a dark, rather cruel way...' We know that our hero has arrived.
This is a Bond novel totally unlike any other I have ever read. It is not concerned with espionage (although Bond does tend to let his mouth run away with itself when explaining how he turned up at the motel), it does not pit Bond against some fiendish mastermind, it is not set in a glamorous location (an upstate New York forest ?) and it does not involve a female noted for looking after herself. But despite all this, it is a glorious examination of fear, and of how love can grow because of that fear. It is also compelling !
Indeed we learn a lot about Vivienne Michel. The first half of the book is mostly concerned with her life-story of broken hearts and shattered dreams. Her vulnerability, honesty and determination to stand up for herself make her
one of the most endearing of female characters seen in a Bond novel. No streefighters instinct like Pussy Galore, no self-assured confidence like
Domino Vitali, this lady is bruised, frightened and in need of a friend.
Bond is his usual, composed and confident self. His quick appraisal of Vivienne's situation is all he needs to start formulating a plan to rescue this lady from the dragons lair. However, we also see an uncharacterstic sloppiness from Bond too. He doesn't slip up once, but twice, the second mistake is so glaring that any Bond fan, familiar with Bond's usual thoroughness, would be puzzled as to why he didn't take basic precautions to prevent disaster. 'M' would have been appalled at some of his amateurish mistakes.
This book incidentally has no similarity whatever to the film of the same name. The two are completely different animals. In fairness it would be hard to make this book into a film, but it would make a truly compelling one hour TV special.
If I had to change one thing it would be the ending of the book. A little too long is spent listening to Captain Stonors homespun philosophy on 'friends' and 'enemies' for my liking, although Fleming is merely trying to show the depth of Vivienne's feelings for Bond. In fact, Fleming in this book demonstrates (especially in his detailing in the first person Vivienne's life
prior to 'Them') his ability to think and feel like a woman. The early part of the novel is essentially a work of romantic fiction, with Vivienne's loves and heartbreaks detailed in a very sensitive and basically 'feminine' way. We already knew that Fleming was an accomplished author of the ultimate mans novel, but here
he demonstrates his grasp of the world viewed through a woman's eyes as well. Remarkable !