The Spy Who Loved Me by Ian Fleming
Published by: Penguin (reprint)
Published on: September 2003
Page Count: 176
My Reading Format: Audiobook rented via Simply Audiobooks
Audiobook Published by: Blackstone Audio
Narrator: Nadia May
Audiobook Length: 4 hours 55 minutes
Audio Sample: Thank you to Blackstone Audio for this audio sample from The Spy Who Loved Me
Available Formats: Hardcover, Paperback, eBook, and Audiobook
Vivienne Michel, a Canadian woman with a past, is traveling alone through the United States on her way to Florida. Along the way, she stays at the Dreamy Pines Motor Court in the Adirondack Mountains. It is nearing the end of the season and Viv is offered employment if she remains until the hotel is fully shut down. While alone waiting on the owner, Mr. Sanguinetti, two thugs, Sluggsy and Horror, arrive, claiming to be there to help with insurance issues. It becomes readily apparent to Viv that she is in danger. When the worst is about to happen, there is a knock at the door. It is Bond, James Bond.
After reading so much about James Bond’s exploits from the male perspective, I was very much interested in how Bond’s exploits would be told from a female narrator. Ian Fleming chose to give this voice to Viv. She has just returned to Canada after some rather disastrous experiences with men in Great Britain. The worst of Viv’s experiences culminated with her controlling German boss, who ended their relationship and her employment by sending her to Sweden to abort their love child. Viv is determined to make her life her own and sets off for the United States on a Vespa. I very much loved Viv and her moxie. It would have been much easier to admit defeat, stay home, and build a safe, quite possibly boring, life. Viv wanted more and she went out after just that. It was this will to do more than simply survive that made her experiences with Sluggsy and Horror come alive. While I knew this was a James Bond novel, I would have been just as happy if she had outsmarted those thugs all on her own.
With all of the women James Bond has had throughout the course of his novels, I wondered how many love children Bond fathered along the way. There was no previous mention of birth control that I recall. While I’m not surprised that Ian Fleming waited until writing a book from a woman’s perspective. It is, after all, something a woman would worry about, not a Secret Service agent with a 00 ranking. What I did find interesting is that the author mentioned it at all. That he wrote of an abortion shocked me even further. Pregnancy is a logical consequence of sex, but the Bond novels are about adrenaline and adventure, not reality. That Viv became pregnant, was “strongly encouraged” to terminate the pregnancy, and was fired by the man responsible for her pregnancy was not, as it could have been, written as an indictment against loose women or as any sort of morality tale. Despite Fleming’s preoccupation with women wanting to be used roughly, I think he saw the inequity that existed between men and women at that time and recognized that it was the women who bore the brunt of any fallout. Given the way that Viv’s character was written, perhaps Fleming held a higher opinion of women than I had previously given him credit.
Although I could sense the age of the recording, I enjoyed this audiobook experience. Nadia May’s voice is somehow different from other female British narrators I’ve listened to in the past. It has a classic quality. There’s no denying that she knows how to make a story come to life through her tone and pacing. I thought her voice was well suited to Viv and her adventure.
The Spy Who Loved Me makes for an interesting change of pace when reading Ian Fleming’s James Bond novels. James Bond was really a secondary figure and I did almost wish this was a stand alone novel just about Viv. I think she had the spunk to take care of those thugs on her own. Given the book’s title, which I love, James Bond had to make an appearance. It might have been nice if she had left him wanting more.