It was the sixties. I thought I was very grown up reading ‘From Russia With Love’. By today’s standards, the erotic scenes between James Bond and Tatiana Romanova may seem tame but the spine-tingling glamour of Bond’s world has endured for decades.
‘From Russia With Love’. This is the fifth James Bond novel written by Ian Fleming. It was my first 007 book and remains my favourite although it now seems top-heavy with scene-setting. Also, my advice is to temporarily disregard the 1950s patriarchal society.
I read my father’s old hardback edition. I still own it. The dustcover has an illustration showing a gun and a rose, and an author’s note from Ian Fleming dated March 1956. Published by Jonathan Cape, 13s.6d. net, a Book Club issue with no printed date. It is certainly elderly but not a first edition.
Espionage. Between British and Russian intelligence agencies spying was at its peak when this novel was written. According to Ian Fleming, locations and Intelligence chiefs are based on real people. SMERSH (a great name which spawned similar fictitious spy names) is a Soviet assassination organisation which has declared James Bond an enemy of the Soviet State and issued a ‘death warrant’ for his immediate execution.
To trap Bond. The plan was to infiltrate British MI6 by using young Russian spy Tatiana Romanova who pretends to defect from her position, saying she has fallen in love with Bond from a photograph. As an added bonus, if he delivers her safely to the West, Tatiana will give him a Spektor decoder (another great name) much prized by the fellows at MI6. Of course, things don’t go that smoothly and if you are a follower of suave secret agent James Bond you will know what action is in store, and what happens to the beautiful girl.
Detailed plots and counterplots. The central theme is the Cold War, a real situation between East and West and one which readers would have been well aware of at the time. Also, there is sexism, racism and a whole lot of things which are not socially acceptable today but, hey, that was the era.
A train trip on the Orient Express. The journey from Istanbul to Paris is high drama and copied many times by other writers and movie producers. Also, I think it was the first story to have a Q gadget.
Character development. James Bond is developed more in this book, yet Fleming was undecided about continuing the series and left the ending wide open. Will Bond survive? And as cliff-hangers go, it is a beauty. The impact may be slightly dulled as we view it from the all-knowing twenty-first century, however, the lure of a good spy novel never dies.
♥ Gretchen Bernet-Ward
On Goodreads? My link https://www.goodreads.com/gretchenbernetward
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