The Spy Who Loved Me by Ian Fleming

Why I read, edit, and write (part 2)

Recently, @NoEndToBooks tweeted a list of books to consider reading with your tween. The list originally appeared in the Christian Science Monitor as a potential antidote to YA fiction offerings like The Fault in Our Stars. The writer encourages families to read the classics together. Reading with your child can be a powerful bonding moment. After all, the best way to know what your child is reading is to actually read what your child is reading. Yet, when I look back at my tween self, I thank my lucky stars my parents had no idea what I was reading.  Namely, every James Bond book I could get my hands on—definitely not parent-approved reading at age 11.

Confessions of an 11-year-old female Ian Fleming fan

That’s right. At the tender age of 11, I picked up my first novel: The Spy Who Loved Me. Ironically, I seem to have chosen the only James Bond novel to have been written from the perspective of the female character, and I loved it. The book is divided into three sections, “Her,” “Him,” and “Them.” Fleming crafts a story of Vivienne Michel, a young woman who stops at an almost abandoned hotel in the Adirondack mountains.  Bond appears only in the last section, where, naturally, he saves the day. According to The Guardian, when the book was originally published in 1962, Bond fans hated it. They felt betrayed that Bond was not the central character and called the book dreary. When the film version was made in 1977 with Roger Moore, the female perspective and Bond-less plot were completely abandoned.

Editor’s note: Yet, another reason why I hate Roger Moore as James Bond. Don’t get me started on Moonraker, my favorite Bond book.

After The Spy Who Loved Me, I was hooked on Bond. I read almost all the remaining books (including some not written by Fleming); I’ve seen most of the films (Sean Connery is still my favorite). More than any other book, this novel influenced my later reading habits. Even now, most people assume that the Ivy-League educated editor with the master’s degree in medieval Italian history would prefer cerebral, literary books like those that appear on this year’s Man-Booker long list.

Those people would be wrong. It’s not that I don’t enjoy a great nonfiction read like An Uncertain Glory or a literary masterpiece like To Kill a Mockingbird, but I like my fiction to have escapism as its central purpose. I love books that transport me to a different time and place, as the Bond books do. I love the fantastical plots and characters. I love Fleming’s easy style, which adapted so easily to the screen. I love that the good guy always wins, no matter how absurd that win might be. Maybe, that’s why I love Bollywood movies. They make that escape a reality. Hmm. I wonder what a James Bond movie with a Bollywood twist would look like? Maybe like these scenes from Agent Vinod: