Casino Royale by Ian Fleming

Call it a guilty pleasure.  This book was just fun to read, mostly because I a) love Bond movies anyway and b) delight in sexist jokes, which made it easier for me to read Bond’s anti-feminist rants and just giggle to myself. Here’s one of my favorites, when Vesper Lynd gets herself kidnapped by the bad guys and Bond has to take the trouble to chase after them:
“This was just what he had been afraid of. These blithering women who thought they could do a man’s work. Why the hell couldn’t they just stay at home and mind their pots and pans and leave men’s work to the men. And now for this to happen to him, just when the job had come off so beautifully. For Vesper to fall for an old trick like that and get herself snatched and probably held to ransom like some bloody heroine in a strip cartoon. The silly bitch.”

Mmm. I love the smell of misogyny in the morning.

In Bond’s defense, Vesper doesn’t do much too much to change his opinion of women and their overall uselessness. She’s supposed to be some kind of radio technician, but never gets to demonstrate any shred of intelligence that elevates her above the average 7th grade girl. Her only good bit of dialogue comes towards the end of the book, when she and Bond are safe and on vacation together:
“The bath had been filled for him and there was a new flask of some expensive pine bath-essence on a chair beside it with his towel.
‘Vesper,’ he called.
‘Yes?’
‘You really are the limit. You make me feel like an expensive gigolo.’
‘I was told to look after you. I’m only doing what I was told.’
‘Darling, the bath’s absolutely right. Will you marry me?’
She snorted. ‘You need a slave, not a wife.’
‘I want you.’
‘Well, I want my lobster and champagne, so hurry up.’ ”

That’s about as interesting as Vesper gets. The rest of the time she’s busy running around after Bond, being referred to as “the girl” and saying things like, “Do you mind if we go straight into dinner? …I want to make a grand entrance and the truth is there’s a horrible secret about black velvet. It marks when you sit down. And, by the way, if you hear me scream tonight, I shall have sat on a cane chair.”

Fascinating.

Bond, for his part, didn’t say anything especially intelligent either and made me thank god for Daniel Craig and his writers. I couldn’t decide which was more annoying: Bond and Vesper during the assignment when they made banal small talk and Bond speculated on how soon he would sleep with her, or after they survive and decide they’re in love and go on vacation together. (and don’t look at me like I gave the plot away, you knew it was going to happen.) I think it’s the latter – once Bond and Vesper survive the kidnapping, all potential of being cool vanishes as they become the most irritating couple ever. Having to read about them schmooping their way across France, eating caviar, and calling each other “Darling,” “My love,” and “Dearest” was enough to make me vow never to read another Ian Fleming book again.

Anyway, point of review: movie version = awesome, book version = a delightful misogynist romp. Pick whichever you’d prefer.

Verdict: three out of five stars

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