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The "thinking man's Da Vinci Code"
on April 5, 2008
This literary deconstruction is at least as entertaining as its subject. I compare it favorably to studies of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle with regard to autobiographical influences on his creation of literature's greatest detective, Sherlock Holmes. Ian Fleming was--like A. Conan Doyle-- a complex and jaded educated man with both a sense of history and a spiritual dark side which seem to have deliberately informed his idealized, fictional alter ego.
At the very least, Gardiner demonstrates that Fleming's James Bond adventure series is an elaborate literary conceit with private jokes and allusions Fleming didn't care whether the average reader discerned or not--which makes it even more piquant than his most devoted fans could desire. Whether one buys Gardiner's premise or not --and he seems to have done his homework--fans of the Bond oeuvre will enjoy this book. It's the thinking man's "Da Vinci Code".
On a personal note, besides having taught English, I am a retired ornithologist who worked for years in the (formerly British) West Indies. When I was starting out in my early 20's I had the great good fortune of having the REAL James Bond, THE legendary West Indian ornithologist, then living in Philadelphia in his late 80's, --as a kindly and brilliant mentor. Fleming's fictional spy caused him no end of inconvenience, ("What's your REAL name sir?" ) as recounted in a delightful informal memoir "Far Afield in the Caribbean" by Dr Bond's wife, Mary Wickham Bond. If your interest is birdwatching, the Caribbean, or the eccentricities of marriage to a field naturalist, it's worth looking up this charming, out-of-print book.