Book Review: Casino Royale

My first book of the new year: Casino Royale

Published: 1953

Author: Ian Fleming

I am pleased to say that I’ve just finished reading my first book of 2014, Casino Royale. I’ve been meaning to get my hands on James Bond for some time and I can’t complain, too much. While I think the book begins a little slow, with the detailed reports concerning the key villains, somewhere around thirty pages it takes off. I really enjoyed Ian Fleming’s descriptions and concise dialogue. There is a particular scene concerning the details of baccarat, and I’m pretty sure that he comes up with at least ten different creative descriptions of the green game table.

Now, as a die-hard romantic, I was particularly interested in the part of the bond girl, Vesper, and had great hopes for the sexual/romantic tension. I was not particularly let down in this area, except that the sex scenes were rather lacking in the excessive descriptions that Fleming lavished on things concerning the casino and Bond’s gambling habits. I can forgive this, in part because I’m sure Fleming’s target audience wasn’t someone like me, looking for romance and a bit of sex, but also because Bond’s fantasies within the book are vivid. I’m going to include a quick excerpt that I found particularly nice:

“He (Bond) gazed for a moment into the mirror and wondered about Vesper’s morals. He wanted her cold and arrogant body. He wanted to see tears and desire in her remote blue eyes and to take the ropes of her black hair in his hands and bend her body back under his. Bond’s eyes narrowed and his face in the mirror looked back at him with hunger.”

Well, that passage is pretty amazing.

Bond in writing is more impressive, as most characters are, than his movie persona. He’s not quite as charming, a bit cold-hearted, but a little deeper than I expected. I like his callousness against Vesper’s feminine silliness. There’s something especially masculine about someone unbent by modern feminine ideals about what’s sexy. He’s not too sensitive, yet he has feelings. I was particularly struck by the very last sentence in the book, after (spoiler alert!) Vesper’s duplicity has been revealed and he’s mourned her for all of five minutes. Bond calls his office, reports her death and says, “The bitch is dead now.”

Out of context this sentence might not mean very much, but after a third of the book is spent in developing the intimate relationship between these two characters, it’s quite a statement.

I have enjoyed Casino Royale and I look forward to following Bond’s career.

Book rating: 7 out of 10

Happy New Year!

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