My dear bookish friends!
Today I have a book for you that I would recommend to all the James Bond fans out there, as well as to every historical thriller and spy story lover: The Spy Who Inspired Me by Stephen Clarke offers an interesting, refreshing, and new take on how a female agent does the job, and it will make you think twice about how you would define the term ‘spy story’! First, here comes the synopsis, and then you’ll find out what I thought!
For legal reasons, this novel does not mention J*mes B*nd. Which is a shame, because it is a comedy spy story based on the idea that I*n Fl*ming’s famously macho secret agent might have been inspired by a woman … The Spy Who Inspired Me is a comedy spy spoof set in Occupied France in 1944, written by the bestselling author of A Year in the Merde, 1000 Years of Annoying the French and How the French Won Waterloo (or Think They Did).
It is April 1944, and chic armchair naval officer Ian Lemming is accidentally beached in Nazi-occupied Normandy. With no access to a razor or clean underwear, and deprived of his cigarettes, Lemming just wants to go home. But he is stranded with a young, though hugely experienced, female agent, who is on a perilous mission to unmask traitors in a French Resistance network. So, as she bullies him across France, Lemming receives a painful crash course in spycraft, and starts to fantasize about a fictional agent – male of course – who would operate only in the most luxurious conditions, and lord it over totally subservient women. A fictional spy is born …
The Spy Who Inspired Me isn’t my usual go-to read, nor is it the genre, but after having finished it I’m wondering why that is! I really enjoyed this book, and am so grateful the lovely Helen Richardson approached me and sent me a copy to review (thanks again so much for that!). This year was all about branching out with my reads, and I am so glad I did. Otherwise I would have missed gems like this one!
Spy stories… what do we usually think when we hear that term? Stories focused on men, with male main characters, maybe violence involved, and definitely female characters who serve only as nice decorations on the side. Well, not so here. Character Margaux Lynd made sure to come in and claim the spotlight for herself. She’s smart, she’s brave, and she’s ready to show you (and Lemming) how the job is done.
I loved how Margaux broke all the female stereotypes – both of the usual women in the genre, but as well female stereotypes in general. The mission undertaken by the female agent in this book happens mostly on the north coast of France, a place I’ve never seen in real life before, but reading this story made me able to imagine the places in my mind.
For legal reasons, this novel does not mention J*ames B*nd. Which is a shame, because it is a comedy based on the idea that Ian Fleming’s famously macho spy might have been inspired by a woman…
I absolutely love it when books (or movies) play with stereotypes and reverse long-set social roles, and The Spy Who Inspired Me did that in a thrilling, fun, and interesting way. This historical spy thriller was an addictive read that will instill a new and very fresh idea in your mind of how spy stories should be (or at least, can be) like.
It might not be for everyone, but some might be surprised at how much a change in genres adds a fresh breeze to their reading enjoyment! The underlying satiric tone in this set in the 20th century novel adds an interesting note to the story, and we get strong characters, a compelling plot, and an entertaining adventure. All you need for an evening to be immersed in your read!
4 stars from me!
About the Author
Stephen Clarke is the bestselling author of seven books of fiction and nonfiction that satirize the peculiarities of French culture. In 2004, he self-published A Year in the Merde, a comic novel skewering contemporary French society. The novel was an instant success and has led to numerous follow-ups, including Dial M for Merde (2008), 1,000 Years of Annoying the French (2010), and Paris Revealed (2011). After working as a journalist for a French press group for ten years, Paris-based Clarke now has a regular spot on French cable TV, poking fun at French culture.
Stephen Clarke has also written several serious-yet-humorous books on Anglo-French history, such as 1000 Years of Annoying the French (a UK number-one bestseller in both hardback and paperback), How the French Won Waterloo (or Think They Did), and The French Revolution & What Went Wrong. He lives in Paris. For more information about Stephen Clarke please visit: www.stephenclarkewriter.com
Follow Stephen on Twitter @sclarkewriter
Thank you all so much for reading!