Tuesday, 6 September 2016

Classics: The Secret Agent


The Secret Agent 
Rating: 4/5 
Buy or Borrow: Buy 
Source: Copy courtesy of the publisher, Penguin! 

Set in an Edwardian London underworld of terrorist bombers, spies, grotesques and fanatics, Conrad's dark, unsettling masterpiece asks if we ever really know others, or ourselves.

So, not too long ago, I watched the TV adaption of The Secret Agent, and it was amazing. Seriously. The acting was on point and it was compelling to watch, so I was curious about the book and then I got sent the Pocket Penguins edition of it and I eagerly started to read it. 

As I started to read it, my brain started to form a mental image of Conrad's London, a London that was grimy and grey and dark, pretty much all the time. The book is tense and full of suspense as you feel like you're waiting for something to kick off. I found the narrative to be intriguing and a little bit different, the point of view switches around but it's done very well. The perspective is constantly changing, and you see the characters going over both past and present events, that builds up to create the big picture. It might be a little confusing, because in the beginning you hear characters saying Verloc's blown himself up at the Observatory but you don't actually see the event. I had a mental picture of what happened in the adaption so I found the books narrative an intriguing way to tell the story. The language, the switching of perspectives, goes some way to make you feel how the characters must be feeling. 

I thought The Secret Agent was intriguing and it really sucked me in, even though I already knew what happened. I felt for Stevie, he was such a kind individual, feeling sorry for the horses and those less fortunate and he took a shine to Verloc and then what happens, happens. I enjoyed reading about the various different characters involved with Verloc and the plot, it made for an interesting snapshot of the time. The idea of terrorism in the book, is the group wanting to manipulate people in to action, whereas in this day and age it's to cause fear and kill as many people as they can. I found Verloc interesting, because I wasn't sure how to feel about him. He wasn't really the action type of man so he's been shoved in to a situation he wouldn't usually be in, or was equipped to be in really, so clearly it wasn't going to end well. I mean...I kind of felt for him, because he didn't mean for it to happen, and the author gives you his thought process so you can see he feels badly about it but at the same time...he didn't really handle things well! 

I have to talk about a certain passage in the book. I watched this scene in the adaption and oh man. It was amazing. It blew me away, the acting was brilliant and the scene was just full of tension and emotion. So I was excited to read the passage in the book and it was one of, if not the, best scenes in the book. I got choked up reading it, and it was incredibly brilliantly written to show what Mrs Verlac was feeling, it was authentic and vivid and probably one of my favourite scenes ever. Conrad really excels at writing the characters thoughts and feelings authentically and accurately, and in Mrs. Verlacs case in a way that makes you feel for her completely. I was actually heartbroken for her and Stevie, it was such a moving passage. 



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