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Goldeneye: Where Bond Was Born: Ian Fleming's Jamaica (2015)

by Matthew Parker

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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825328,882 (4.03)14
"For two months every year, from 1946 to his death eighteen years later, Ian Fleming lived at Goldeneye, the house he built on a point of high land overlooking a small white sand beach on Jamaica's stunning north coast. All the James Bond novels and stories were written here. This book explores the huge influence of Jamaica on the creation of Fleming's iconic post-war hero"--Dust jacket flap.… (more)
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Showing 4 of 4
Jamaica was a British colony in the 1950s. It was also one of the world's hot spots for the rich and famous, before mass tourism arrived. It's been compared to Happy Valley in Kenya with British expatriates letting lose. In this setting Ian Fleming owned a reclusive bungalow where, when not swimming naked on his private beach and drinking copious amounts of gin and vodka, he wrote the Bond novels. Matthew Parker weaves this story around other local characters such as Noel Coward and the partying jet set who are continually coming and going, and Flemming's affairs and rocky marriage.

Not sure how I much I admire Flemming as a person, but he is an interesting subject and there is enough humor in his books to be forgivable and not taken too seriously. As a useful bit of information the author recommends the best four: Dr. No, Thunderball and two others. I once tried reading the first one published Casino Royal, but it's not his best while he was still working out the formula, the other four are more canonical.

The author Matthew Parker is fantastic, maybe even too good for this topic. He reminds me of William Dalrymple able to weave a deft story around a British colony. This is not a book full of trivia about Bond and Flemming, it tells a bigger story. Come for Bond but stay for the story of Jamaica and colonialism. Look forward to reading Parker's history of sugar barons in the same region which takes the history of Jamaica further back. ( )
  Stbalbach | Jul 19, 2017 |
Goldeneye – An ode to Fleming, Bond and Jamaica

In 1943 a young naval intelligence officer was in Kingston for a conference when he promised to himself that he would come back and live on the island of Jamaica. In 1946 Ian Fleming made good on that promise and so began a long love affair with Jamaica and the creation of one of the world’s most famous literary and celluloid heroes James Bond. In the eighteen years that Fleming owned Goldeneye his home during the cold winters of a dark and dank London winters all the Bond thrillers were written here.

Matthew Parker does not idolise Goldeneye making false claims, but paints a very clear picture of it as very much a harsh bachelor pad with very little in the way of comfort, in the dying years of Imperial Jamaica when the Blacks were there to serve and not be heard. All this comes across in the book and it must be remembered that Fleming was a man of his times, the Empire had stood for the greatness of a people, and the monarchy was its representation and was a force for good.

When Fleming bought the land and designed Goldeneye there were no creature comforts no decent plumbing, no windows or cupboards. The one thing that does come across from this book is that Fleming wanted to communion with nature and be inspired by what was around him he took to Jamaica and Jamaica took to Fleming.

One of the most interesting things about this book is not just that the chapters are neatly broken up for the reader starting in 1946 and then eventually in to when each of the Bond Thrillers were written. By doing this we are able to examine the events around Fleming’s life at the time his loves and his struggles. We also get an examination of Jamaica at a turning point in its history when things were changing from colonial back post to a leading Caribbean independent nation. Parker also interviews many people who knew Fleming at the time which adds to the cache of this book.

Parker also examines our enduring love of both the books and the films and one thing that we British are good at, laughing at ourselves. Early on in the books and in Flemings’ thoughts was Britain’s uneasy and changing relationship with America which helped to spark some of the more fun, sparky and deeply felt segments in the novels. Something that does come across if it was not for the ability to laugh at ourselves, then both Fleming and Bond have something in common they were pretty unlikeable.

Throughout the book it is amazing once it is pointed out how many times Jamaica actually appears in Flemings novels. From the name of James Bond an author on Jamaica’s bird life to how many places and people appear in one guise or other. We also see Fleming’s relationships with the locals and his famous friends, such as Noel Coward, Blanche Blackwell and with the Governor General of the time Sir Hugh Foot. As well we get explanations of the politics of the time of Manley and the politics of Independence.

Matthew Parker with Goldeneye has not replaced the two excellent biographies of Fleming but made an excellent addition to the James Bond canon. We also are able to see that even though Fleming may not have been in the literary limelight and the greater his success the more destructive he became to himself and too his creation Bond.

That self destruct button that exists in all the Bond novels and films with the excessive drinking and smoking was a reflection of Fleming; he was still able to hammer out 2000 words a day until his final outing. Fleming’s love of Goldeneye and of Jamaica pours from every page of the book, while still proudly English it was probably the only place he ever was really happy. ( )
  atticusfinch1048 | Jun 7, 2015 |
Absolutely superb, fun, easily accessible history of what happened both at Goldeneye, and the books themselves that defined James Bond & his character. In many ways, like its subject. This is multi layered, looking at history, colonialism, politics, The Great Ppwers, Espionage, Britains declining role in the world, and the loss of her Empire. Yet it also remains an analysis of the deterioration of a marriage of two fundamentally flawed, incompatible people. Admirable, engaging & wistful. One can't help but be nostalgic for a time, place & person that have now faded from memory leaving an incredible legacy that often belies its tragic development. Recommended. ( )
  aadyer | May 25, 2015 |
With his excellent book the author Parker, Matthew Parker tells the story of Goldeneye, a Jamaican retreat Ian Fleming built for himself after World War II, where he invented Bond, James Bond and wrote all of the 007 adventures. This entertaining and informative read serves as a mini-biography of the unique Ian Fleming as well telling the story of Jamaica and how richly they both inform the James Bond books. While Fleming was raised among wealth and privilege, he actually had to overcome a great deal. Fleming's father was heir to a title and fortune, however when he died during WWI the title and fortune was entirely passed to a second son with nothing for Ian and his brothers. While Ian struggled in school his brother Peter Fleming got top marks, then joined an expedition to South America and wrote a best selling travel classic 'Brazilian Adventure'. Ian Fleming remained at loose ends until WWII when he thrived as an inventive member of wartime British Intelligence earning the rank of Commander (the same as he assigned to Bond in the books). One WWII assignment took him to Jamaica with schoolboy chum Ivar Bryce and despite terrible weather the trip inspired his desire to return. Once the war was over Fleming took a newspaper job with the condition he receive paid leave two months every winter. Meanwhile his friend Bryce found the desired location and purchased it based on Fleming's instructions. Goldeneye was then designed and named by Fleming himself. Fleming wrote the first Bond book 'Casino Royale' at Goldeneye in 1952 and he would maintain that routine with all his books until his death in 1964. Across the years Jamaica also transformed as artists, the new jet-set and eventually thousands of tourists helped the economy boom. Across the world the British Empire was gradually unwinding and eventually Jamaica achieved independence as well. The sense of decline of British power runs through the Bond books which also react against it with James Bond saving England and even the whole world. Parker shows how Fleming weaves Jamaican locales and references into many of the Bond books. However, it was particularly appropriate that 'Dr. No' became the first film as it is set almost entirely in Jamaica where much of it was filmed. In fact, Fleming helped Chris Blackwell (founder of Island Records) get a job on the film and today he is the owner of Goldeneye which is now a luxury boutique hotel The Fleming Villa. This is a great book for anyone interested in James Bond, his creator Ian Fleming and Jamaica, the place that brought them together at Goldeneye. ( )
  ralphcoviello | Mar 20, 2015 |
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McMillan, RoyNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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"For two months every year, from 1946 to his death eighteen years later, Ian Fleming lived at Goldeneye, the house he built on a point of high land overlooking a small white sand beach on Jamaica's stunning north coast. All the James Bond novels and stories were written here. This book explores the huge influence of Jamaica on the creation of Fleming's iconic post-war hero"--Dust jacket flap.

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