Rating: 4 stars
30 January 2014
It took a while for my head to move forward in time from the 18th century to the dawn of the 20th but once I got there, The Secret Agent blew me away. It feels very modern. It could have been written at any point in the past 150 years and been current. It made me think about what an era the end of the 19th century into the 20th was – the crashing together of cultures, the speed of change, the impending arrival of modernity with all its challenges. The Verlocs seemed alive on the page to me. I could have stepped into their world, or not been surprised to find them living around the corner from me. I live in a workers’ terraced house from the Victorian era, and the Verlocs’ home seemed familiar to me. The subject matter was interesting enough, but it was the unravelling relationships in the Verlocs’ home that pulled me the most.
Also, this is the third book I’ve read this year, and the third to make reference to Don Quixote.
25 February 2014
I’m still thinking about this book. I think the thing that has stayed with me is the sense Conrad gets across that people are people no matter what era they live in – we have the same frailties, appetites, inconsistencies now as people 150 or 500 years ago. He writes people very well. I’ve also found that it’s a book that comes back to me at intervals. I think of the characters and their lives even now, weeks after I read it. For me, that’s the mark of a good book.