Blunt and Better Than the BBC Adaption - The Secret Agent Review

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I've finally gotten around to reading this - I got it for birthday a couple of years ago off one of my mother's friends who I had previously thought had forgotten my existence. I was spurred into action when I saw it had been adapted by the BBC and recorded the series whilst it was on, content in the knowledge that I could read the book and then binge the series.

First of all I'd like to say - don't judge the book the recent adaption, if you're one of the few unlucky ones who actually bothered to watch it. Judging this book by the adaption is like judging a restaurant's quality by the taste of the dog shit outside the door. I mean, I think it's pretty brave trying to adapt it at all - when you're reading it, it doesn't exactly seem like the type of thing you'd want to spend of a Sunday evening - but I still thought it could have been better.

Secondly, bear with it. The book appears quite dense at first - I've found that with all of Conrad's books. His writing... it's not exactly the most readable stuff. It's like a wet sponge, it's heavy and at times seems thicker than a UKIP supporter. At the start it's like trying to piss treacle. There are very few natural breaks, chapters are long, and sentences are pretty long winded. There's no point trying to read this quickly; I reckon your best bet is to just go with the flow, and reread anything you don't follow before you move on. His writing is very blunt - he doesn't bother with elaborate descriptions - but as you go on and you get used to the style, it gets easier.

There's a certain quality about his writing that is brilliant. It's blunt, it's unassuming - it's not elaborately decorated. Conrad has an ability to create monsters. Mr Verloc is a monster, almost certainly - and the way Conrad manages that is magical. He really manages to create the most human monsters - not like the fake villains of today, he manages to search the soul and make someone despicable - but also like you or me. His writing - it's full of intrigue - a little confusing at time, I've had to go back and reread a couple of sections, but the full force of how epic the novel is doesn't really hit you until you've finished it.

Mr Verloc's first name is also Adolf. Yes, Adolf. That's how you can tell this book was written before the 1930s (1907, if you were wondering. You weren't? Oh fuck off.). It follows the story of Mr Verloc, a secret agent (who would've guessed?) for an unknown embassy, given the task of blowing up the Greenwich clock tower. It appears so simple, but when you get into it, the book unfolds into something so much more complicated.

I've read a couple of Joseph Conrad's recently - Lord Jim is by far my favourite. I think comparing this novel to his others - it's definitely not as good. But still worth reading. He paints a really interesting picture of intrigue and suspense throughout the novel - and it seems to flash by. It's a short read - made to seem longer by the thickness of the pages in my edition. It's not the best Conrad, but perhaps one of the better ones to start with if you're just getting going with his (17) books.
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