I had to read this book for a course on the adaptation of literature into film. I didn’t get around to reading all the required texts- The sheer annoyance I felt at the end of Wuthering Heights had a lot to do with it- but I was able to read Conrads The Secret Agent. Read on for a short summary and review after the jump.
The story follows Mr. Verloc, a seemingly normal man who lives with his wife, Winnie, her somewhat mentally challenged (is that the accepted term? Let’s hope so) brother, Stevie, and their mother. Verloc owns a shop in which he sells all sorts of bric-a-brac but many of his costumers come to buy porn which he sells below the counter as the saying goes. While Verloc’s life seems boring and ordinary, it turns out he is actually an anarchist spy. The novel leads up to a bombing of the Greenwich observatory and the subsequent actions that are the result of it. It is one of the few political thrillers that Conrad has written.
As far as characters go, almost everyone in the novel is extremely unlikable and unrelatable to the reader. Verloc is sly and smug and mixes in with the wrong crowd, his wife is a fucking busy body and can’t help but meddle in other people’s business. Even Stevie, who as mentioned before is challenged, found little sympathy from me- trust me, I tried to feel sorry for him but I just couldn’t help it. The thrill of the story does not suffer very much because of the characters; the moments leading up to the bombing and what follows are intense, Conrad does not tease us with open endings, but gives [most] characters their just desserts which I appreciated. Conrad paints a bleak yet detailed picture of London at the turn of the century and of what underground terrorism would have probably looked like in those days. Though I probably wouldn’t pick it up again, I would recommend it to fans of Conrad, or better yet, Those who only read Heart of Darkness because of it’s affiliation to the movie Apocalypse Now. Don’t be that guy who only read Heart of darkness. The Secret Agent is a great example of Joseph Conrad’s wide range of literary talents.
You can buy The Secret Agent Here
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