Bernard Samson triple trilogy – book 8
Some of the initial rage seemed to have gone out of her and she stood there looking at me, silent as if trying to think of the next thing she’d planned to say. She was dressed in a long suede coat and fur hat; an outfit that suited her so well that it was the image of her that returned to my mind when I thought of her. A great ball of fur like a clown’s fright-wig. She’d never taken off that hat during the entire night that we spent together waiting in the hospital, worrying about little Billy’s bronchitis. It was a long time ago but I remembered it vividly. Brown roll-neck sweater, brown wool skirt, pale leather ankle-boots and that crazy hat. No one could have taken Billy’s plight more to heart than she did. She paced up and down, I remember, disappearing into the toilet so that I wouldn’t see her crying.
observations: Heading towards the end now – this is the 8th of the 9 main books in the sequence. As ever, I am anxious to avoid spoilers as far as possible, so need to talk about the sidelines to the plot…
Len Deighton wrote fascinating introductions for these editions, and one thing he said is very interesting in regard to Gloria (the much younger woman who forms a relationship with Bernard during a difficult period of his life):
I didn’t mean to fall in love with the character of Gloria. I fought against it every step of the way. I gave her plenty of faults and failings but it was no use, she came through every test with a radiant glow. I loved Fiona [Bernard’s wife] too; she has the sophistication, gravitas and intellect that Bernard respects so much. But Gloria wears my wife’s clothes – that fur hat and brown suede overcoat from Paris – and flaunts them with youthful abandon. Who can resist her? And yet these were not my characterizations. Like everyone and everything in the stories, each was seen through the eyes of Bernard Samson, whose sceptical bite is the essence of the whole series.Well yes, seen through Bernard’s eyes, but also through Len Deighton’s. Fiona is a riveting, deep character. Gloria is very charming, and indeed she is lovable, but she never seems quite real – not in the way Fiona does – and she does rather seem to be the 1980s version of the Manic Pixie Dream Girl.
Throughout all the books I am constantly asking questions about the childcare arrangements for Bernard and Fiona’s children, Sally and Billy: at times these are described in enormous and careful detail, and Samson and Deighton seem to see how difficult if must be to organize when the parents are spies. But other times nothing seems to be worked out for them, and as the vital departmental plans are being made – the future of the whole free world may depend on this – I find myself saying ‘but, hang on, who is babysitting right now?’
This book takes an excellent new step, with a long, marvellous section set in a large country house in Poland in the snow. Bernard and Dicky go there in search of George Kosinski, who was married to Bernard’s sister-in-law Tessa. This is a tour de force of social events, social difficulties, awkward situations as guests, and deep dark goings-on. It is full of surprises, and features a severed hand, and a leg that has been mauled by wild dogs. But to whom do the bodyparts belong?
There are uncertainties right up till the end. And still one more book to come…
My good blogging friend Tracy over at Bitter Tea and Mystery is also reading the books, and recently reviewed this one. She too is moving on to Charity.
The picture is from a fashion magazine of the period.