Story publication year – 1960
Film release year – 2008
007 – Daniel Craig
Fleming’s eighth Bond publication (the collection of short stories (For Your Eyes Only)); the twenty-second Bond film. This will be a fairly short post, as there is scant material to compare and contrast.
That said, Fleming’s original short story is very interesting and unlike any of his previous 007 novels or stories. It almost seems like Fleming decided Bond needed a bit of break.
The story opens with a very bored 007 sitting in a living room after a dinner party at the British governor’s home in Bahamas. Bond has just concluded a routine investigation concerning weapons smuggling into Cuba. Bond and the governor had been joined at dinner by a couple that has just left to catch a flight to Montreal. In casual, but awkward, conversation Bond tells the governor that (while he has no intention of actually ever getting married), if he did, he would want to marry an airhostess, aka, a stewardess. This prompts the governor – who Bond views as a staid and boring bureaucrat – to launch into a fascinating tale.
The governor recalls a young civil servant, Masters, he once knew who fell in love with an airhostess named Rhonda. They married, but then Rhonda had an affair and thoroughly broke his heart. Her paramour, however, dumped her while Masters was on assignment to Washington, D.C.; she intended on recommitting herself to Masters upon his return to the Bahamas and becoming the best wife she could be.
But, as the governor explains to Bond, by the time he returned from Washington, Masters had zero “quantum of solace” for Rhonda. The governor further explains that one’s quantum of solace is the amount of comfort one person has with another. When he returned to their home, Masters told Rhonda that he had full evidence of her affair and that he would file for divorce. The divorce would be become effective when his assignment in Bahamas was over. Until then, he commands her to not speak to him, prepare all his meals, and keep their house – which he divides in two per a detailed floor plan – clean and tidy. Rhonda obeys, but she is unable to persuade Masters to take her back, or, for that matter, even barely speak to her.
Masters, as promised, left Rhonda on the island and returned to England. Shortly thereafter, she learned that he had left them both in debt with multiple creditors. She was thoroughly humiliated. After living destitute in the Bahamas for several years, Rhonda landed a job in Jamaica and she eventually met a Canadian millionaire, whom she ultimately married and lived happily ever after.
It turns out that Rhonda was the wife of the couple who had attended that night’s dinner party at the governor’s house. Bond apologies to the governor for thinking “Mrs. Harvey Miller”, aka, Rhonda, was a bore and thanks the governor for teaching him a lesson about people and fate. The story ends with Bond and the governor wishing each other good night and 007 ruminating about how boring his life in the secret service really is. There is no mission; no Bond girl; no heroics; and no happy ending. In fact, nothing whatsoever actually happens other than Bond hearing a story about the past. However, this was one of the more fascinating Fleming stories – I literally could not put this one down, the storytelling was so carefully and compellingly crafted. I imagine that Fleming lived this story in his own life, probably at his vacation home, Goldeneye, on Jamaica, at a similar dinner party.
All of the above, of course, has nothing to do with the 2008 film; which, in my view, is the weakest in the Daniel Craig series thus far. The film, essentially, picks up from the Casino Royale film and deals principally with Bond coming to terms with his love of, betrayal by, and the ultimate death of Vesper Lynd. He is reassured at least twice (by M. and Mathis) that Vesper truly loved him, and the film ends with Bond “letting go” of her memory by dropping her necklace in the snow after capturing the man who had blackmailed her into betraying him. Surrounding this is a tepid and disjointed mission to foil a villain, Dominic Greene, who has aims on cornering the fresh water market in Bolivia. Bond, naturally, defeats Greene.
Two items of note as far as similarities: First, although not present in the short story, the film invokes similar female revenge themes, as found in Fleming’s original Goldfinger as well as For Your Eyes Only (themes also reflected in the respective films), among others. Specifically in the Quantum of Solace film, the Bond girl (Camille Montes) crosses paths with 007 on her own personal mission to kill General Medrano (a Bolivian exile who wants to become the country’s next dictator), who had killed her parents some years earlier. Second, in both the story and the film, Bond never sleeps with the Bond girl – he is completely chaste in the story (as all he did was listen to someone else’s story) and while, in the movie, he sleeps with MI6 staffer Strawberry Fields, he never actually beds Camille.