The Big Sleep by Raymond Chandler
- Published February 6 1939
- Tags: Murder-Mystery, Fiction, Crime, Noir, Detective Stories
- Format: Physical copy (Library)
- Pages: 231
| Synopsis From the Publisher |
A dying millionaire hires private eye Philip Marlowe to handle the blackmailer of one of his two troublesome daughters, and Marlowe finds himself involved with more than extortion. Kidnapping, pornography, seduction, and murder are just a few of the complications he gets caught up in.
| Book Review |
– Content –
A private-eye with a chip on his shoulder and who’s seen it all -> Nothing seems to phase Philip Marlowe. He’s what you’d expect from a typical noir detective. He’s blunt, he’s aloof, he takes no bullshit. One thing that comes across strongly in this book is how very jaded Marlowe is towards the world. He’s definitely seen some hard-core stuff and he almost expects the dark and the gruesome to happen. I suppose that’s what makes him a good private eye, since he’s never surprised and he anticipates things with high accuracy. But, he certainly doesn’t come across as very lovable. I certainly had a hard time connecting with him. The best I can say is that he’s very capable and that made me enjoy his detective work.
Buckle up for some ’40s slang like you’ve never heard before -> One of the most difficult things about reading this book, for me, was the slang. Now, I don’t watch a whole lot of noir drama, but usually if it’s a movie format, the slang somehow doesn’t trip me up as much. Maybe because it’s being paired with a visual element. But reading the ’40s slang was a whole other thing. I was constantly scratching my head. It definitely slowed me up while reading, which wasn’t fun.
Typical era treatment of women + poorly written female characters = man’s world and women are props -> This is probably my biggest stickler about the content of this book. Not only are there really only three-four women in the story, they’re all really weird, all kinds of messed up women at that. One is always biting her thumb and giggling like she’s four. One’s husband ran out on her and she spends her spare time gambling and making a general spectacle of herself. And those are really the only ones given any personality. I just didn’t see any realistic portrayal and the way these women are treated by/used by the men in the story is really bothersome and distasteful to me. I didn’t care for it and it’s one of the reason I had such a hard to reading the book.
– Literary Value-
Decent plot, unlikable characters -> Maybe it’s because I’m a 21st century young woman and I don’t really read a lot of noir, but this book was really not my cup of tea. I think that Chandler’s writing is good, he devised an interesting plot and it’s revealed in stages, so you can’t really guess the ending.
But – I didn’t like any of his characters. No one, to me, seemed decent or at all normal. It is shades of grey everywhere and I think he really doesn’t know how to write female characters. They just…don’t seem like real people to me. They come off as a bunch of dopes who either lie, cheat, or steal and don’t have a decent bone in their body. I didn’t care for that at all.
One thing that probably is the driving force in my dislike of this book is that it just…wasn’t interesting. I was bored and it took me a looong time to finish what is otherwise a fairly short novel.
– Entertainment Factor –
Though I love mysteries and crime novels, this book was surprisingly a let-down for me. I don’t know if it’s because noir isn’t my thing (I haven’t read too much of this genre) or if it’s because I just didn’t care for Chandler’s story. It might be both of these factors. Either way, I found the story kind of boring. Marlowe is not my cup of tea when it comes to detectives. I think it’s because he’s so aloof there really isn’t anything for me to connect with him on personally. He’s just a guy with a chip on his shoulder who knows a lot about the world of crime and can talk his way out of most things.
I almost didn’t finish this one, but because it’s not a long story, I felt like I should, and though I made my way through, I didn’t really enjoy reading it. Maybe I’ll like the movie more?
– Cover Art –
This book, since it was published many, many years ago, has many publications and many covers. So I can’t feel like I can really comment on the cover art, except that I picked this one because I think it’s the best one that I’ve come across. The library copy I had did not have this cover – it was really boring and not worth mentioning.
This cover, though, is striking and really has a kinetic vibe to it. I love that the words look like they’ve been cut out and I love the overlay of them against the gun. Yellow is bright and eye catching, and the red really pops. All in all, I think this cover is really awesome and it would definitely make me want to pick it up if I saw it on a shelf.
| My Rating |
Ok, But Not My Cup of Tea
This book was…not what I was expecting. I guess you could say it’s my first foray into the noir crime novel. I didn’t enjoy it. The best I can say is that Philip Marlowe is a capable detective and I can tell by the way Chandler wrote him that he’s seen a lot of things and not too many people can get the drop on him. He’s also not very dynamic of a character. I didn’t really connect with him on any level. I didn’t really connect with any of the characters in this book, to be honest. I also felt the women were not written very realistically and basically came off as child-like and unable to handle themselves. Except maybe one. It wasn’t a very pretty picture.
Other than that, I think the story was okay and I certainly didn’t guess the end result. Chandler’s writing is decent and I think if I were really into the ’40s, I would have picked up on the slang better and maybe I’d have liked the story more.
Would I recommend this book?
Not really. To tell the truth, I think that this book fits into a very niche genre that you either love or hate. Do you like noir? You might like this book! Myself, as a murder mystery reader, I didn’t care for it. I wouldn’t just recommend it to mystery genre readers. I guess if you’re determined to read some classic works in the mystery genre, this one would be worth looking at. But if not, I’d say skip it.
Thoughts & Thanks
Thank you so much for reading this post. I would love to hear your thoughts on this book if you have read it or even if you haven’t! If you’re considering reading it, let me know what you think, once you do!