Last night the Reading Across the Pond book group discussed The Big Sleep by Raymond Chandler. There was a very clear gender divide: the men in the group confessed that they loved the twists and turns of the plot, while the women in the group initally found the story to be misogynistic and homophobic. As the discussion went on, the group generally agreed that none of the characters — male or female, straight or gay — come across particularly well; everyone is flawed and has a checkered past. There was a long discussion about Philip Marlowe’s character and what motivated him (money or morals), and by the end of the evening the group had warmed to the book somewhat. While they thought that the story was somewhat dated, everyone agreed that they could see its influence on film noir and TV detective serials (Dragnet was mentioned several times), and several book group members expressed an interest in watching the movie of The Big Sleep, starring Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall, to see how the tone was handled in the adaptation.
Next month’s book is The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot. Watch this space for the review!