Sunday, November 9, 2014

The Maltese Falcon

This year's Wichita Big Read book is The Maltese Falcon by Dashiell Hammett.  Having never read it, I thought it would be a fun read.

Although the mystery itself was intriguing, I found some of the details of the book a bit too much.  Some books pass the test of time, but I am not certain this one does.

I found the first page almost unreadable.  After having read several beautifully-written books, it was hard to go back to sentence after sentence of "Samuel Spade's jaw was long and bony . . . " "His yellow-grey eyes were horizontal.  The V motif was picked up again . . . " "She was a lanky . . . "  Diana had beaten "She was . . . " "He was . . . " out of me . . . and now here is a very famous book that uses the passive tense every other sentence.

Despite that, I continued to read.  The dated nature of the book added humor to the reading.  I could have lived without the paragraphs on how to roll a cigarette, for example, but the descriptions of the office with the tapping of the typewriters and the sound of the paper coming out of it sparked memories for me.

Since Sam Spade was the first of the woman-courting, mystery-solving detectives, perhaps I need to give him some credit.  I know it was a sign of the times, but the condescending, patronizing manner in which he treated all of the women affected me.  I found myself reacting quite negatively to it, even though I know books like this are prone to hyperbole.  Still, it was a sign of the way women were viewed in the 40s and 50s . . . not a positive trait of that era.

I am looking forward to our book club discussion about The Maltese Falcon to see what the other women's reaction to it is.  One thing I know for sure:  mystery novels have improved over time!

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