Review: Farewell, My Lovely

Another Philip Marlowe novel – Raymond Chandler, of course.  Like The Long Goodbye and The Big Sleep, this is a mystery with Marlowe trying to get to the bottom of it.  As with the other novels, Chandler’s style creates a high contrast world of lush language and minimal, beautiful scene-setting.  Unlike those books, we get a version of Marlowe who is much more vulnerable.

In Farewell, Marlowe is much more in the world he’s exploring.  In the other books I often had the feeling that Marlowe was above the proceedings, even when he was emotionally invested.  There were moments of physical peril, but I never felt it.  More to the point Marlowe never seems to feel it.  That’s not the case in Farewell.

Marlowe’s always been human enough to make some mistakes – and he makes some doozies in Farewell – but he generally is the smartest and highest minded guy in the room.  In Farewell, I came away feeling Marlowe was letting his demons have their way with him more than usual.  And he suffers for it more than usual.

The suffering is never just a plot point; it is the natural consequence of sticking your nose in where it doesn’t belong.  It’s Marlowe’s reactions to it that are interesting.  There’s the plot stuff, of course, but more interesting is how it changes him and how he shows it.  Viewing these changes through the stylized idioms of another time makes the workings a little harder to make out, but invests them with more iconic power as well.

As always, if you want a whodunnit, Chandler delivers.  He does so with so much style and literary power – and drive to say new things with a comfortable character – that I’m happy to read it if the case is unsolved.

Strongly recommended.

Comments are closed.