Reviewed by Krista McKeeth
An amoral young tramp. A beautiful, sullen woman with an inconvenient husband. A problem that has only one grisly solution–a solution that only creates other problems that no one can ever solve.
First published in 1934 and banned in Boston for its explosive mixture of violence and eroticism, The Postman Always Rings Twice is a classic of the roman noir. It established James M. Cain as a major novelist with an unsparing vision of America’s bleak underside, and was acknowledged by Albert Camus as the model for The Stranger.
Perhaps showing my age with this review, but for a book that was banned for it’s violence and eroticism, colour-me-shocked. As a reader in the 21st Century, and a female one at that, I ended up viewing this book very much as a comedy. Several lots of of eye-rolling, and much shaking of my head wondering what she was thinking, occurred throughout the novel.
It’s a story of two people making one bad decision after another … for no other reason than they want something different in life. Nobody would actually blame them for wanting that, but the reasons behind their actions are very simplistic and not very well thought out, ending in a big helping of karma.
The Postman Always Rings Twice is in essence a short story. The reader is never introduced to the characters formally, nor do we get a very well-rounded character development. Frank Chambers is a bored vagabond recalling how everything went wrong for him. He’s travelling alone, trying to swindle a dinner out of the diner owner, Nick Papadakis, and becomes drawn to his lovely young wife, Cora. They both see in each other a way out, a different life to live, and the only thing in their way is her husband Nick.
The murder plot takes centre stage but in a very convoluted way. Yet somehow it keeps the readers eyes glued to the page just to see what happens next in this ill-fated love story.