The Postman Always Rings Twice is a classic noir, mystery novel by James M. Cain. First published in 1934, the book became notorious for its graphic sexual and violent language, thus becoming banned in Boston. It’s a fast-paced and engaging read which became the bases of several movies and the inspiration for Albert Camus’s novel “The Stranger”. Here are two things I liked and two things I didn’t about The Postman Always Rings Twice. ATTENTION: This post contains spoilers!
Reading The Postman instantly transported me to the era in which the book was set (late 20’s, early 30’s). The tone of the book was immaculate and the imagery was very captivating. What I enjoyed more, however, was the sense that the book was ahead of its time.
Frank, the main character, is a drifter who walks into a restaurant to get a sandwich and gets offered a job on the side and scores an affair with Cora, the wife of the restaurant’s owner, for dessert. What’s progressive in this is not the affair itself but the way it is described in the book along with many violent scenes that come later.
“I ripped all her clothes off. She twisted and turned, slow, so they would slip out from under her. Then she closed her eyes and lay back on the pillow. Her hair was falling over her shoulders in snaky curls. Her eye was all black, and her breasts weren’t drawn up and pointing up at me, but soft, and spread out in two big pink splotches. She looked like the great grandmother of every whore in the world. The devil got his money’s worth that night.”
The language in this is provocative even in today’s publishing standards. Naturally, I got drawn to the rebellious pen.
As much as I enjoyed Cain’s progressive writing style, the circumstances of the affair between Frank and Cora were a little cliché for my taste. She’s a small town girl who moves to California to follow her dreams and instead marries a man she doesn’t even like just for security purposes. Although this was common back in the day so I can’t really be harsh in my disliking, I felt that the unhappily married wife who jumps into the arms of another man has been done before many times in literature. Moreover, for the love affair to turn into the motive for the husband’s murder added another pin on the cliché board.
Before I could deem the entire book as yet another banal wife-and-lover-murder-husband book, Cain adds a twist. Cora doesn’t really love Frank. Throughout the book this becomes more and more obvious. Cora is very manipulative and only uses Frank as a means to rid herself of her husband so she could have the restaurant and achieve the security she desired from the marriage without having to be married. Interesting turn of events, in my opinion, and definitely an added point on the like board.
As manipulative as she is, I was not convinced with how Cora managed to convince Frank with attempting to murder The Greek, her husband, the second time. The first attempt only landed the Greek in a coma, which he came out of; hence the name of the book. Speaking of not being convinced, it seemed all to perfect that a police detective happened to be at the crime scene the night of the first murder attempt and notice Frank’s unusual presence. Also too predictable, how Frank and Cora turned on one another after being interrogated.
However, before I could deem the rest of the book as predictable, Cain adds another twist to the story to show us that one can escape punishment but they cannot escape their fate.
All in all, The Postman Always Rings Twice is an engaging and innovative book. Adorned with Cain’s writing style and his creative plotting, it’s a story that will ring though your memory and one that you should read (at least) twice.
If you’re interested in reading The Postman Always Rings Twice by James M. Cain, follow the link below and get your copy on Amazon:
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P.S. Did you know that I was starting a bookclub? Reading starts November 1st so join today! Read my post for more details www.mbkeen.com/keen-bookclub