Book Review: The Postman Always Rings Twice

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Title & Author: The Postman Always Rings Twice by James M. Cain
Genre: Fiction, Crime, Noir

I don’t recall how this book made it on to my reading list. I’ve heard of it before but I’m not normally that interested in books from the early part of the 20th century (unless written by Agatha Christie) so I imagine it was on some “You Must Read These Books Before You Die” list. I disagree with that statement.

In the past month I’ve read The Maltese Falcon and now The Postman Always Rings Twice. They both evoked a similar reaction from me so I think I probably should skip the hard-boiled, noir novels going forward. [Unless they’re newer books written in a noir style which is something else entirely.] Time has marched on since these books were written and the characters don’t seem plausible to me. The women – ugh – I literally rolled my eyes at the things they said! Everything is so melodramatic. In TPART, Cora can’t seem to stick with any decision she makes while Frank talks like he’s straight out of a 1940s movie. Did people really talk that way or were filmmakers and writers just romanticizing the time? It feels so fake.

After reading this book, I discovered that it was banned in Boston after it was released because the sexuality and violence were so startling. I don’t need to have a lot of sexuality or violence described for me in vivid detail but this book is more tame than Stephen King’s It, which I read during high school – checked out from my high school library, in fact. I suppose it’s natural that what was scandalous for one generation gets a condescending eyebrow raise and a shake of the head from another. Maybe that’s sad on some “we’re becoming more immune to violence” level, but that’s for someone else’s blog to discuss.


Verdict: Ultimately, TPART suffered in my view because it lacked character development. I was given no reason to care about any of the main characters or what happened to them, so I didn’t. I would have stopped if it was a longer book but I knew I’d finish it fast, and maybe it would improve. No suck luck. The most interesting thing about this book, to me, was the title: it’s a metaphor for fate catching up to you eventually. [The are no postal workers in the book, if that’s your type of story.]

Recommended for: fans of other hard-boiled novels, noir crime and romance/crime stories (is that a thing?).

Price: About $4.70 (new paperback), $7.99 (Kindle) or $23.24 (hardcover) on Amazon

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