This is a book I’ve been wanting to read for years – based purely on its title (which is never specifically explained or referenced in the course of the story) – and I’m glad to say that it didn’t disappoint. 20th Century American fiction has always been my favourite “type” of literature and I’ve been reading around a lot recently, so it was refreshing to finally return to it – and with such an archetypal American novel.
The Postman Always Rings Twice is a relevantly short book (at 116 pages, I got through it in an hour or so) but is fast paced and action packed – so really if it had been much longer I would have had to stay up later reading it – and really clever. At the centre of the novel is the murder of Nick Papadakis by his wife Cora and his friend/Cora’s lover, Frank Chambers; who finds himself at Nick’s Californian diner at the beginning of the story after having been ejected from the hay truck on which he was (secretly) catching a ride. Nick, a amiable Greek, offers Frank a job almost straight off the bat, which Frank accepts after catching a glimpse of Cora. Frank and Cora begin their affair almost immediately, and simultaneously their plotting to kill Nick (for whom Cora expresses a contemptuous repulsion) – despite Frank seeming to have nothing against him (“…a guy you like as well as I liked the Greek”).
The novel is set out very cleverly and the characters are extremely well written – one of the things I found most interesting is the way that (like characters in Hemmingway novels) Frank and Cora fall “in love” immediately – but in such a way that they do want to be together, not just sexually – and yet I never found myself questioning the validity of their feelings or their motivation or thinking that it wasn’t “believable”. This is definitely worth a read and I would highly recommend it to anyone.