My sister gave me this book along with I WAS DORA SUAREZ. I WAS DORA SUAREZ was messed up, in the vein of modern messed up thrillers, and has aged incredibly well. THE POSTMAN ALWAYS RINGS TWICE, on the other hand, feels incredibly dated, with terms and attitudes that have shifted quite dramatically over the years (it was written and set in the 1930s, so you can imagine the racism that is involved).
The plot is about a "tramp" (a homeless man) named Frank, who ends up working for a Greek diner-owner because he sees that the man has a really attractive wife. The wife, Cora, used to work at a "hash house" (which I just looked up and appears to mean a cheap diner), until she married Nick. But Cora is racist and hates the fact that Nick isn't white; she thinks she can do much better. So she and Frank have an affair under Nick's roof and the two of them decide to kill Nick and then run off together.
The story gets pretty convoluted towards the end, where there's more murder attempts and then an actual murder, followed by a trial, and I had to look up what happened because I couldn't believe it. It turns out I was sort of right, which maybe added to some of the shock. I read somewhere that this book inspired Albert Camus's THE STRANGER, and since I really didn't like that book either, I guess that makes a lot of sense. THE POSTMAN ALWAYS RINGS TWICE is gritty and grungy, written in that way that kind of makes you feel like humanity has no hope.
It was written during desolate times, when many people's cultural identities were shifting and the economy wasn't so great, and many people were highly suspicious of strangers coming to take their jobs, so I can't help but wonder if the misanthropic POSTMAN ALWAYS RINGS TWICE was written in response to a Depression-era, xenophobic America. If you read it with that interpretation in mind, it feels less like a sleazy noir tragedy and more like a brilliant allegory. I still didn't like it, but it wasn't bad, and it's short. I hear there's a movie version of it, too. Maybe I'll check that out and see if it's better on the silver screen. I doubt it, though.
2 out of 5 stars