The Sandman – E.T.A Hoffmann
I picked this book up on a whim from my local library as the blurb sounded really interesting and the story itself is only 74 pages so I thought it’d be a nice quick read. The Sandman tells the story of Nathanael who has been haunted since childhood by the memory of the lawyer Coppelius who he believes to be the mythical Sandman – a figure who is said to steal the eyes of children who refuse to go to bed. Now an adult, Nathanael is visited by a salesman who bears an uncanny resemblance to the lawyer he so feared as a child. His appearance sparks a number of extraordinary events and Nathanael’s descent into madness.
Despite its brevity, The Sandman is an eerie story and I’d recommend reading it in one sitting to fully experience it. We never know if we can completely trust the events recounted and its ambiguity makes the story even more mysterious – is Nathanael imagining Coppelius’ reappearance in his life or is he really being haunted by this figure? The book covers many topics and raises interesting questions on humans v. machines, the effect of childhood on adulthood, fear and madness, and psychology. In the edition I borrowed, there is also an extract from Freud’s essay The Uncanny which makes for interesting reading after finishing the story.
If you’re looking for a short but entertaining story, The Sandman by E.T.A Hoffmann is definitely an unsettling and thought provoking read.
The Postman Always Rings Twice – James M. Cain
Frank Chambers is used to drifting from place to place, until he gets work at Twin Oaks Tavern. There he finds a beautiful woman. The only trouble is she’s married to the owner, so the pair contrive a plan to make sure her husband doesn’t get in the way of their new life together… However, it turns out that this plan creates problems which only continue to spiral.
The Postman Always Rings Twice is a fast-paced, well-plotted, and enjoyable story which I raced through. The characters aren’t exactly likeable but the plot makes the book completely enjoyable. According to the blurb of the edition I read, The Postman Always Rings Twice was banned in Boston for its eroticism and violence when it was published in 1934, but today it is regarded as one of the most significant crime novels of the 20th century.
Have you read The Sandman or The Postman Always Rings Twice? What did you think? What are you reading at the moment?