Mini Reviews: The Sandman – E.T.A. Hoffmann & The Postman Always Rings Twice – James M. Cain

Postman and SandmanThe 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.

The Sandman ETA Hoffmann review 2

The Sandman – E.T.A Hoffman
First published in German in 1816
Alma Classics, 2013
Translated by Christopher Moncrieff

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

The Postman Always Rings Twice review

The Postman Always Rings Twice – James M. Cain
First published 1934
Orion, 2005

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?

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6 thoughts on “Mini Reviews: The Sandman – E.T.A. Hoffmann & The Postman Always Rings Twice – James M. Cain

  1. I have read neither of these books however both I’ve had my eye on for quite some time (I’m talking years). The Postman Always Rings Twice is a book I particularly want to read some time in the future as crime is basically my favourite genre to read and James M. Cain, and this book, are spoke highly of frequently. Other books always seem to get in the way though, isn’t that always the way eh?

    Thank you for sharing your thoughts on both of these books, hopefully the post has given me the kick up the butt I need to read them!

    • I’m the same, The Postman Always Rings Twice had been on my TBR for a while and I finally got round to reading it! I know exactly what you mean though – there always seem to be other books to read. Hope you get a chance to read both of these books soon 🙂

  2. Hi Gemma,

    Thanks for sharing these books. I will definitely have to check out The Postman Always Rings Twice. I love crime novels…and if it was a banned book, that should make it an even more interesting read!

    • Thanks for reading and commenting Lauren! It really was an interesting read, let me know what you think of the book if you get a chance to read it.

  3. I haven’t read either of these books. I’ve read a lot about The Sandman, but only in the context of Gaiman’s graphic novels! I’ll definitely check it out on Goodreads. Thanks!

    Thanks for taking the time to comment on my latest post! Thank you also for sharing that awesome tip. I think I’m very guilty of over-thinking my writing but then again I think everyone is at some stage!

    • I’d only heard about it in relation to Gaiman’s graphic novels too so was interested to read this novella! I haven’t actually read his graphic novels so I must definitely check them out!

      No problem! Definitely, I’m always overthinking my writing too! Thanks for commenting 🙂

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