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The Sinner by Petra Hammesfahr
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The Sinner (1999)

by Petra Hammesfahr

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Showing 1-5 of 7 (next | show all)
Cora goes to the lakeside to enjoy the sun and water with her husband and young son. There she inexplicitly stabs a man to death. There are witnesses and Cora’s own confession but the police commissioner does his own investigation into Cora’s past, uncovering secrets even Cora has trouble remembering.

I, like many others, was pulled in by the trailer for the USA mini-series starring Jessica Biel. I figured the book had to be good to have been made into a TV series. But it really dragged for me and I can’t count the times that I thought of putting the book down for good. But something kept making me pick it up.

This is yet another unreliable narrator book. Sometimes Cora admits to the reader that she’s lying but sometimes she’s not even sure if she’s lying. So it’s a bit hard to follow what’s happening. Events are gone over again and again, each time a little bit differently. The book has its merits as the story is quite unique and I didn’t see the reveal coming. I’ve recorded the TV series and will probably watch it even though I now know what’s going to happen. Not sorry I read it but I really didn’t find it as gripping as described. ( )
  hubblegal | May 10, 2018 |
Dare I say The Sinner may be a better TV Show than a book. Even after finishing this novel, I still do not have a complete grasp on what really went through Cora’s mind, ultimately leading her to do what she did that day on the beach. I kept thinking throughout that maybe my struggle to grasp what was happening was simply “lost in translation” confusion, however, as it would seem, I am not unique in my difficulties to fully comprehend what was happening.

For the full review please visit: https://fortheloveofthepageblog.wordpress.com/ ( )
  JillRey | Oct 8, 2017 |
A good editor would have been Petra Hammesfahr's best friend because The Sinner is at least one-third in length longer than it needed to be. This is a psychological crime novel that strives to get into the head of its main character, one of the most unreliable narrators I've encountered in recent memory, while that character tries to make sense of what happened to her five years earlier.

The book has an interesting "reveal" at the end but it takes so long to get to that point that the whole experience is borderline boring...the events of a single night and another day are rehashed and recounted in so many different ways as different investigators give develop their own theories, that the reader is often tempted to chuck the whole thing.

I'm rating this one a 3-star book because the essential plot is a good one...the execution of that plot, not so much. ( )
  SamSattler | Sep 19, 2017 |
READ IN DUTCH

Cora has decided that this is the last day she's going to live. She has planned everything. She'll get an 'accident' while swimming. However, things turn out differently. She stabs a man to death. Why?



I found this to be a very interesting whydonit. The story was very interesting and although I had my own guesses as to why she killed him, which actually turned out to be quite accurate, I never felt a boring moment. I liked the writing as well. I would recommend it! ( )
  Floratina | May 26, 2016 |
As you can tell from the blurb above, THE SINNER is a whydunnit, as opposed to a whodunnit book, although that's way too simplistic a description. When Cora Bender stabs a man to death in front of family, friends, and a crowded park, nobody realises that she was originally planning to commit suicide. Bender is obviously not in a good place in her life, despite outward appearances. Rejected wholeheartedly by her husband immediately after the attack, it seems an open-and-shut case, which may only be mitigated by a plea of insanity. Except that Rudolf Grovian senses something behind Frau Bender's acknowledgement of her guilt and maniacal desire to declare herself guilty with no reasons or explanations.

It's partially Grovian's investigation into Bender's childhood and family life, and partially his patient and careful questioning of her that slowly draws out the truth. Bender's childhood is the stuff of nightmares - a desperately ill younger sister and a fanatical religious zealot of a mother who never hesitated to blame her first-born daughter for all of the younger sister's medical problems. Add a caring but sexually frustrated and ineffectual father, who whilst never sexually abusing his daughter, confronted her with her parent's sexual problems, and everything has combined to create a girl who is guilty, conflicted, and profoundly disturbed. Her closeness with her father creates a complex relationship with him, whilst he is kind and caring towards his daughter, his failure to take firm action in the face of her mother Elsbeth's more extreme behaviour makes him a weak figure, difficult to maintain respect, love and affection for. Bender's ill sister, Magdalena, should have died many times in her childhood, somehow managing to cling to life, she is the centre of her mother's world, swamping everything and everyone with her requirements, draining the families financial as well as emotional resources, isolating them. Eventually the two sisters seem to work out an understanding, a relationship, even love for each other, although, as with everything in this family, there's something not quite right.

Because of the way that Grovian goes about drawing out the story of Bender's background and therefore her reasons for violently killing a complete stranger, there's a lot of ground gone back over. As she constantly lies about her past, Grovian is forced to look for the sprinklings of truth within the lies and slowly and steadily disprove the lies, forcing Bender back and back over the same ground, coaxing the truth from the ultimate in unreliable narrators. Because of that narrative device, the pace is slow, emotional, repetitive and intricate. The reader is given every opportunity to share Grovian's frustration, but at the same time you also get a feeling for Bender's distress, her desperation. Whatever it is that she doesn't want known is held close, she's desperate to obfuscate, confuse, deny, avoid. Particularly interesting was the way that Bender's family members, in particular, are characterised. Seen, as they are, mostly from Bender's point of view, there's something misty about them, hesitantly revealing her father's ineffectiveness, her mother's madness, and her sister's memory. It's particularly interesting that Magdalena is both transparent, weak, seemingly just about incapable of even basic communication; yet she's ultimately revealed as a much stronger personality, capable of manipulation, more able than originally contemplated. Remembering that we were viewing Bender's family from her perspective, and the role that Magdalena's entire existence had such a profound affect on Bender - made it a particularly thought-provoking aspect.

THE SINNER isn't a straight-forward book. Part thriller, a most unusual psychological study, it wasn't an easy book to read but it was an extremely thought-provoking, worthwhile book to read. ( )
  austcrimefiction | Feb 20, 2012 |
Showing 1-5 of 7 (next | show all)
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» Add other authors (4 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Petra Hammesfahrprimary authorall editionscalculated
Brownjohn, JohnTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Weerdt-Schellekens, Henriëtte M. vanTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Op een warme dag begin juli besloot Cora Bender dat ze dood wilde.
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"The basis for the highly anticipated limited series on USA starring Jessica Biel premiering August 2nd, The Sinner is an internationally bestselling psychological thriller by Germany's Patricia Highsmith On a sunny summer afternoon by the lake, Cora Bender stabs a man to death. Why? What would cause this quiet, kind young mother to stab a complete stranger in the throat over and over again, in full view of her family and friends? For the local police, it's an open-and-shut case. Cora quickly confesses and there's no shortage of witnesses, but those questions remain unanswered. Haunted by the case, the police commissioner refuses to close the file and begins his own maverick investigation. So begins the slow unraveling of Cora's past, a harrowing descent into a woman's private hell. A dark, spellbinding novel, where the truth is to be questioned at every turn, The Sinner has been a bestseller around the world, and is poised to be a summer smash with the coming TV adaptation, already hailed as one of the most anticipated shows of the summer. "The Sinner is unnerving and weird and guaranteed to stick with you weeks later." -Sarah Weinman, editor ofTroubled Daughters, Twisted Wives and Women Crime Writers "Hauntingly insightful and sensitive." -The Guardian"--… (more)

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