Agatha Christie – a very elusive woman. Book Review

I really enjoyed this Biography of possibly the world’s most famous female author. Despite having read nearly all of Agatha Christie’s novels, I didn’t actually know that much about her. I knew about the mysterious disappearance and also that she married an archaeologist who was younger than her but that was pretty much it. When I saw that Lucy Worsley had written a new biography it was a must-read for me.

Official Blurb from the book:
“Nobody in the world was more inadequate to act the heroine than I was.”

Why did Agatha Christie spend her career pretending that she was “just” an ordinary housewife, when clearly she wasn’t?  Her life is fascinating for its mysteries and its passions and, as Lucy Worsley says, “She was thrillingly, scintillatingly modern.”  She went surfing in Hawaii, she loved fast cars, and she was intrigued by the new science of psychology, which helped her through devastating mental illness.

So why—despite all the evidence to the contrary—did Agatha present herself as a retiring Edwardian lady of leisure? 

She was born in 1890 into a world that had its own rules about what women could and couldn’t do. Lucy Worsley’s biography is not just of a massively, internationally successful writer. It’s also the story of a person who, despite the obstacles of class and gender, became an astonishingly successful working woman.

With access to personal letters and papers that have rarely been seen, Lucy Worsley’s biography is both authoritative and entertaining and makes us realize what an extraordinary pioneer Agatha Christie was—truly a woman who wrote the twentieth century.

Blurbs for non-fiction books are definitely getting better. This one really made me want to read the book and I certainly wasn’t disappointed.

Lucy Worsley has a really easy writing style and her prose carries you along effortlessly. I’ve only watched a couple of her television shows but the same enthusiasm that she showed there is also apparent in her writing.

This is an extensively well researched biography and the author also uses Agatha Christie’s own autobiography which helps us to really get a picture of her subject. We learn about her life and how her writing fitted into that and also how her writing arose out of what was happening around her. The subtitle is very true as the biography clearly shows the less well-known side of her character; the retiring woman who would rather not be the centre of attention.

I had only ever seen pictures of her as an elderly woman and so it was fascinating to read about how attractive she was when younger. The work she did during WWI was also interesting and the parallels that Worsley drew with Vera Brittain’s Testament of Youth as both the women were in a similar situation.

Obviously the most famous part of her life was the mysterious disappearance in 1926 and the biography covers this in detail. A lot of this was new to me although possibly won’t be to people who know more about Agatha Christie. I had no idea that the hunt for her was on such a large scale or that public opinion about it was so negative. Lucy Worsley paints a sympathetic picture of why Agatha felt the need to disappear which seemed very plausible to me.

She doesn’t gloss over the problematic elements of the Christie novels either. She shows Agatha’s Christie’s casual use of racist language and characterisation that would be unthinkable today. She was also very much of her upbringing and the working class were often portrayed in stereotypical ways in her earlier works. However, she also shows that these attitudes did change over time.

Agatha Christie was a much more interesting person than I had imagined. I loved finding out about how adventurous she was. From her coming out season in Cairo, to running archaeological digs in Iraq, she loved to travel and again, these experiences fed into some of her best known novels such as Death on the Nile.

The main interest though for me was Christie’s writing. We see how committed she was to writing and how she constantly kept notebooks with ideas for plots and characters. Her books have always been incredibly popular and Lucy Worsley makes the point that they reflected life for a lot of people at the time. Now, the life that is shown is historical fiction but at the time they were published, they reflected a changing society. Her financial affairs are interesting too, especially the arguments with the US tax authorities

This biography is best read if you have already read a lot of Agatha Christie’s work or if you have a poor memory as there are several spoilers contained in the biography as Lucy Worsley discusses the novels.

This is my tenth book Non-Fiction book so far in 2022 so I’m well on track to hit my Non-Fiction Reader Challenge this year. The Non-Fiction Reader Challenge is hosted at Book’dout and you can find the details of the challenge here


WWW Wednesday Nov 23

It’s Wednesday again and that means that it’s time for WWW Wednesday. This is one of my favourite memes and I love taking part in it and reading everybody else’s posts. It’s currently hosted by Sam and it can be found on her blog Taking on a world of words which can be found here.

The weather here has been very dull and wet but the weekend was gorgeous and sunny so we took a quick drive down to the New Forest and the coast. It was lovely walking in the forest and the beach as well as eating lots of lovely food that I didn’t have to cook.

The idea of WWW Wednesday is just to answer three simple questions about what you are reading, have just finished and are about to read so here goes for this week.

What I’m currently reading

Tomorrow and Tomorrow and Tomorrow by Gabrielle Zevin
This isn’t my normal type of read but I’ve seen a couple of good reviews for it so I thought I would ask for it at the library. It also seems appropriate to read a book about two people creating a computer game after The Ink Black Heart where the online game was such a big part of the plot.
It’s a brilliant read and I found it really hard to put down. Sam and Sadie met in a hospital and then didn’t see each other for years. They finally bumped into each other again at Harvard and renew their friendship. Sam’s backstory gets told gradually along side the real time story and I just want to keep on reading to find out what happens (or what happened next).

What I have recently finished reading

The Ink Black Heart took ages to read and I am totally convinced that it didn’t need to be that long. I think that this was the most disappointing book in the series so far. The online chats went on for pages and were quite hard to follow and the story itself seemed to be too padded out. I love Cormoran and Robyn but this wasn’t their best outing.

I really enjoyed Agatha Christie and will review it soon as part of my Non Fiction reader challenge. Lucy Worsley is a very easy author to read.

The Golden Oldies Book Club was a fun, cosy read that I polished off in an afternoon while we were away. I loved the fact that the main character was 72 years old. It’s a lovely story about a group of 4 women who are all dissatisfied with their lives and end up doing something about it. The section where they all go on holiday to a cider farm in Brittany was excellent.

Devils Way by Robert Bryndza
I love Robert Bryndza and was really excited to be approved for an ARC of his latest Kate Marshall mystery. Kate is an ex police officer who is now a Private dectective. While in hospital, she meets a woman whose grandson went missing eleven years earlier and agrees to look into his disappearance. In contrast to Ink Black Heart, this was a brilliant read and I would definitely recommend Robert Bryndza to anyone who loves crime thrillers.

What I am intending to read next

I just have one of the books that I hoped to read over the weekend left so The Ivory Tomb is definitely next on my list.

What are you reading this week?

Stacking the Shelves 68

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It’s Saturday again. Doesn’t it come around quickly? It’s Remembrance weekend here in the UK with Armistice being commemorated yesterday and Remembrance services taking place around the country tomorrow. I have been given the honour of leading the singing at our local civic service tomorrow which means they are letting me loose with a microphone. I just need to remember to sing different words to the National Anthem as it has changed for the first time in my life time. Wish me luck!

Saturday means it’s time for my weekly Stacking the Shelves post. Stacking the Shelves is a meme hosted by Marlene at Reading Reality and details are on her blog. The gorgeous graphic is also used courtesy of the site.

Stacking the Shelves is all about sharing the books you are adding to your shelves, may it be physical or virtual. This means you can include books you buy in physical store or online, books you borrow from friends or the library, review books, gifts and of course ebooks!

My STS posts are generally my library books. I’m a great supporter of libraries, mainly because I could never afford to buy all the books that I want to read, and visit mine every week whenever possible. I love the fact that I can look at the online catalogue and request books to borrow. This is great for books that are recommended to me by different bookbloggers.

This week was a good one for my library haul with with 2 of my reservations arriving and then two books that I wanted to read just sitting on the shelves.

These are my new library books this week. .

The Queen’s Assassi by James Barclay
I loved James Barclay’s trilogies about the Raven years ago and I was excited to see this stand alone fantasy novel on the shelf.
Naida has powers that she uses to heal but has kept secret from everyone around her, letting people think that she is just a gifted doctor. Then someone recognises her for who she is and gives her the job of assassinating the queen or having her secret revealed.

A Shocking Assassination by Cora Harrison
I read the first of this series set in 1920’s Cork in the Summer and really enjoyed it. Reverend Mother Aquinas witnesses the assassination of the city engineer at the market but is fairly sure that the man who was left holding the gun was not the murderer.

The Ink Black Heart by Robert Galbraith
This is the latest instalment in the Cormoran Strike series and it’s a whopper. It has over 1000 pages!!!!! I’m not sure that any crime novel needs to be that long.

Agatha Christie by Lucy Worsley
As it’s Non Fiction November, I’m glad that this arrived in the library this week. I enjoyed Lucy Worsley’s Jane Austen at Home earlier this year so I’m hoping to enjoy this one too.

What’s been added to your bookshelves this week?