A new, fascinating account of the life of Agatha Christie from celebrated literary and cultural historian Lucy Worsley.
“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.
Agatha Christie: A Very Elusive Woman (Amazon US) (Amazon UK) (Abebooks) (Audible) is by one of my favorite TV historians, Lucy Worsley. I couldn’t resist a biography about Christie since I hadn’t read any other ones and want to know more about the woman who created such a wealth of literature that’s still seen as some of the best of the 20th century. Bonus was that I got the audiobook, with the author as the narrator.
First off, if you haven’t read much Agatha Christie, STOP and avoid this book until you do because there are numerous plot spoilers for some of Christie’s most popular works. Second, if you have read any other Christie biographies (I have not but have read some other material on her), you will not find anything new here. Still, I enjoyed this book immensely..
Worsley has a way of taking historical figures and describing them in a modern way. That’s why I enjoy her TV specials so much. The same can be said for her writing and narration of the book. It felt like an extension of one of her shows. And unlike some authors, Worsley has the experience to know how to narrate a book, so that was a bonus.
I’m sure you’re all wondering about the chapter about Agatha’s disappearance in 1926 and subsequent fallout, and there’s a bit more detail than I already knew about the subject. Indeed, I knew much from several historical fiction books I’ve read, The Mystery of Mrs. Christie by Marie Benedict and #TheChristieAffair by #NinadeGramont . There are still some lingering questions about the disappearance, but I did find that there were some more definitive answers than previously mentioned.
Because I hadn’t read a full biography of Agatha Christie, much of the information presented was new, or if I did know it, was presented in a new way to make it more palatable rather than a dry biography. Christie was a very interesting woman who led a fascinating life, yet even the historical fiction accounts I’ve read about her tend to be dry and don’t capture the woman the way I’m sure she was. Worsley contends that it’s hard to know a woman who was so intensely private yet sheds some light on certain facets of her life.
Agatha Christie led such a full life, not only as the bestselling author only surpassed by the Bible and Shakespeare but as an amateur archeologist alongside her second husband, as well as wife and mother. She led a very fulfilling life with her second husband, Max, but ultimately always came back to her writing. Part of this was because of her spending. She bought several houses and fills them with all sorts of items, and of course, she had to pay for her husband’s archeological digs. She had to keep writing in order to keep up with the bills.
I appreciated the fact that Worsley also went on to talk about what happened to the estate after Agatha’s death, and how her family fared. Overall, a very satisfying audiobook or book on the Queen of Crime.
For more reviews, visit www.bargain-sleuth.com
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