Today’s post is another “Spotlight On:…” post. These are honestly some of my favourite posts to do because I get to learn more about some of my favourite authors alongside you!
This month I’m going to focus on Agatha Christie.
As always, the post will be divided up into 6 different parts:
1. A little bit about their life
2. Their works I have read
3. Their works I am yet to read
4. Great film/TV adaptations based on their works
6. An author biography recommendation
So without further ado…
A Little Bit About Their Life
Agatha Mary Clarissa Miller was born on 15th September 1890 in Torquay, Devon in England. She was the youngest of three siblings and was educated at home, largely by her father. Her mother, Clara, didn’t want Agatha to learn to read until she was eight years old, however boredom meant that Agatha learnt when she was five. As a child, Agatha devoured the works of E. Nebit (The Railway Children and L.M. Alcott (Little Women). When Agatha was five, her and her family moved to France after they had to rent out their family home to save money. When Agatha was eleven, her father died after a series of heart attacks (possibly caused by the stress of financial difficulties). Her mother was distraught and Agatha and her became incredibly close. Agatha took piano and singing lessons and was incredibly gifted at both of these. If she wasn’t incredibly shy, she could have become a professional performer and pianist.
At the age of eighteen, Agatha began writing short stories and poetry with family friend and author, Eden Philpotts. Due to financial difficulties, her and her mother moved for a period of time to Cairo where Agatha spent a three month “season” at a hotel. Agatha proved to be very popular here and various marriage proposals followed her visit but it was in 1912 that Agatha met Archie Christie, an aviator. Their courtship was short as they were both desperate to marry, however neither had any money to do so. They married on Christmas Eve, 1914 after both had experienced war – Archie in France and Agatha working with the Voluntary Aid Detachment in a Red Cross Hospital in Torquay. Their honeymoon was spent in The Grand Hotel, Torquay and on the 27th December, Archie returned to France. They met occassionally during the war and in January 1918 Archie was posted to the War Office in London and their married life could begin.
It was during this time that Agatha began writing her mystery books. She began writing to fulfil a bet from her sister, Madge, who said she wouldn’t be able to write a good detective story and partly because she was bored of her dispensing job which she was now doing. With the end of the war in 1919, Archie found a job in the City and they were able to rent a flat in London. On 5th August, Agatha gave birth to their only daughter, Rosalind. It was also the year that The Mysterious Affair at Styles was accepted for publication and John Lane of The Bodley Head contracted Agatha to produce five more books. The inspiration for Hercule Poirot was said to come from Agatha’s experience of Belgian refugees in Torquay. Following the war, Agatha continued to write, inventing Miss Marple very soon afterwards.
In 1922, Agatha left Rosalind with her nurse and her mother and she and Archie travelled across the British Empire promoting The Empire Exhibition of 1924. Once they had returned from their Grand Tour, the family reunited and settled in a house just outside of London. Agatha’s mother died and this caused a sadness that massively strained Agatha and Archie’s relationship. Their relationship broke down when Archie fell in love with a fellow golfer and friend of the family, Nancy Neale. One night, Agatha left Rosalind with the maids and left the house. Her car was found abandoned the next morning several miles away. A nationwide search followed. It was later discovered that Agatha had travelled to Harrogate and checked-in at the Harrogate Spa Hotel under the name of Theresa Neale. She was recognised by the hotel staff who alerted police. When Archie came to collect her, she did not recognise him. It is possible that she was concussed but seems likely that she was suffering from amnesia, Agatha did not know who she was. This was a difficult time for Agatha and, given how much of a private person she was, she never spoke about this incident again.
Agatha and Archie remained apart. Rosalind lived with Agatha whilst Agatha followed a course of psychiatric treatment in Harley Street. Agatha was unable to write her stories and needed an income so she began to write short stories for The Sketch magazine. Agatha and Archie’s divorce was settled in 1928. Agatha and Rosalind immediately escaped England and lived in the Canary Islands where Agatha finished The Mystery of the Blue Train, the book she struggled to write as she mourned the loss of her mother.
One of Agatha’s ambitions was to travel on the Orient Express and her first journey happened in 1928. She travelled to Baghdad and from there, visited the archaeological site at Ur where she met an arachaeologist-in-training Max Mallowan who was to beccome her second husband. They were married on 11th September 1930 at St. Cuthbert’s Church in Edinburgh. After, Max returned to digging and Agatha returned to London and writing. They spent their summers at Agatha’s family home with Rosalind, Christmas with her sister’s family, and autumn and spring on digs. Agatha had a rule for herself to write two or three books a year and sometimes Max helped her out and wrote a chapter or two.
World War II saw Max get a wartime job in Cairo while Agatha remained in England, writing and also volunteering at the Dispensary at University College Hospital in London. Rosalind married Hubert Prichard and gave birth to Mathew on 21st September 1943. Max was in Cairo but Agatha was a doting grandmother and often went to help look after the baby.
By the end of the war, Agatha became less prolific and began to live a slower life. She died peacefully on 12th January 1976 and is buried in the churchyard of St. Mary’s, Cholsey, near Wallingford.
Their Works I Have Read/Their Works I Am Yet to Read
I have read: The ABC Murders, And Then There Were None and The Sittaford Mystery. Agatha Christie wrote over 60 books so I have a lot more to read! My favourite is And Then There Were None.
Great Film/TV Adaptations
There are so many adaptations of Christie’s work. I particularly love the BBC adaptations of her works that are normally aired around Christmastime. There wasn’t one this year which is shame. So far they have done Ordeal by Innocence, And Then There Were None, The ABC Murders and The Pale Horse.
I also loved the Kenneth Branagh-directed film of Murder on the Orient Express. I believe his Death on the Nile adaptation will also be released soon and I can’t wait!
“I like living. I have sometimes been wildly, despairingly, acutely miserable, racked with sorrow; but through it all I still know quite certainly that just to be alive is a grand thing.”
“Very few of us are what we seem.”
“Poirot,” I said. “I have been thinking.”
“An admirable exercise my friend. Continue it.”
“If you place your head in a lion’s mouth, then you cannot complain one day if he happens to bite it off.”
“The best time for planning a book is while you’re doing the dishes. ”
“One doesn’t recognize the really important moments in one’s life until it’s too late.”
“It is clear that the books owned the shop rather than the other way about. Everywhere they had run wild and taken possession of their habitat, breeding and multiplying, and clearly lacking any strong hand to keep them down.”
An Author Biography Recommendation
If you would like to learn more about Agatha Christie and her fascinating life, I would recommend reading: An Autobiography by Agatha Christie and The Grand Tour: Letters and Photographs from the British Empire Expedition by Agatha Christie.
What’s your favourite Agatha Christie book?
Thanks for reading!
Love, Zoë x