Agatha Christie: An Autobiography – A Book Review

My love affair with Mrs Christie began nearly six years ago whilst I was on maternity leave, just before my son was born. The anticipated nesting instinct failed to kick in, so I took to watching Agatha Christie’s Poirot repeats on ITV3 in the afternoons. (As an aside, I was slightly taken aback to discover that the next time I went to the supermarket I bought a tub of Ovaltine. Those adverts sponsoring the show, aimed at the retired elderly were being subliminally taken on board. If I wasn’t careful I’d be booking a Viking River Cruise before I knew it. But back to the Agatha Christie…) I very quickly became completely enamoured with the Poirot series and my sister bought me four ‘Christie’s for Christmas’ (geddit?) that year.

Five Little Pigs, The Hollow, The Big Four, and Curtain later and I was hooked. Absolutely hook, line, and sinker. I soon discovered the joys of the local charity shops’ second-hand book sections, and combining this with the Abebooks website I have managed to build up a rather large Christie collection.

So, imagine my excitement when I discovered Agatha Christie: An Autobiography sitting there, looking pristine, in my local British Heart Foundation charity shop last year (yes, I am only just getting around to writing the review.)

The book begins, quite naturally, at the beginning; Agatha describes her childhood in Torquay which just sounds beautiful and idyllic. Her mother was quite a character, as was her sister, Madge.

From reading Agatha’s novels, I could tell she had a fantastic sense of humour; from her overt ****-taking of Poirot and his little foibles to more subtle, but equally as funny, observations of people and their behaviours. So, I wasn’t in the slightest bit surprised to find this book making me laugh-out-loud in several places, often causing me to get the giggles for quite a few minutes at a time. There was her childish, incorrect recollection of her Nanny having steak for dinner every single night (lucky Nanny,) and the ‘hideous cacophony’ that her and her piano teacher were making whilst playing together when Agatha lost her place. Sadly, I cannot do these things the justice that she did, but I can reassure you, they were very funny!

Of course, as a writer myself, I was dying to get the part where she writes her first novel and her subsequent attempts at publication. The good news is that, yes, Agatha Christie (the best-selling author of all time) was rejected by publishers too. So, it really isn’t the end of the world if it does happen.

Agatha and her older sister, Madge, were discussing a mystery crime novel they had both enjoyed (The Mystery of the Yellow Room) when Madge bet Agatha that she (Agatha) would not be able to write a detective novel. Thankfully, Agatha took on the bet and wrote, The Mysterious Affair at Styles. This was dutifully sent off to publishers but Agatha then got rather sidetracked by her marriage to Archie Christie, and forgot all about it. I believe it was about three years later that she got a reply and her literary career began, aged thirty.

It is incredible to think just how many works Agatha completed during her life. I don’t have the exact figures to hand, but I believe there were 70-80 novels, plus innumerable short-stories and plays. This in addition to working as a dispenser during both wars, an immense amount of travelling (most notably a world trip with her first husband for his job, culminating in a Hawaiian surfing holiday, and several trips to the middle east – and these were the days before planes), two marriages, property speculation, archaeological digs with her second husband, motherhood…

I have so much love and respect for this woman, I adore her books; I have always got one on the go (today it is The Mirror Crack’d from Side to Side.) She was such an amazingly talented writer and her output was phenomenal. It just goes to show what can be achieved when there is no social media to divert you from your goal… 😀

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12 thoughts on “Agatha Christie: An Autobiography – A Book Review

  1. This made me immediately pick up my nook and order the book. I have a confession though, I only read half of your post because I was afraid of a spoiler! Thanks for the suggestion. I think I’ve read every book she has written. Her life story will be fascinating.

  2. I particularly enjoyed “Parker Pyne Investigates. Not an Agatha Christie I had heard of until recently. It starts with the advert, “Are you happy? If not, consult Mr Parker Pyne” ad deals with the people who come to see him. Written like a collection of short stories, they are clever and well written.

    1. I haven’t read the Parker Pyne stories yet but I’d heard they were good. They’re next on my list. One of the great things about Agatha Christie is there was so much material, it would take a long time to exhaust it all! Parker Pyne, Harley Quin, and the Mary Westmacott novels are all still to be read 🙂

  3. Thanks for the follow, which is much appreciated.
    I used to love reading Christie as a teenager, and then had a rekindling of my admiration for her work with the David Suchet versions of Poirot on TV.
    Best wishes, Pete.

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