Assembling My Atheneum: Agatha Christie
If I had unlimited funds, which authors would I want to see filling my bookshelves? That question originally arose from my musings about my home library, and I decided to start a new series to answer it. In Assembling My Atheneum, I’ll discuss the authors whose entire works I’d love to possess, as well as which books of theirs I’ve read, which I already own, and which I’d recommend to those wanting to give them a try. If you’re curious, you can see everyone I’ve featured so far.
Oh Agatha Christie, one of my most enduring loves! I think I first read one of her books when I was 13 or 14, and there’s been no turning back. I’m a huge Miss Marple fan, but over the years I’ve grown to appreciate Poirot more as well. And I’ve got a soft spot for a couple of the Tommy & Tuppence ones! Not to mention Ariadne Oliver, and the ‘random’ ones like And Then There Were None…really, it’s delightful to love a prolific author. For awhile, whenever life got too difficult or I hit a bump in the road, I would turn to Christie. She’s one of my ultimate comfort reads, and as she has been for over a decade (!), I’ve read quite a few of her books. Thanks to this bibliography (which delighted me, since it mentioned two Ariadne Oliver novels I didn’t know about), I’ve added them up: thirty-seven out of sixty-seven novels (so over half) and three short story collections. I’ve also reread quite a few of those: almost every Miss Marple twice, and a couple three or four times. I’ve even revisited a handful of favourite Poirots!
She’s also one of my few favourite authors who’s well represented on my bookshelves. In an ideal world, I’d own all of the Miss Marples and Ariadne Olivers as well as my favourites from the others. So far I have seven Miss Marples (At Bertram’s Hotel, The Moving Finger, A Caribbean Mystery, The Thirteen Problems, A Murder is Announced, Murder at the Vicarage, and A Pocket Full of Rye), two Tommy & Tuppences (one, Partners in Crime unread as well as By the Pricking of My Thumbs), one Ariadne Oliver (Elephants Can Remember: I just finished rereading it) and one Poirot (unread, Murder on the Orient Express…yes, I know it’s one of her most famous!).
For those new to Agatha Christie, I imagine it could be overwhelming to know where to begin! If you don’t want to commit to a sleuth, And Then There Were None is great fun, although not really typical Christie. For Miss Marple, you can start with her ‘first’ one, Murder at the Vicarage, or jump to my personal favourites: A Murder is Announced, The Thirteen Problems (this is a short story collection, and Christie re-uses a couple of the plots in later novels, so be warned), and Sleeping Murder. I’m not as well versed in Poirot, but as a skeptic of the Belgian sleuth, I will say that Death on the Nile won me over ages ago, as did Hercule Poirot’s Christmas more recently. He’s also the featured detective in my hands-down, number-one Agatha Christie recommendation: The Murder of Roger Ackroyd. If you’re only going to read one of her novels, make it that one!
I hope I’ve convinced you to give her a try…her murder mysteries are like puzzles, and so it’s great fun to work them out! I also think she’s a much better writer than she’s usually given credit for…her recurring characters are marvelous, even if the one-off ones have a bit of ‘stock’ feel, and her actual writing is so smooth. When she does venture into a more emotionally heightened prose style (as in the end of And Then There Were None), she pulls it off swimmingly, which just goes to show that her standard style was a choice, and in my eyes at least a smart one. If you’re also a Christie fan, feel free to share the love! But anything the remotest bit spoilery will be edited out, because I’m a blank slate reader and this is my blog. ;) Also, if anyone has any recommendations for a good biography of her, do share; I know the outlines of her life, but I’d love to fill in the details.
Oh! I almost forgot to mention the film adaptations! I love David Suchet’s Poirot (a role he’s been acting since 1989) and Julia McKenzie’s Miss Marple (she’s the most recent actress to take on the role…none of the other ones matched my own Miss Marple and thus I don’t watch their shows). Usually, when I’m a huge fan of books, I can’t stand adaptations, but Christie’s an exception. :)