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Agatha Christie: An Autobiography by Agatha…
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Agatha Christie: An Autobiography (original 1977; edition 1978)

by Agatha Christie (Author)

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1,211276,593 (4.09)1 / 129
Member:dragonasbreath
Title:Agatha Christie: An Autobiography
Authors:Agatha Christie (Author)
Info:Ballantine (1978),
Collections:Your library, Auto/Biographies/Memoir
Rating:***
Tags:Autobiography, Non-Fiction, Agatha Christie

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Agatha Christie: An Autobiography by Agatha Christie (1977)

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English (26)  Finnish (1)  English (27)
Showing 1-5 of 26 (next | show all)
"Towards the beginning of the war, Graham Greene had written to me and asked if I would like to do propaganda work. I did not think I was the kind of writer who would be any good at propaganda, because I lacked the single-mindedness to see only one side of the case. Nothing could be more ineffectual than a lukewarm propagandist. You want to be able to say ‘X is black as night’ and feel it. I didn’t think I could ever be like that."

Dame Agatha - one of the most puzzling authors I have ever read. Puzzling because I can never guess from her stories whether she is poking fun at people by drawing up outrageous characters, whether she is echoing the mores of her time, whether she expresses her own attitudes in her books, whether it's all or none of these.

Dame Agatha is a mystery to me.

Earlier this year I got a little unnerved with re-reading some of her books because of some of the attitudes exhibited by her characters. I know that I am looking at this from the point of someone who is of a different generation and cultural background, but still, some of the xenophobia, misogyny, homophobia, and snobbery is just very hard to take.
So, anyway I wanted to find out where the attitudes come from? Do they represent the author?

Having read Christie's Autobiography, I'm still puzzled: for sure, Christie had some biases with respect to class and "stout" people and - for some reason - gardeners, but there was little in her autobiography to explain or confirm the sexism and xenophobia that seems to have thrown me in her books.

On the contrary, in a way Christie was not at all the Victorian prim that her creation Marple is. There are numerous references to occasions where she is positively rebelling against her times - from refusing to wear Edwardian fashion to declaring that one of the best days of her life was when she bought a rather speedy motor car.

And of course, I was also thrown by the enthusiasm with which she described her surfing adventures, and according to some (unconfirmed) articles she even was one of the first people to surf standing up (though I would think that some local surfers in Hawaii or elsewhere would dispute that):

"I can’t say that we enjoyed our first four or five days of surfing–it was far too painful–but there were, every now and then, moments of utter joy. We soon learned, too, to do it the easy way.

[...]

The second time I took the water, a catastrophe occurred. My handsome silk bathing dress, covering me from shoulder to ankle was more or less torn from me by the force of the waves. Almost nude, I made for my beach wrap. I had immediately to visit the hotel shop and provide myself with a wonderful, skimpy, emerald green wool bathing dress, which was the joy of my life, and in which I thought I looked remarkably well. Archie thought I did too.

[...]

I was suffering from neuritis, though I did not yet call it by that name. If I’d had any sense at all I should have stopped using that arm and given up surfing, but I never thought of such a thing. There were only three days to go and I could not bear to waste a moment. I surfed, stood up on my board, displayed my prowess to the end."




It was not, however, only her love of sport that convinced me that reading her books requires a separation between the characters and the authors. As mentioned, where Marple is a strict Victorian old busy-body, I don't believe Agatha was. In fact, if I would compare her to any of her characters it would have to be one of the bright young things - who acted more on instinct than by what was expected of them.

There are quite a few revelations about her early life with Archie Christie where the couple struggled with funds and, of course, how she struggled with money again after their divorce. Though she didn't become a writer to earn a living, she certainly turned to it as her sole source of income once she had to fend for herself. It was at that time that she perfected the formulaic mystery that made her famous. It was also at that time - when she wrote to pay the rent - that she admits to writing some of her worst books - like Mystery on the Blue Train. It is her openness about financial struggles, being over-whelmed by public interest, and coming to change her mind about her own perceptions and aspirations that differentiate Dame Agatha from her characters - most of whom are pretty set in their ways.

"And I think I was right to be continually asking myself ‘Why?’ all the time, because to people like me, asking why is what makes life interesting."




"I fell in love with Ur, with its beauty in the evenings, the ziggurrat standing up, faintly shadowed, and that wide sea of sand with its lovely pale colours of apricot, rose, blue and mauve changing every minute. I enjoyed the workmen, the foremen, the little basket-boys, the pick-men – the whole technique and life. The lure of the past came up to grab me. To see a dagger slowly appearing, with its gold glint, through the sand was romantic. The carefulness of lifting pots and objects from the soil filled me with a longing to be an archaeologist myself. How unfortunate it was, I thought, that I had always led such a frivolous life. And it was then that I remembered with deep shame how in Cairo as a girl my mother had tried to persuade me to go to Luxor and Aswan to see the past glories of Egypt, and how I had wanted only to meet young men and dance till the small hours of the morning. Well, I suppose there is a time for everything."


As mentioned, I tried to read this book with the purpose of learning more about Dame Agatha and solve the conundrum that she poses to me in her books - how much of her writing is the author and how much is a reflection of the characters and mores of her times - and, even, how much of it is satire?

I still don't know. Maybe it is a mystery where applying a formula - even in reverse - will not work. Maybe, it's one mystery that just isn't to be unraveled. If so, all I want to say is "Well played, Dame Agatha. Well played." After all, what is life without a bit of mystery to to keep us interested?

"There is at least the dawn, I believe, of a kind of good will. We mind when we hear of earthquakes, of spectacular disasters to the human race. We want to help. That is a real achievement; which I think must lead somewhere. Not quickly–nothing happens quickly–but at any rate we can hope. I think sometimes we do not appreciate that second virtue which we mention so seldom in the trilogy–faith, hope and charity. Faith we have had, shall we say, almost too much of–faith can make you bitter, hard, unforgiving; you can abuse faith. Love we cannot but help knowing in our own hearts is the essential. But how often do we forget that there is hope as well, and that we seldom think about hope? We are ready to despair too soon, we are ready to say, ‘What’s the good of doing anything?’ Hope is the virtue we should cultivate most in this present day and age. We have made ourselves a Welfare State, which has given us freedom from fear, security, our daily bread and a little more than our daily bread; and yet it seems to me that now, in this Welfare State, every year it becomes more difficult for anybody to look forward to the future. Nothing is worth-while. Why? Is it because we no longer have to fight for existence? Is living not even interesting any more? We cannot appreciate the fact of being alive. Perhaps we need the difficulties of space, of new worlds opening up, of a different kind of hardship and agony, of illness and pain, and a wild yearning for survival? Oh well, I am a hopeful person myself. The one virtue that would never, I think, be quenched for me, would be hope."
( )
  BrokenTune | Aug 21, 2016 |
I read biographies so slowly. This one took awhile to get through. Interesting, personalized insight into Agatha's life, she had the ability to remember some very minor details most of us would have forgotten. I like how she began her biography discussing the love of her family home, Ashfield, and then closed it with Ashfield being gone and missing it. She definitely enjoyed houses and travel! Really that's what most of the book was about. She barely talks about writing and books, not really. It's pretty obvious she saw it as pure work and not a passion. Travels and places were her clear enthusiasm - some of it was interesting but at times grew a bit dull to me. I have probably 10 status updates on this book with different viewpoints combined. ( )
  ErinPaperbackstash | Jun 14, 2016 |
Agatha Christie was 75-years old when she wrote (via dictation) this autobiography of her life. Born in 1890, she lived until 1976, so she lived through a lot and she did a lot of different things with her life. During the First World War, she was a nurse, then worked in a dispensary (pharmacy). She loved to travel and in addition to writing, she later helped her archaeologist husband at digs in the Middle East.

This was really good. I found it a little more interesting after she became an adult, but it was still interesting to read about the social customs at various points in her life - a lot of that was described really well about the early 20th century. Although I've not read a lot of her books, it was still interesting to read about where she got the ideas for some of her books and such. The edition I got from the library also had a CD included with portions of her dictation. This was recorded in the 70s, so not the best quality, but kind of neat to listen to. Not only that, as I was listening to it in the background while I wrote this review, I flipped back through the book and happened upon the same passage she was dictating; it was also interesting to see how it was slightly changed/rearranged. ( )
  LibraryCin | Feb 9, 2015 |
I read most of this book but didn't finish. I just wasn't in the mood for all it.

Having said that, I found what I did read to be interesting - kind of like sitting down and having a conversation with Ms Christie. It was rather rambly and out of order, especially at the beginning. But it was also an interesting glimpse at what she remembered and considered to be important in her life. ( )
  TnTexas | Sep 6, 2014 |
Although Agatha Christie's autobiography got off to a slow start, I thoroughly enjoyed it. The broad categories that she included were her childhood and youth, WWI and her first marriage, her second marriage and travels in the Middle East, WWII, and sort of a post-WWII summary. Throughout the book she talks about her writing in a fair amount of detail, including spoilers—most notably for The Murder of Roger Ackroyd.

The childhood part was rather like listening to a grandparent telling stories of "the good old days", filling in every detail they can remember, and reflecting on how much better everything was, back in the day. This section went on for rather longer than necessary, but is full of fascinating remembrances of a Victorian childhood. She mentions such important subjects as lavatories and bosoms (and, later in the book, morning sickness and bedbugs). It took 200 pages for her to reach adulthood, but then things really got rolling. Once she reaches her late teens, the narrative becomes more continuous, although still with occasional digressions. By the time she got to the end of World War II, I think she was running out of things to say, because she covered the next twenty years in about 25 pages.

While Christie was quite candid about many things, it is not surprising that she leaves out others. She talks about her emotional turmoil at the breakup of her first marriage, but makes no mention of her famous disappearance. I was left wondering about her relationship with her daughter. They seem to have been apart for much of Rosalind's childhood, and Agatha mentions several times that their personalities were very different, yet there is no indication of any conflict. I suppose she wrote cautiously to protect her daughter's privacy.

There is so much that I like about this autobiography: her memories, her opinions, descriptions of the many places she's visited, and ways that she's traveled, her observations of social changes, her reflections on her writing. I guess my favourite thing about it is that I came away with the feeling that she really did share her life and personality with the reader. ( )
  SylviaC | Apr 20, 2014 |
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Epigraph
O! ma chere Maison; mon nid, mon gite
Le Passe l'habite...O! ma chere Maison
Dedication
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Foreword: Nimrud is the modern name of the ancient city of Calah, the military capital of the Assyrians.
One of the luckiest things that can happen to you in life is, I think, to have a happy childhood.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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The autobiography of Agatha Christe, started in 1950 and completed in 1965.
    -------------------------------------

Her life was an enchanting - but mysterious -affair of polished surfaces and unsolved riddles.

Her early days were spent in a safe nursery world of adoring Nannies and sunny gardens - her nights, haunted by dreams of a gunman without a name ...

She was a proper Victorian maiden - who admitted a taste for terror - and rode the Orient Express into adventure ....

For years, she lived quietly, the devoted wife and mother - but for eleven scandalous days in 1926, she vanished from the face of the earth.

To be a writer never entered her head - yet she became one of the most richly prolific and enduring authors of the past century .... She's the best-loved mistress of mystery - and now, for the first time, she unravels her own ...
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Autobiography of one of the most widely read authors of mystery novels.

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