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An Autobiography (1977)

by Agatha Christie

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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1,922408,771 (4.1)1 / 204
Dame Agatha Christie sheds light on her secretive life and tells of her early years, her marriages and rise to success.
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 The Green Dragon: APRIL - SPOILERS - Agatha Christie20 unread / 20clamairy, April 2014

» See also 204 mentions

English (37)  Spanish (2)  Finnish (1)  All languages (40)
Showing 1-5 of 37 (next | show all)
ETA: I reread this one in January 2024. It had been years since I first read this one. I have so many dog-eared pages from both readings. If I was to quote everything I marked to "remember" to come back to, it would be so long. Definitely glad I reread this one.

Agatha Christie's autobiography has been on my tbr pile for years now. I have looked forward to reading it for so long! I must admit the length had me a little intimidated. But once I started reading this one, I found myself completely absorbed in it. It is truly a fascinating read cover to cover. I think this one could prove appealing to a variety of readers.

Do you love history? I found Agatha Christie's Autobiography to be fascinating. This book is rich in details. Readers learn in great detail about her family and her growing up years. What Christie is describing is a way of life, and the way she saw the world around her. Her thoughts on her parents, grandparents, siblings, the family servants--the cook and the maids and nannies. You get a real sense of what it was to be a child (and teen) growing up in England in the 1890s and 1900s. She was "out" (ready to date) a year or two (or even three) before World War I began.

Are you interested in World War I? in World War II? Christie details what life was like during the war years. She was a nurse for a great part of World War I. She also assisted in dispensing drugs. She fell in love and got married during this time. During World War II she again did her part in the war effort. I believe volunteering in a hospital. She was in and around London during the War. She recalls how she rarely (if ever) took shelter during the raids because she was afraid of being buried alive under all the rubble. She had a grown daughter by that point. A daughter who fell in love, got married, and had a child during this time.

England was at war. It had come. I can hardly express the difference between our feelings then and now. Now we might be horrified, perhaps surprised, but not really astonished that war should come, because we are all conscious that war does come; that it has come in the past and that, at any moment, it might come again. But in 1914 there had been no war for--how long? Fifty years--more? True, there had been the "Great Boer War," and skirmishes on the Northwest frontier, but those had not been wars involving one's own country--they had been large army exercises, as it were; the maintenance of power in far places. This was different--we were at war with Germany. (257)

Are you interested in archaeology? in world-traveling? She spends a good deal of time recalling her travels around the world. She accompanied her first husband on an extended trip--covering several continents. (She left her (quite young) daughter with her mother and sister.) After her divorce--he fell in love with another woman and blamed her for it--she traveled on her own. On one of her trips to the Middle East, she met the man who would become her second husband. He was an archaeologist. While she did not stay with him the duration of all of his digs, she accompanied him on some, and visited on others. Readers learn that Christie LOVED, LOVED, LOVED to travel.

Are you a rehab addict? Christie loved looking at houses, buying houses in need of repair, fixing them up, renting them out, and selling them. She owned many properties at various points in her life. I believe the book said she owned eight during World War II. The book talks about her remodeling and redesigning houses.

Are you interested in writing, in her writing life? You'll find plenty to delight you within her autobiography. She talks about different sides of her writing life. Her novels. Her mystery novels. Her plays. Her short stories. Her poems. She talks about her mistakes and successes. Readers learn about which books she liked best and which book she really, really hated!

It was while I was working in the dispensary that I first conceived the idea of writing a detective story. (289)

People never stop writing to me nowadays to suggest that Miss Marple and Hercule Poirot should meet--but why should they? I am sure the would not enjoy it at all. Hercule Poirot, the complete egoist, would not like being taught his business by an elderly spinster lady. He was a professional sleuth, he would not be at home all in Miss Marple's world. No, they are both stars, and they are stars in their own right. (502)

Do you love to read? Christie shares her thoughts on her favorite writers and books!

I want to emphasize the fact that you do not have to love mysteries in order to find this autobiography of a mystery writer fascinating! I marked so many passages that I wanted to share with you. Too many to actually share. It would overwhelm any post. So just trust me, read this one!

I will choose a quote which happens to bring to mind a certain song from Frozen.

One of the first things that happens when you are attracted to a man and he is to you is that extraordinary illusion that you think exactly alike about everything, that you each say the things the other has been thinking. (228) ( )
  blbooks | Jan 26, 2024 |
Reading this autobiography brought home to me that, while I am indeed a mystery fan, my love of Christie's books also stems from a liking of both her writing style and her personal viewpoints.

I don't read much nonfiction and when I do, I tend toward travel type books. So it may be my inexperience with autobiographies but this one struck me as unusual. Christie jumps around in time and interposes bits of personal philosophy or belief with anecdotes. She says quite openly towards the beginning that one of the things that elderly people like to do is remember and talk about their lives and that she was going to do this in book form rather than subjecting her family and friends to listening to a subject that would be boring to them. As such, it really is more of a memoir than an autobiography. ( )
  leslie.98 | Jun 27, 2023 |
Really long, but very interesting. Lots of good insight into why Agatha Christie's books are the way they are (characters, setting, etc.). Plus she's just a really good autobiographer. Her second marriage is very satisfying to read about after the heartbreak that was her first. And she did a lot of daring things for a woman of the early to mid-20th century, though she didn't really see herself as much of a risk-taker. ( )
  Alishadt | Feb 25, 2023 |
Wonderful book. It's the adventures of Agatha Christie told in an episodic fashion chronologically arranged. It's something I want to read more than once. ( )
  BrianEWilliams | Dec 1, 2022 |
Agatha Christie is the Queen of Mystery, with countless novels and short stories behind her. This is a different book. It's a narrated story through her memories, from the age of 5 to the age of 75. It is written in a light and conversational style. This could be her at the dinner table recollecting old memories to some new friends. Anyone wanting to know everything that happened to her will most likely be disappointed since this is random recollections and major events, some of them, not all.

What we are given is a look into the mind of Christie. It gives an idea about what she found interesting, fun, valuable and important. Places. She mentions early that she remembers places more than people and this book confirms it. The family home of Ashfield, though sold and demolished quite some time before this was published, is on the first and the last page. And imagination. She marvels about how her imagination kept her busy and happy as a child.

For an author she seems to have a blind eye to other people's views. She does not seem to realise when she is appreciated and she does not seem to realise her own position in the world. She iterates many times that they were not rich, but most people did not do what her family did. Wikipedia calls her family Upper Middle class and maybe this is what it was like to be Upper Middle Class around 1900. Her family did lose its position though. The family money disappeared and she ended up having to make her own money. Luckily since otherwise she might not have been so motivated to write.

She also had a fascination with houses. I don't know how many she bought and owned but many. I wonder what happened to them all.

For people, she seems to have considered a lot of people dear friends but I wonder how much they were in touch. The book leaves most of the really private parts alone. It is also a nice book. Very few bad things are said about anyone, and when bad things are mentioned, I have the feeling the target would actually agree.

Some of the most memorable quotes from the book:

The line that identifies her as an introvert long before that term became popular:
I needed, urgently, to be alone and come to terms with this incredible happiness.


About being taught various dances that could become useful in social funcitons:
We were also taught the Swedish Country Dance,

... which reminds me about a passage where a dancer returns her to her mother saying "You have taught her well how to dance, now teach her to speak."

The words of someone content:
There are few things more desirable than to be an acceptor and an enjoyer. You can like and enjoy almost any kind of food or way of life. You can enjoy country life, dogs, muddy walks; towns, noise, people, clatter. In the one there is repose, ease for nerves, time for reading, knitting, embroidery, and the pleasure of growing things. In the other theatres, art galleries, good concerts, and seeing friends you would otherwise seldom see. I am happy to say that I can enjoy almost everything.


Or:
I was always prepared to like the next thing that came along.


Sea travels stuck to her mind and later when flying becomes possible she describes flying as dull and boring. Still, I don't know if she really wanted to go back to sea considering her experiences with rough waters:
There is no gap in the world as complete as that between one who is sea-sick and one who is not.


Again, being happy for the simple things:
Nowhere in the world is there such a good breakfast as tinned sausages cooked on a primus stove in the desert in the early morning.

... or is that just being English?


About what is good with life:
I don’t like crowds, being jammed up against people, loud voices, noise, protracted talking, parties, and especially cocktail parties, cigarette smoke and smoking generally, any kind of drink except in cooking, marmalade, oysters, lukewarm food, grey skies, the feet of birds, or indeed the feel of a bird altogether. Final and fiercest dislike: the taste and smell of hot milk. I like sunshine, apples, almost any kind of music, railway trains, numerical puzzles and anything to do with numbers, going to the sea, bathing and swimming, silence, sleeping, dreaming, eating, the smell of coffee, lilies of the valley, most dogs, and going to the theatre.


And she used to word "haters" long before the Internet. This is still so true:
The minority of what I call ‘the haters’ is quite small, but, like all minorities, it makes itself felt far more than the majority does.


I wonder if this is I:
He read quickly, and seemed to have no preference whatsoever as to what he read: biographies, fiction, love stories, thrillers, scientific works, almost anything. He was like a starving man who would say that any kind of food is the same: you don’t mind what it is, you just want food. He wanted food for his mind.

... but I don't read love stories!

And finally a quote about speaking in public:
would have not exactly to make a speech, but to say a few words–a thing I had never done before. I cannot make speeches, I never make speeches, and I won’t make speeches, and it is a very good thing that I don’t make speeches because I should be so bad at them.

( )
  bratell | Dec 25, 2020 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Christie, Agathaprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Nuuttila, AnttiTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Epigraph
O! ma chere Maison; mon nid, mon gite
Le Passe l'habite...O! ma chere Maison
Dedication
First words
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.
Preface: Agatha Christie began to write this book in April 1950; she finished it some fifteen years later when she was seventy-five years old.
[Epilogue] The longing to write my autobiography assailed me suddenly at my "house" at Minrud, Beit Agatha.
Quotations
I have always admired the Esquimaux. One fine day a delivious meal is cooked for dear old mother, and then she goes walking away over the ice—and doesn't come back. . . .

One should be proud of leaving life like that—with dignity and resolution.
It is of course, all very well to write these grand words. What will really happen is that I shall probably live to be ninety-three, drive everyone mad by being unable to hear what they say to me, complain bitterly of the latest scientific hearing aids, ask innumerable questions, immediately forget the answers and ask the same questions again. I shall quarrel violently with some patient nurse-attendant and accuse her of poisoning me, or walk out of the latest establishment for genteel old ladies, causing endless trouble to my suffering family.
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Dame Agatha Christie sheds light on her secretive life and tells of her early years, her marriages and rise to success.

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Book description
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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