An Autobiography, by Agatha Christie

>> Tuesday, August 07, 2007

TITLE: An Autobiography
AUTHOR: Agatha Christie

PAGES: 519
PUBLISHER: Dodd, Mead and Co.

SETTING: Mostly England during the late 19th century and first half of the 20th, but Christie travelled all over. There are bits in France, Iraq, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, Honolulu and myriad other places she passed through.
TYPE: Autobiography

REASON FOR READING: Another one I found while rearranging. Sorting my bookshelves has been hell on my TBR, because there's so much I want to reread.

MY THOUGHTS: I loved this. It was just like sitting next to Christie and hearing her reminisce about her life. She does more or less keep to a timeline, but it's all very informal, sometimes going back or forward and sometimes going off into tangents about what Christie thinks of this or that.

The book was especially interesting because Christie lived an amazing life. The early sections give us a fascinating glimpse of life during those times for an upper middle-class family. She does mention quite a few times that certain things about her childhood will probably convince modern readers that they were terribly rich, but that it was simply the way things were for people who were moderately well-off. I can certainly believe that, because I have that very experience when I describe my childhood here to friends abroad. We sound very rich, but we're not, it's just that certain things that are luxury in the 1st world are very affordable here, while for many other things, it's just the opposite.

Anyway, it made for great reading, and the book remains just as interesting when she begins her career as a writer. I found it surprising that even when she starts regularly writing and takes it up as a real career, the book doesn't become consumed with how and when she wrote her books. In fact, though she does share some details about that, it's her life outside work that concerns her. She never seesms particularly consumed by her writing. She's very workmanlike towards it: no mystical artsy attitude to be found here! Her pride about her work does come through, but you never get the feeling she ever saw herself as an author first and foremost.

The main criticism I've seen of this autobiography is the fact that Christie skips right over one of the most infamous episodes in her life, her disappearance during the aftermath of her husband's leaving her and the resulting mess, with everyone in England clamouring to find her.

Well, I was quite all right with the way she wrote it. I don't need to know all the bloody details, the details the person is uncomfortable sharing. That's probably the main reason why I don't read more biographies, and the reason why I despise celebrity gossip crap with a passion: it makes me very uncomfortable to find out private details of a person's life that the person wouldn't like for complete strangers to know. With made-up characters in books, I want to know everything (please no closed bedroom doors for me in romance!), but real people are a different matter.

Real people should be allowed to keep harmless, embarrassing private details like this one private, IMO, so I was perfectly happy to go straight from Archie asking for a divorce to Agatha deciding she needed to go abroad to escape the feeling of being hounded by the press. Someone who has no idea of what happened might be slightly puzzled for a second, but since I know the bare facts, I was fine.

MY GRADE: A B+. I'm now feeling the urge to reread some of my favourite Christies.


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