It is only recently that I have discovered and loved the books written by Agatha Christie. Of course I have loved her work on screen for years; both Poirot and Miss Marple are staple feel good TV in our house, but there is something to be said about the books. Currently I am working my way through the Poirot series and I am half way through.
Agatha was born on 15th September 1890 in Torquay, Devon with the maiden name Miller. She would describe her childhood in Devon as very happy but when her sickly father died, when she was 11, she would say this was when her happy childhood ended. She had been informally been educated at home and had fostered a love of literature and maths. She would attend Miss Guyer’s GirlsSchool but Agatha found it stifling. She would go on to finishing school in Paris 3 years later.
When Agatha returned from Paris in 1910, her mother was ill and mother and daughter headed to Cairo, Egypt for her mothers health and as a coming out to find Agatha a husband.
Her early attempts to get her work both poems and short stories published, failed and she even penned a novel called Snow upon the dessert about her experiences in Egypt, however it was not published.
In 1912 Agatha became engaged to her first husband Archie Christie and they married on Christmas Eve 1914 in London. During the First World War, Agatha worked within a hospital to do her bit for the war, she mostly provided voluntary care for wounded soldiers in the Torquay hospital while Archie was at the western front in France. Having done well in the war Archie returned in 1918 and the couple moved to St Johns Wood, London to settle into married life. In 1919 Agatha gave birth to her daughter and only child, Rosalind. She also managed to get her first book published during 1919, The mysterious Affair at Styles and this was the first outing of M. Hercule Poirot.
In 1923, the second Poirot novel was published, Murder on the Links, later that year she and her husband travelled around the world promoting her books. Their travels included South Africa, New Zealand, Hawaii. Sadly this marital bliss was to be short lived, Archie asked for a divorce in 1926. The consequences of this request was to cause one of the biggest man hunts in history.
After an argument on 3rd December 1926, Agatha left the marital home and disappeared for 11 days. In a note to her secretary she said she was going to Yorkshire However fear for the author grew when her car was found in Guildford with her drivers licence and her clothes. Her fans were distraught and even the Home Secretary, William Joynson Hicks, pressured police to find her. 15,000 volunteers and over 1,000 police were deployed in the search for the crime writer. Her disappearance even made the front page of the New York Times! Eventually 11 days later she was found in Harrogate in a hotel under a different name. Christie never explained her disappearance but she may have just found it all too much as her mother had died earlier that year coupled with her husbands affair and divorce request, Agatha may just have needed the space to sort out her mental distress.
The couple went on to divorce in 1928, and Agatha decided to keep her married name as her writing career was starting to take off. She also attained custody of her daughter after the divorce. But Christie did not remain single for long. In 1930 she remarried again this time to an archaeologist Max Mallowan. They meet on a dig and they were to remain married until Agatha died in 1976. Her life with her second husband Max would inspire some of her most exotic settings for her novels such as Iraq, Istanbul and Syria.
As the world changed again and entered into another horrific war, Christie went to work in a pharmacy at university collage hospital in London. In the early 1940’s Agatha found herself at the centre of an MI5 investigation due to one of the names of her characters. In the novel thriller N or M Christie names one of her characters Major Bletchley. The security forces thought she had inside knowledge of the goings on at the top secret code breaking hub at BletchleyPark in Milton Keynes.
However in 1956 she must have been forgiven as she received an OBE for her contribution to the literary world. Then in 1971 she was made a Dame in the New Years Honours list. Her beloved husband Max had been knighted 3 years previously for his contribution and work in the field of Archaeology. This meant that she was part of a rare elite, a couple where both parties were individually recognised for their achievements. This also meant that she could be known as Lady Mallowan.
After a life well lived, Christie’s health started to fail her during 1971. Through her illness and decline she did continue to write. She died of old age and natural causes aged 85, on 21st January 1976 in Oxfordshire.
Her legacy is in the 54 novels she wrote, 33 of which feature Hercule Poirot and the longest running play, Mousetrap. It is thought that after the Bible and Shakespeare Christie is the 3rd biggest earning author in the world and has been translated in many languages. Her characters have been brought alive on screen with the likes of Elizabeth Taylor, Peter Ustonoff. Angela Lansbury and of course the man who is in my eyes, Poirot personified, David Suchet.
Agatha Christie has given me so much pleasure and I have promised myself a trip to see Mousetrap as my up and coming birthday treat. As I continue to work my way through Christies catalogue of work I am internally grateful to this most talented author for giving me so much joy!