Sunday, August 8, 2010

I ♥ Agatha Christie

When I find something that I really enjoy, or take an interest in, I have the (bad?) habit of becoming completely consumed by it, basically to the point of obsession. For example, when LOST first came on television, and the real mysteries of the island started to develop, I had to read EVERYTHING  about the characters, the featured books, the hidden references etc. that I could get my hands on. I was obsessed and drove my sister nuts with all of the "outside" information that I was trying to drag into our weekly conversations dissections of each episode. And like most of my obsessions, that one slowly fizzled out with each new season, and I stopped trying to read into everything and just let the show's mysteries unfold on their own, (which sometimes they did, and sometimes they didn't). But I digress.

My current obsession is Agatha Christie, and as far as my infatuations go, this one has probably lasted the longest (with the exception of the Anne Rice-phase I went through in high school and college, and my unwavering infatuation with my fourth-grade crush). I "discovered" Agatha Christie a little over a year ago when our local library ran out of books on my "Books to Read" list. (I realize that I could have ordered them through inter-library loan, but I never remembered to do so before my weekly visits, so I just picked up whatever I could find on the shelves). I needed something to read, so I decided to read And Then There Were None again, (the one Agatha Christie book that I had read while I was in high school). I really enjoyed this story; it reminded me of an adult version of The Westing Game by Ellen Raskin, which I LOVED when I was in sixth grade.

I decided to check out another "well-known" Agatha Christie book, (it was most likely Murder on the Orient Express, but I forget now exactly which one it was), and pretty soon I was hooked. I quickly worked through the selection at my own library, and started requesting them through inter-library loan. When I find an author I enjoy reading, I try to read all of his or her novels; I like to be thorough and complete with my obsessions. (Prior to this I made it through all of Jane Austen's works, minus one). That's when I discovered exactly how many pieces of work Agatha Christie has! Over 80 novels, short story collections and plays, which has not deterred me in the slightest. I have made a list of each piece of work, organized them by decade written and I am proud to say that I have made it past the halfway point! I have read at least 45 of her novels or short story collections. (Her website actually has a nifty list of her books in publication order to avoid any spoilers while reading, and of course I just discovered this ten minutes ago, AFTER I wrote up my own list months ago!)

 As a stay-at-home-mom, I need books that I can put down and pick back up two hours later without a second thought. I need to be able to continue reading a story right where I left off without having to go back and reread the whole chapter. Believe it or not, Charles Dickens does not fulfill this requirement, and I've tried several times. (I've been reading Our Mutual Friend-thanks to my obsession with LOST-for two years now). Agatha Christie, however, passes with flying colors. Although really well-written, her stories are pretty straightforward, an effortless read. All of her mysteries basically follow the same pattern, so once you have read a few, you can zip right through the rest. Despite their similarities, each story she tells sucks me right in; I have a hard time putting them down. Usually I think that I know how the story ends, that it's so obvious, but in most cases I have been wrong, with the exception of one book that I called the ending on halfway through. She must have been having an off year with that one. The surprise solutions to her mysteries oftentimes leads to a sense of disbelief, of skepticism, because they seemingly come out of nowhere. I, however, do not mind so much; the reason I'm reading her pieces is primarily for entertainment and to pass the time.

My favorite novels so far have actually been the ones written under the pseudonym Mary Westmacott, especially Unfinished Portrait and Absent in the Spring. These six novels have been dubbed "romances", but are a far cry from what we think the typical romance is these days. They are more along the lines of character studies, or psychological profiles, bittersweet stories that get right to the heart of human nature. Christie has an impeccable grasp on the psyche that motivates people's behavior, which is one of the reasons I love her writing (that and the fact that they are "quintessentially English" and I am also obsessed with all things English since my grandmother's family hails from England).

Long story short, ("Too late!"), I ♥ Agatha Christie and I am currently obsessed with reading all of her 80+ stories. Wish me luck!


1 comment:

  1. I definitely agree with you about the readability of Christie's work - I like that most of the chapters in her book are pretty short and peppy. It's the perfect sort of book to take with you places, since you can digest it in two to 10 page increments as you wait or get some lunch.


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