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Last week, I reviewed the film Lady Jane to learn about the brief and tragic reign of Lady Jane Grey during the tumultuous Tudor times in England.
As I did last year for R.eaders I.mbibing P.eril, I’m spending the first part of the two-month event with Agatha Christie. It seems appropriate since her birthday is in September.
Book: The Christie Affair by Nina de Gramont
Genre: Historical Fiction
Publisher: Macmillan Audio
Publication date: 2022
Reading Time: 10 hours, 29 minutes
Source: e-audiobook, borrowed from the library
Summary: Agatha Christie’s marriage is falling apart in December 1926, a few months after her beloved mother died. Her husband, Archie, is leaving her for a younger woman. She leaves her daughter in the loving and competent care of the nursemaid and disappears. Her automobile is found the next day, abandoned in the road along with her fur coat. This sets off a nationwide search, widely reported in the newspapers, for the missing woman.
All of the above is fact.
This novel posits what happened in those 11 missing days — a central mystery of Agatha Christie’s life that she never chose to tell. We hear the story from the point of view of Archie’s mistress, Nan O’Dea.
Thoughts: I knew as soon as I saw a description of the book The Christie Affair that I was going to read it for RIP this year. Agatha Christie’s real-life mystery showed up in the biographical documentaries that I watched last year: The Mystery of Agatha Christie and the two shows from PBS.
Harrogate, Yorkshire, where Agatha Christie was found staying in a spa, is one of my favorite fantasy travel destinations. So, I was pleased that a good chunk of this novel takes place in a fictionalized version of the hotel there.
This was fun. The Christie Affair is a weird blend of fiction and history and storytelling, all muddied together in ways that amused me. But it wasn’t just fluff. There were serious themes about how women were (are) restricted and about how those restrictions impact mental health and behaviors.
Appeal: This is a book for people who enjoy post-modern constructions. Not all Agatha Christie fans would include themselves in that subset of readers since Christie mysteries employ traditional literary forms. Expect a story where Agatha Christie is a fairly minor character who provides a platform for an intriguing plot of romance, betrayal in many forms, and mystery.
Challenges: The settings in 1926 England and, a few years earlier, in Ireland, make this a terrific book for both British Isles Friday and for the Historical Fiction Reading Challenge.
Have you read this book? What did you think?