Radio 4 Book of the Week
** Shortlisted for the @CrimeFest H.R.F. Keating Award **
'A smart and highly entertaining portrait of a literary powerhouse'
- THE TIMES BOOKS OF THE YEAR
'A riveting portrait'
- GUARDIAN BOOKS OF THE YEAR
'Christie lovers should read this biography for the same reason they read her novels.' - The Times
'A model of how to combine biographical information, analysis and literary criticism into a propulsive narrative' - Daily Telegraph
'Worsley's book excels in bringing a broader historical perspective to Christie's life and work, and her enthusiasm is infectious.' - Observer
Ms Worsley herself writes engagingly... She combines an almost militant support for her subject with a considered analysis of her books and plays.' - Economist
'Nobody in the world was more inadequate to act the heroine than I was.'
Why did Agatha Christie spend her career pretending that she was 'just' an ordinary housewife, when clearly she wasn't? As Lucy Worsley says, 'She was thrillingly, scintillatingly modern'. She went surfing in Hawaii, she loved fast cars, and she was intrigued by the new science of psychology, which helped her through devastating mental illness.
So why - despite all the evidence to the contrary - did Agatha present herself as a retiring Edwardian lady of leisure?
She was born in 1890 into a world which had its own rules about what women could and couldn't do. Lucy Worsley's biography is not just of an internationally renowned bestselling writer. It's also the story of a person who, despite the obstacles of class and gender, became an astonishingly successful working woman.
With access to personal letters and papers that have rarely been seen, Lucy Worsley's biography is both authoritative and entertaining and makes us realise what an extraordinary pioneer Agatha Christie was - truly a woman who wrote the twentieth century.
An insightful biography of Agatha Christie
Lucy Worsley has written an insightful book into the life of the author Agatha Christie.
The book ties in with the TV series, presented by the author, which was first shown on the BBC at the end of last year.
Worsley writes how Agatha’s first marriage to Archie Christie was difficult. Archie returned from fighting in World War I with nervous dyspepsia.
Worsley spends a significant part of the book looking at Agatha’s disappearance. This happens soon after the death of her mother and the breakdown of her marriage. Worsley writes, “Agatha experienced a distressing episode of mental illness, brought on by the trauma of the death of her mother and the breakdown of her marriage.”
Worsley states this illness nearly broke Christie, but she was able to overcome it and become stronger because of the experience.
I like the way the book also looks at the characters Agatha created. It describes how Poirot doesn’t use his brawn but his, “little grey cells.” Worsley says she prefers the “early, acidic Miss Marple.”
It was interesting to read that Agatha put a bit of “her own life” into her books when she used the pen name Mary Westmacott.
Agatha’s marriage to her second husband, Max Mallowan, proved to be successful and Worsley writes it, “was a companionate marriage that proved remarkably endurable.”
In later life Agatha lived in Wallingford and through the book we find that she was a “rather unapproachable lady.”
The author comes to the conclusion that Agatha was shaped by the 20th century, but her success was down to her willpower and industry.