My memory is quite unfortunate in the sense that it always plays tricks on me. The bad stuff is often imprinted hurtfully everywhere in my brain, making me constantly remember those awful memories I would give anything to erase. The good things, on the other hand, are fuzzy, almost ethereal-like creatures that greet me every now and then from a distance while the traumas laugh around.
That is why I am not sure the exact day I became obsessed with Agatha Christie’s books. I vaguely remember I was about 11 or 12 at the time. I have always been a bookworm from an early age, but till that point I had only read ‘light’ stuff, if you can call The Three Musketeers and Robin Hood light reading, preferring books full of adventure and romance rather than murder and mystery. So, it was a delight to find what I now call fondly as ‘an Agatha’. In fact, I was fascinated from the get-go.
I’m also not sure which book was my first (this sentence sounds kind of dirty in my head). Perhaps it was a slightly tattered copy of The Seven Dials Mystery I found in my parents’ bookcase. Don’t know why but this book stayed in my head for a very long time as one of her best, though after a while I changed my mind upon reading it a second time. Still, at the time I was 12 and highly impressionable. It is a book full of adventure and romance (?), but the mystery and murder, those two made all the difference. I was at awe from beginning to end, and even more at the end. All the twists and turns, the good who turned bad and the bad who turned good… Agatha was not just queen of mystery, she was queen of plot twists. And what wonderful plot twists I have read over the years thanks to her. And Then There Were None, The Murder of Roger Ackroyd, Murder on the Orient Express, Death in the Nile… There are so many of them! And imagine how happy I was to find out that she had written at least about 80 books. I was in book heaven. Now that I am 36 years old, I can proudly say I have read not all but most of her work. I am glad I haven’t read all of them. It means I still have some Agatha to find out there, with new ways to surprise me.
I just finished reading her autobiography, something I had wanted to do for quite a long time. Until now all I knew was Agatha, the author. I was most curious about the person behind the author. I guess it is always the case once you admire someone’s work so passionately. All I knew was that odd story about her disappearance after she got divorced. Apart from that, nothing at all. So, there I went ready to discover Agatha, the woman. Happily, I was not disappointed.
Agatha is just as good at telling her own life story as she is at writing her mystery novels. She takes you for a ride down her memory lane in her own terms, choosing what memories and aspects of her life she wished to share with her readers. It made her a lot more human. Agatha had a fantastic, if a bit lonely, childhood. Her family’s portrait is poignant and their flaws endearing rather than annoying and traumatizing. Even when she speaks about her brother, a rather difficult person, she is realistic but not judgmental. Her own flaws are exposed, only making you want to have met her more.
As for that disappearance after her painful divorce to a man she loved dearly, it was left out rather elegantly. I believe Unfinished Portrait, under the penname Mary Westmacott, was probably her answer to that ordeal.
The only painful moments shared with us are from missing loved ones, and even then, those are presented as facts of life rather than with dramatic literary undertones. Life and death are treated equally, as just parts of the ride. Such is her take on both wars as well, though at some points she gets very emotional, as is expected in such situations. Still, despite the downs she was always game for new adventures, to try on new things, to even start writing as a dare with her sister, or taking risks because that is how life is supposed to be lived.
Her work and life are an inspiration, now more so than before. I aspire to be like Agatha Christie someday, both as a writer and as a person. I hope that by the end of my life I can look back like her and be thankful for everything.