Monday, September 17, 2007

Agatha Christie: An English Mystery
By Laura Thompson

Headline UK Pds.20

Reviewed by Peter Kemp

When Agatha Christie (1890-1976) was a child she had a recurring nightmare in which pleasant occasions – family tea-times, parties, picnics – were disrupted by a scary apparition with no hands, a ghastly stare and formidable powers of disguise. “It might be Mummy or Daddy or Nannie,” she recalled, “someone you were just talking to. You looked up into Mummy’s face . . . and then you saw the light steely-blue eyes – and from the sleeve of Mummy’s dress – oh, horror! – that horrible stump.” Merging cosiness and menace, it’s a dream that eerily prefigures the 66 crime novels and 13 short story collections that made her a global literary phenomenon (over a billion copies sold in English, another billion in translation).

Comfortable stability was her ideal. Throughout later life, Laura Thompson’s biography stresses, she retained wistful memories of her serene upbringing in the late-Victorian and Edwardian Torquay of villas set among rose gardens and impeccable lawns, retinues of servants, seven-course dinner parties, tennis matches, fancy-dress balls, dance cards, picture hats and sedate flirtations over the clack of croquet mallets. In keeping with this idyll, on Christmas Eve 1914, she married Archie Christie, a dashing young officer in the Royal Flying Corps.

1935 author pic, right, from the Wikipdedia website.
One suspects the pic used on the cover, above, must have also been taken about 1935.

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