AN AUTOBIOGRAPHY by Agatha Christie
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Just to be alive is a grand thing," and Agatha Miller Christie Mallowan was alive for 85 years, the first 75 of which are recalled in this candid (to a point), devourable (utterly), and cheering autobiography--a memory book so buoyantly free of either artistic pretense or commercial imperative that the reading becomes, like the writing, "an indulgence." With the first glimpse of Hercule Poirot not appearing till halfway along, the emphasis is on childhood--perhaps the last record of a Victorian childhood that we'll have and certainly one of the rosiest. Christmas Dinners, boiled sweets, bathing machines, the thrill of fruit-patterned dessert plates, proper coconut shies, hoops, buttercups, and cream--Christie draws you in to the flush of remembering as she revels in the "art of leisure," an art crystallized in her Torquay home until Father's health and American income gave way simultaneously. Then the "art of flirting," practiced in colonial Cairo (cheaper there), where the tall girl with the full dance programme was returned to her mother with: "She dances beautifully. You had better teach her to talk now." Abandoning a career as either a pianist (too nervous) or singer (too weakvoiced), Agatha eagerly accepted her fifth proposal--subaltern Archie Christie--and plunged into V.A.D. work--"human towel rail," dispenser of Bip's paste and poisons--when Archie went to war. With Armistice: motherhood, flathunting, nanny-hunting. . . and a book called The Mysterious Affair at Styles, written on a dare (sister Madge was the talented one, Agatha "the slow one) and resulting in a first-year profit of 25 pounds. "I was a married woman, that was my status, and that was my occupation," and nothing changed that--not even landslides of royalties or the shock of her "ruthless" husband's demand for divorce. Christie omits the amnesia disappearance sensation of 1928 (making her "revulsion against the press" seem sudden and unwarranted), moving briskly on to a second wind--as plucky solo traveler in "Mem-Sahib Land," where archaeologist Max Mallowan (thirteen years younger) wooed her with mild-mannered ardor. Whether musing on her "unsatisfactory" brother ("He would certainly have been all right if he had been born Ludwig II of Bavaria") or out on a dig or decorating houses or pondering capital punishment, Dame Agatha is eager to smile, advise, draw morals, see both sides, and hope for the best. And the many fans who've hoped for the best from this last legacy will not be disappointed: they, along with readers who've never cared for whodunits, will find this year's Christie for Christmas an irresistible forget-me-not from a "tradesman in a good honest trade" who made the most of her talent and her time.
Pub Date: Nov. 14th, 1977
ISBN: 0007314663
Page count: 544pp
Publisher: Dodd, Mead
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1st, 1977


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