Agatha was born as “Agatha Mary Clarissa Miller” (1890-1976) on 15 September 1890 in Torquay, Devon, South West England into a comfortably well off middle class family. She acted as a novelist, short story writer, playwright and poet. She stood out in the detective novel subgenre, having popularly earned the nickname “Queen / Lady of Crime”. The writer is known for her famous creation “Hercule Poirot”, a Belgian detective who appears in 33 of her works and has become one of the most celebrated in police fiction. She is also responsible for the creation of “Miss Marple” and the duo “Tommy and Tuppence”. Agatha was the greatest police writer of all time, she wrote 93 books and 17 plays! To get to know this author better, let’s go into her life and find out why her works are so acclaimed and worthy of a subject at Her Campus like this one. Let’s find out!
Daughter of a Victorian owner couple, even though the father, Frederick Miller, American, was raised according to the best European tradition. Her parents did everything to make her pursue a career as a lyrical singer or pianist. But Agatha Christie preferred to spend time telling poems and short stories. What made her upbringing unusual, even for its time, was that she was home schooled largely by her father. Her mother, Clara, who was an excellent storyteller, did not want her to learn to read until she was eight but Agatha, bored and as the only child at home (she was a much loved “afterthought” with two older siblings) taught herself to read by the age of five!
“Where did her creativity come from?”. She absorbed the children’s stories of the time – Edith Nesbit who wrote “The Story of the Treasure Seekers” and “The Railway Children”, and Louisa M. Alcott, who wrote “Little Women” – but also poetry and startling thrillers from America. Agatha invented imaginary friends, played with her animals, attended dance classes and began writing poems when she was still a child.
When she was five, the family spent some time in France having rented out the family home of Ashfield to economise, and it was here with her “governess” Marie, that Agatha learned her idiomatic but erratically spelled French. At the age of eleven, her father died after a series of heart attacks. Clara was distraught and Agatha became her mother’s closest companion. There were more money worries and talk of selling Ashfield. But Clara and Agatha found a way forward and from the age of 15 Agatha boarded at a succession of pensions and took piano and singing lessons.
By the age of 18 she was amusing herself with writing short stories, some of which were published in much revised form in the 1930s.
Clara’s health and the need for economies dictated their next move. In 1910, they set off for Cairo and a three month “season” at the Gezirah Palace Hotel. There were evening dresses and parties and young Agatha showed more interest in these than the local archaeological sites. The friends and young couples she met in Cairo invited her to house parties back home on her return. Various marriage proposals followed.
It was in 1912 that Agatha met Archie Christie, a qualified aviator who had applied to join the Royal Flying Corps. Their courtship was a whirlwind affair; both were desperate to marry but with no money. They married on Christmas Eve 1914 after both had experienced the First World War – Archie in France and Agatha on the Home Front now working with the Voluntary Aid Detachment in a Red Cross Hospital in Torquay. They spent their honeymoon night in The Grand Hotel, Torquay and on the 27th December Archie returned to France. Furthermore, they infrequently met during the War Years, and it wasn’t until January 1918 when Archie was posted to the War Office in London that Agatha felt her married life truly began.
- The Famous Detective Character: How Poirot Was Born
Hercule Poirot or Poirot is a great fictional detective and the protagonist of most of the books by Agatha, one of the most famous detectives in police fiction. The detective appears in more than 40 novels and stars since 1989 in a British series of Poirot by Agatha Christie where he is played by David Suchet.
– How Poirot Was Born
It was during the First World War that Agatha turned to writing detective stories! Her debut novel “The Mysterious Affair at Styles” took some time to finish and even longer to find a publisher. This is Poirot’s first investigation. She started writing partly in response to a bet from her sister Madge to write a police story in which the reader couldn’t discover the identity of the murderer before the end of the narrative, and partly to relieve the monotony of the dispensing work which she was now doing. She first worked out her plot and then “found” her characters on a tram in Torquay. Furthermore, she finished the manuscript during her two-week holiday which she spent at the Moorland Hotel at Haytor on Dartmoor. The murderer’s use of poison was so well described that when the book was eventually published, Agatha received an unprecedented honor for a writer of fiction – a review in the Pharmaceutical Journal!
1919 was a momentous year for Agatha. With the end of the war, Archie had found a job in the City, and they had just enough money to rent and furnish a flat in London. Later that year, on the 5th August, Agatha gave birth to their only daughter, Rosalind. It was also the year that a publisher, John Lane of The Bodley Head, and the fourth to have received the manuscript, accepted ‘The Mysterious Affair at Styles’ for publication and contracted Agatha to produce five more books! John Lane insisted on a couple of changes to her manuscript including a reworked final chapter – instead of a courtroom climax, Lane proposed the now familiar denouement in the library.
– “So where did the inspiration for Hercule Poirot come from?”
During the First World War there were Belgian refugees in most parts of the English countryside, Torquay being no exception. Although he was not based on any particular person, Agatha thought that a Belgian refugee, a former great Belgian policeman, would make an excellent detective for “The Mysterious Affair at Styles”. Hercule Poirot was born.
Following the war Agatha continued to write – experimenting with different types of thriller and murder mystery stories, creating first “Tommy and Tuppence” and then “Miss Marple” in quick succession. In 1922, leaving Rosalind with her nurse and her mother, she and Archie travelled across the then British Empire, promoting The Empire Exhibition of 1924. She continued to write: Agatha received the joyous news of good reviews for “The Secret Adversary” while in Cape Town (where she also became the first British woman to surf standing up) and Archie’s boss proved the inspiration for Sir Eustace Pedlar in “The Man in the Brown Suit” (1924), also set in Africa.
- “Art Imitating Life Or Life Imitating Art?”: Christie Disappears
It was a cold morning on December 4, 1926, a typical London drizzle falling on the small town of Guilford, south of London, when a police car found a vehicle, bumped against a tree near a lake. The vehicle doors were open. No sign of the occupants, except for a pair of gloves and an elegant fur coat left in the back seat. The vehicle papers pointed to Mr. Archibald Christie, a resident of Berkshire, a few miles away as owner.
As the car was empty, the policemen went after the owner, so shortly afterwards the policemen arrived at Mr. Archibald’s residence. And what looked like just another simple accident started a great mystery. The car actually belonged to Archibald’s wife, Christie, who the night before, on December 3, at 8:45 pm said goodbye with a kiss from her daughter Rosalind and drove off without saying where she was going. The family had already missed the writer and was preparing to file a missing complaint when the police arrived. On that same day, all London newspapers had the headline on the case on their covers and speculated on the disappearance of the mystery queen. Initially, the police ruled out kidnapping or kidnapping options as there was no note or ransom request.
Rumors began to appear that she had been drowned in the lake or murdered and buried in the woods where the car was found. Suspicions arose that her husband would have killed her after discovering an extramarital relationship that the Colonel had. Now the husband was the number one suspect in the disappearance. The growing distance between the couple after the purchase of a house in the country came to the fore when the colonel started to dedicate most of his free time to golf. Since then, the crisis has only grown.
After her mother’s death, she had to take over the organization of the family’s property in Tokyo while her husband worked in the English capital. Agatha spent the whole summer organizing the family objects that would be donated, thrown away or distributed among relatives. And this arduous task increased the suffering for the loss of the mother even more. The writer went into a huge depression. The couple did not meet until the end of the summer when the husband filed for divorce, assuming to Christie that during this period that he was alone in London he became involved with another woman and was going to marry her.
So, with this detail of the couple’s private life in the newspapers, the population’s interest in the mystery of the disappearance only increased. British newspapers were expected daily as if they were a book launched by Agatha Christie. While for some it seemed like an emotional story, for the family it was a huge despair and the government was pressing the police to conclude the case. After all, it was the disappearance of a figure of worldwide relevance! The importance of the case was so great that even the greatest detective of all time was called in to help with the investigations. Not Sherlock Holmes, but his creator: the writer Arthur Conan Doyle. Ten days with 24 hours of searches, all the English police involved, and no clues, until suddenly, everything changed.
On the eleventh day, the police were alerted by a musician that Agatha Christie was staying at a luxury hotel in Harrogate registered under the name of Teresa Neele. Ironically, Neele was the surname of Archibald’s mistress. There were several hypotheses about the author’s disappearance. The main one was that she was a recluse scheming revenge for her husband’s betrayal. In the same year, with a contract signed with a new publisher, she released “The Muder of Roger Ackroyd“. Investigations found that the writer actually crashed her car shortly after taking her bag and walking to the nearest train station where she took the train to Harrogate. Once there, she stayed in a luxurious hotel, in fact a kind of retreat in the north of England, where she used the surname of her husband’s mistress.
During the stay, Agatha spent most of her time reading, including the newspapers that printed the news about her disappearance. She drank tea, interacted with the other guests and, incredibly, no one recognized her. She even danced and sang with the band that was performing at the hotel bar. And it was then that the musician finally recognized her! He saw that that woman was a writer and informed the police that they soon arrived at the hotel accompanied by Archibald to make the recognition. Strangely, Agatha didn’t recognize him. And when she saw a photo of her only daughter, she didn’t recognize her either. This mental confusion served for the family to justify the writer’s actions as a result of a huge nervous crisis due to the losses she had experienced in recent years. Agatha was treated with psychiatrists, Europe’s best specialists, but no diagnosis was made about the reasons for the disappearance. The doctors then indicated that she should rest and that she should gradually return to work and her routines. And that is exactly what Agatha Christie did and went on with her life. Years later, in 1928, she ended up getting divorced and dedicating herself more and more to writing her mystery books.
Two years after the divorce she married an archaeologist: Max Mallowan. However, she kept the surname of the first marriage. Until his death in 1976 Agatha never touched on the subject of his disappearance or the autobiography published a year later. The biggest clue would be the book she launched in 1934, “Unfinished Portrait“. In it, under the pseudonym Mary Westmacott, the main character thinks of suicide after being abandoned by her husband. The story served biographers to defend nervous exhaustion as the cause of the writer’s disappearance. According to modern medicine, the writer had a type of amnesia known as “fugue state”, in technical terms, a psychogenic trance. When people are in this state of escape, they don’t remember many things and end up creating stories and characters. It is as if the mind has erased some facts and invented a parallel life. The depression after her mother’s death along with despair due to the crisis of her marriage created a perfect picture for the writer’s mind to enter this “trance”.
According to the doctor Andrew Norman in the book “The Finished Portrait“, Agatha left the house that night to commit suicide, but ended up failing when she threw her car against the tree. In that shock, she would have suffered from amnesia. Even with the investigations of the time, the clues in the work of the writer and in the most recent scientific studies, we can’t say with certainty that Agatha Christie suffered from amnesia or that she was really conscious all the time. Well, think about it, someone who researched and studied with her so much about death and how to kill, after all her works needed this kind of knowledge, she should know much more about other effective ways of committing suicide than hitting a car against a tree. It is a mystery that intrigues us as much as the stories in her books.
- Mysterious Literature Reference: An Endless List Of Incredibles Books
She has had more than 80 books published. According to the Guinness Book, Christie is the most well-known novelist in the history of popular literature worldwide in total number of books sold. Her works together sold about 4 billion copies over the 1920s and 21s. These numbers are second only to the works sold by the playwright and poet William Shakespeare and the Bible.
Overall, her stories will focus a lot on finding out who the killer was. There is an initial crime, it happens in a small town, they have suspects…but, definitely, we aren’t tired of these kinds of stories, so do with Christie’s! Last year, “The Mysterious Affair at Styles” completed 100 years since its publication in 1920. In 1930, the travel in the East inspired Christie to write several books like “Murder on the Orient Express” (1934), “Death in Mesopotamia” (1936), “Death on the Nile” (1937) and “Adventure in Baghdad” (1951).
The “Murder on the Orient Express” was one of her most famous books, it was adapted for cinema, theater and television, with emphasis on the 1974 version, which gave Ingrid Bergman the Oscar for best supporting actress.
His character, detective Hercule Poirot, appears in 40 books and stories. Miss Jane Marple, a nice old lady, deeply knowledgeable about human nature, appears in 14 books and stories, debuting in the book “The Murder ar the Vicarage” (1930). In Brazil, the publisher HarperCollins is one of the responsibles for the brazilian covers.
- Want To Start Reading Her Stories? Here’s A Guide To Start Right Now!
If you search on the internet about what Christie has written, you’ll probably be lost with so many books, novels and theater works. But, seriously, chill out! We introduce you to the Agatha Christie’s Site! Here you’ll find everything you want to know about this incredible author. Plus, we separate some tips; type a guide, to help you at this amazing literature journaling! Because they are independent works, starting to read for whatever you prefer is not a problem. However, there are some stories that can make more sense if you follow a linearity, for example, the last book that Christie wrote: “Curtain”. If you prefer the chronological order, start with the author’s first book: “The Muder of Roger Ackroyd” or also, with her most famous works!
1) Start reading the most famous works: as these works have several editions, you can choose the one that suits you best! Like for example, “And Then There Was None” and “Murder on the Orient Express”.
2)Set a daily goal so you don’t get tired of reading or have a “literary hangover”. Reading little by little will make reading more fluid and easy to understand.
3)As it is an old book, there are many expressions, ways of speaking, objects that are not part of our daily lives, so it is worth doing research to better understand what the author is narrating in the book.
4) As there are many similar characters and names, it is worth noting the names and associating them with a caption to prevent you from getting too confused during reading.
5) Finally, as you approach the end of the story, write down your theory as to what you expect to happen in the outcome of the story. Comparing what the author thought about the narrative is a lot of fun and the plot twist will be accurate!
It’s quite a journey, so get ready! We bet you will fall in love with the author and her work. Agatha Christie is the favorite author of several readers and is the queen of criminal literature. Learn more about her wonderful mind through reading, and you will become a fan of her work too!
The article above was edited by Marina Ponchio.
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