Saturday, January 23, 2010

Mary Westmacott, or the more famous Agatha Christie

Agatha Christie: Six Mary Westmacott Novels (Giants' Bread / Absent in the Spring / Unfinished Portrait / The Rose and the Yew Tree / A Daughter's a Daughter / The Burden)Absent in the Spring (Westmacott)The Rose and the Yew Tree (Westmacott)When I was last teaching and told one of my colleagues about my plan for a book about Devon's women writers, she said 'Oh well you will be researching and writing about Agatha Christie - Devon's most famous writer - of course, won't you?' At the time, though I did not say so, my reaction was negative. I had never planned to include Devon's most famous women writer - she just was not within the remit I had set myself.
I changed my mind somewhere along the way. Why? Well, I am not a reader of crime novels and never have been and did not feel I could do justice to a writer whose reputation was so largely based upon her renderings of murder and its repercussions, but now I know more about Christie and begin to see how narrowly I have labelled her, I see my snobbish attitude needs to be remedied. Hence this shortish blog. Brief this time because, firstly, I am busy trying to catch up with several of her books plus am very in-the-zone with my own manuscript and secondly, there is so much out there already on the web. I'm not really into repetition.
 Just a few ideas to start anyone on their own online Christie mystery-trail: This seems to be the main Agatha Christie site; the christiemysterynet seems duly approprite; a piece in The Observer on Christie's most famous mystery solved at last, which delves into the still closed book of what many see as the strangest, most inexplicable of Christie's unsolved 'sagas': that of her disappearance for 11 days when she was in her mid-thirties; this Agatha Christie Reading Challenge blog may well interest some, especially crime addicts; finally (though you will track down hundreds more relevant sites) I must include the National Trust and Greenway: the estate is in Devon and it belonged to and was loved by Christie.

But I do want to acknowledge Christie now, on this blog, mainly because she died in the month of January. I've missed the date this year by ten days, which is a shame, but better late than never. So, Agatha Christie, born Agatha May Clarissa Miller, 1890 (sometimes pseudonym, Mary Westmacott) died on 12th January, 1976. Almost 35 years ago. There's a report on her death on the BBC website.

Christie/Westmacott is probably unique amongst the writers I am researching, in that as far as I am aware at the moment she is the only women writer from Devon to have places named after her, as well as several local museums with special displays in her honour. Not surprising perhaps, given that in her time, not only was she the most famous of any women writing in the county, for her fame spread far beyond south-west shores; whilst in her hey-day her work was only outsold by that of Shakespeare and the Bible. Perhaps the most well-known of the Devonian Christie named-afters is the 'Agatha Christie Mile' in Torquay - see here at torbayonline.

A Daughter's a Daughter and Other Novels: A Mary Westmacott OmnibusMy focus of work on Christie at present is on the novels she wrote under her pseudonym Mary Westmacott; This has been prompted by the recent re-emergence and revival of the play A Daughters a Daughter
 written originally as a 'psychological romance' or 'crime of her heart' novel under Christie's pseudonym, Mary Westmacott - which has occasioned some excellent reviews, including this in The Independent.

I'm off to read it, and the other Westmacott novels 

Happy hunting to those who may now be tempted to join me on the Christie/Westmacott trail. More later ...