Although I generally believe that the one story a writer shouldn't write is their own, Agatha Christie's autobiography is the happy exception to this rule.
The famous mystery writer takes much of the mystery out of how she became a writer telling a straightforward story of a fairy-tale childhood that abruptly changed into a grown-up existence of uncertainty, hard-work, determination, pluck and verve. She admits to less ambition than necessity dictated by money and marriage woes.
Christie is a natural storyteller but she is far too polite to admit it outright. Instead, she brings the same hands-off style to her own story as she does to the main characters in her mystery books: that of being caught up in the circumstances of events rather than being driven by them.
Her life story gently unfolds complemented by a dry and self-effacing wit. Christie blends in tidbits of her writing life, including her early efforts, story and character inspirations, why her books are so short, her writing style and routine and her dealings with editors and publishing houses, into the mostly personal narrative.
While it may be a mystery as to whether Christie created or responded to opportunities, there's no mystery that once those opportunities presented themselves Christie seized them and rode them spectacularly to fame and fortune.
on September 20, 2004
I picked up Agatha Christie's biography off a dusty shelf in the library... it hadn't been read since 1984, and it still had one of those cards you had to write in names and stamp dates in. Interestingly, I wasn't drawn to the book due to the author. I hadn't even read more than one book by Ms. Christie, and that was in high school for required reading. What drew me to the book was the simple unpretentious title "The Story of My Life". (This is an older copy of the book, not the printing titled Agatha Christie an Autobiography.)It was the first page, the first paragraph in the book,that hooked me.
"One of the luckiest things that can happen to you in life is, I think, to have a happy childhood. I had a very happy childhood."
If you continue reading you'll have to agree. With tenderness, Agatha recounts sun-filled days at her home Ashfield, describing family and friends (both real and imaginary), servants, and experiences with fond poignancy.
Her father she describes:
"By modern standards my father would probably not be approved of. He was a lazy man.......I don't know what the quality was he had...he had no outstanding characteristics. I think that he had a simple and loving heart, and he really cared for his fellow man."
A family game, when Agatha is older and courting
"We use to have a family game, invented by my sister and a friend of hers- it was called 'Agatha's Husband'. The idea was that they picked two or three of the most repellent strangers in a room, and it was then up to me that I had to choose one of them as my husband, on pain of death or slow torture by the Chinese.
'Now then, Agatha, which will you have-the fat young one with pimples, and the scurfy head, or that black one like a gorilla with the bulging eyes?'
'Oh, I can't-they're so awful.'
'You must-it's got to be one of them. Or else red hot needles nad water torture.'
'Oh dear, then the gorilla.'
In the end we got into the habit of labelling any physically hideous individual as 'an Agatha's husband':"Oh! Look! That's a REALLY ugly man-a real Agatha's husband."
Many funny family stories are recounted in this book, as well as some painful life experiences in Agatha's adult life. Yet, she still manages to keep a cheerfullness, and a somewhat balanced attitude, which is refreshing.
I heartily recommend this book.
Often times autobiographies are dull things of interest only to the author or those who may be mentioned in the book, others are glowing brag fests relating how marvelous the subject is, or are filled with juicy gossip about other celebrities. This one is completely different in that Christie did not attempt to write a complete chronicle of her life, or to focus on what the public might want to hear (in fact she deliberately left out the very episode - her disappearance - that most would want to know more about) but instead told about those parts of her life that she was interested in remembering. For example most autobiographies rush through the subject's childhood and focus on the parts of their adult life that made them famous, not so here. Instead Christie takes the first third of her tale to describe her life before she ever thought of Hercule Poirot.
What the reader gets instead of stories about the great and famous is a charming glimpse into the life of a middle-class child born at the end of the Victorian era, her perceptions of a society that was rapidly changing as she grew to young adulthood. She tells about her life as a child in a comfortable household filled with servants, her teenage years with her widowed mother, as a young woman caring for wounded soldiers, as a bride then a single mother through her later years as a successful author and her second, happier marriage to an archaeologist and their travels to the Middle East. She glosses over meeting the Queen but tells at length about various nannies and secretaries that were part of her everyday life.
For fans of Christie it is particularly interesting to learn what inspired certain of her characters or plots, what was occuring in her life while writing some of the novels, to see people or situations that one can recognize in a favorite novel. For anyone interested in life in the early twentieth century this book also gives an insight into that time that is rarely seen.
on December 22, 1999
Agatha Christie's, An Autobiography, is an excellent read. Unlike most books of this type, it is not chronological in the true sense of the word. It's almost as if Dame Agatha is talking to you personally about her life. She jumps from one topic to another much as one would in an ordinary conversation. Thoroughly entertaining!
on November 24, 2004
As an avid fan of Agatha Christie, I wanted to read her autobiography. I couldn't find it on Amazon.com or at the local public library. Finally, I found an old, tattered copy in one of the Rutgers University libraries.
This book can change your life! Not only does Christie recount her life in an interesting and exciting way, but she also comments on a wide variety of comments -- friendship, parties, poetry, marriage, etc. Many times, I find myself quoting the wisdom Christie has included within her book.
This is a wonderful book, and I highly recommend it. I could not put it down; it was very interesting, especially because of the aforemention edinclusion of her comments on every imaginable topic.
on August 20, 2011
I just downloaded this ebook offered by HarperCollins and was dismayed to find that there were absolutely NO pictures included!!!!!!!! I was extremely disappointed that in this day and age a complete version of this work would not be offered by a major publisher. I checked a copy of the original book published by Dodd, Mead in 1977 and available for FREE from my public library - and found that it included 26 photos . . . sooooo . . . where's the pics??? Just another example of the greed by major publishers to rush a product in an e-format and think that no one would notice . . . what a ripoff!!!!!!!! Beware of what is offered in ebooks . . I do love having the accessibility . . . but not at the cost of content.
on November 22, 2011
This is a reprint of Agatha Christie's autobiography over a period between 1950 and 1965. Out of print for over three decades, this new edition includes a CD in which Agatha Christie talks about being a writer. Note that the famous eleven-day disappearance in 1926 (see the movie Agatha for speculation) is not explained which in turn is disappointing yet adds an aura of mystery to Ms. Christie. Born in 1890, her late Victorian childhood in Ashfield comes across as idyllic (but somewhat boring) except for her vivid description of her caring indolent dad and the Agatha's Husband game played with her sister. The action picks up in the second act with her first marriage to Archibald Christie, their child Rosalind and her first novel. Her second marriage to younger Max Mallowan during the Depression also provides insight into what made Ms. Christie tick while her characters like Poirot and Marple almost seem real. Ironically readers know of her novels, but few have seen her plays (like Witness for the Prosecution) on the stage. At times in her works, Ms. Christie sympathizes with murderers as their cause was just (see Murder on the Orient Express) which is intriguing. Filled with pathos and humor; and enhanced by photos and the CD, An Autobiography by Agatha Christie is a wonderful look at the life of the Grand Dame of mystery.
on August 16, 2012
First, let me say that Agatha Christie's autobiography is one of my all-time favorite books. That's why I purchased the Kindle version when I already own a hard copy.
Imagine my disappointment, then, as I read along, the narrative suddenly makes no sense. I'm not talking about the occasional misprint, those are to be expected. No, whole paragraphs and sections are simply gone. Is this an abridged version? Sometimes the text is neatly excised, and unless you knew what should have been there, you'd never miss it. Other times it is jarring. For example, Mrs. Christie is reflecting on the pleasures of the suqs in Bagdhad, and the next page drops into the middle of a conversation about metaphysics with some unnamed person. (Whom frantic searches of my hard copy revealed to be Maurice Vickers.) Now, I don't know about most, but I need context before I can face a discussion of metaphysics on my good days - and to find myself suddenly confronted with the meaty middle of a treatise on the philosophical implications of Time and Infinity, without a fair warning or time to prepare myself, was a terrible shock to the system. Referencing the hard copy, and filling in the missing paragraphs, made the discussion not only palatable, but deeply interesting and even profound.
I don't how many other such errors there are. I do know that as I read a book with which I am fairly familiar, I often felt that some things were missing, and a superficial comparison of the Kindle and hard copies confirmed that.
Agatha Christie's autobiography is an engrossing journey into the mind of an original and entertaining woman. Its little forays into Victoriana, such as the proper books for children to read, or suitable names for cooks, house maids and parlourmaids, (and why they weren't the same), are charming and fascinating. Her reminiscences of her times on archaeological digs in the middle east are compelling. It's more than worth reading - just not in the Kindle version.
Agatha Christie, perhaps the best known mystery writer of all time, did not ever plan on becoming a writer. And when she did become one, it took her years to accept this as her profession and to believe that there was something other than money to be gained by writing books. Her autobiography is a pleasant ramble through the fascinating live lived by the creator of those master sleuths, Hercule Poirot and Miss Marple. Her life was no mystery but most definitely an adventure.
Agatha Christie began writing her life story from her second husband's archaelogical dig in Iraq. It is set up in a rather rambling manner, starting from a brief family history to her earliest childhood memories and on through her life. Throughout these memories are punctuated by various tangents, often involving her writings, other times not. It is not a straightforward chrononlogical telling of her life, but rather like having a pleasant conversation or reading a leader that she has written to her readers. It allows fans of her writing to get to know the woman behind those characters.
While not as detalied as some fans might wish for - as author and editor, Christie has left out some events - and rather long, it is a pleasing read for any fan of Christie's stories. I learned much about her life that I did not know, including novels she wrote using pseudonyms, and took joy in reading her views on social concerns. While the time period she lived in and wrote about may seem long gone, Christie's words prove again and again to be timeless.
on July 2, 2003
I randomly picked this book in a library - I was looking for something to read and this seemed interesting enough. I had no idea how captive this would be. Agatha Christie doesn't write, she paints beautiful portraits with her words. From the moment I picked up this book it was impossible to put down. The way she talks of her life (and of course, her life itself) is truly enchanting. I don't think I could ever do this book justice, but I assure you - time spent on reading this book will be time well spent.