3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
"The Rose and the Yew Tree" is one of six novels Agatha Christie wrote under the pen name of Mary Westmacott. None are mysteries, more affairs of the heart, a "novel or romance and suspense" as it's billed. It is a unique experience reading such a famed novelist from an entirely different perspective, and while the story moves briskly, I'm not too sure there is much to the story at hand.
The tale is narrated by Hugh Norreys, a man who was cripples and paralyzed in an automobile accident on the day he was set to run away with the woman he loved. At the beginning of the novel he is called to the sick bed of a man who was never quite his friend, John Gabriel. Hugh's reencounter with Gabriel after so many years sets in motion the telling of how the two men first met and parted as enemies. After his release Hugh resided with his artist brother, Robert, and sister-in-law Teresa, in St. Loo, a small Cornish town on the verge of a Parlimentary election. Gabriel was the candidate put forth and Hugh, the perfect listener whether he wanted to be or not, found himself privy to the secrets and gossip of the town. He is inexplicably drawn, as is Gabriel, to the young Isabella, certain heir to St. Loo Castle who is awaiting the return of her knight in shinning armor. Both men act very differently towards her yet neither truly understands why she makes the decision that she does in the end.
Agatha Christie was a very talented writer proven by the fact that her works have stood the test of time. Originally published in 1947, "The Rose and the Yew Tree" makes use of some very contemporary elements, and while dated in our time, the emotions that drive these characters remain universal. I'm not sure whether I really liked "The Rose and the Yew Tree" but I know I did not dislike it. A lot of the novel was dialogue and narration with little indication as to any driving purpose - this can be frustrating especially when several characters are not likeable or even compellingly drawn.
3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
You don't find out until the very end what the meaning of the title is, but it comes from a quotation by T S Eliot, ":The moment of the rose, and the moment of the yew tree, are of equal duration." That's from "Little Gidding" (1942), the last of Eliot's Four Quartets, thus it was very much a contemporary poem for Christie, who published this novel under her pseudonym Mary Westmacott in 1947. The whole novel is filled with impossible time schemes, for the main events take place at the very end of World War II, in the summer of 1945 when the Labour party mounted a landslide victory against the Conservative party dominated by Churchill, and Christie's fictional protagonist John Gabriel is put forward by the local Tories of Cornwall even though he isn't very much of a gentleman, in order to appeal to a changing political climate. Then another patch of the story happens in the autumn of 1947, when the narrator Hugh Norreys encounters two of the Cornish characters in a faraway Balkan city ("Zagrade"). In other words, this must have been around the time that Christie was actually writing the novel. And yet as we experience the frame story surrounding these events, we experience is as happening at a much, much later date than this 1947 date. At least I would think it would be at least a decade if not two or three for John Gabriel, Christie's doomed politician, to transmute himself into "Father Clement," the romantic, saintly Mother Teresa of the apocalyptic Cold War period Christie imagines is going to happen.
For much of the book, as others have noted, THE ROSE AND THE YEW TREE is a novel about disability; our hero has been involved in a terrible traffic accident and he is rendered almost wholly immobile. The tiny town of St. Loo becomes his window on the world, the nobility, the middle classes, the poor folk of the harbor like puppets in a Vanity Fair carnival for him. In despair, he fastens on the lives of anyone who comes to visit him, and yet for all his obsessions with their lives, he often fails to see their inner natures. He completely misses the fact that Teresa, his brother's Penelope Cruz-like wife, is steadfastly in love with him, while he fails to register the torrid three-way split between regal and distant Isabella Charteris, her fiancé (now stationed in Burma) Rupert, Lord St. Loo, and the common mongrel Gabriel.
In the background of Gabriel's campaign we see the exact same events that formed the "back story" of Christie's contemporaneous play The Mousetrap (first written as a half hour radio play to celebrate Queen Mary's 80th birthday, May 1947). Evacuee children brought out from the London blitz and boarded on West England farms, but abused and starved by cruel farmers and their wives, are a feature in both THE ROSE AND THE YEW TREE and THREE BLIND MICE. Did Christie make up this account of abuse, or did she base her fictions on a newspaper or radio account of something in the news at the time? Where are the grad students who could research this mystery?
Then there's the pun on "yew" and "Hugh" ....
2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on December 11, 2011
The story is fascinating... very suspenseful, and beautifully told. But the people involved are just not very likeable. I really disliked Isabella. Or perhaps not so much Isabella herself as the way the narrator idolized her. He seems to think she is pure and good, just because she is beautiful and apparently lives in a dreamy world of her own. She doesn't actually DO anything that is good or praiseworthy, and eventually she betrays her family and her fiance to run off with a wicked man who doesn't even love her. Yet the narrator insists on projecting his own feelings onto her. He assumes that because he personally is attracted to her in a pure, chivalric way, she must therefore be "worthy" of these feelings (which she never sought and does not return) in some mysterious way that is never explained. I got quite impatient with him by the end, because he insists on worshiping this girl that neither deserves it or desires it. He tortures himself needlessly in the process. The author seems to be trying to make the point that actual people are quite different from our perceptions of them, but I am not sure this is the best way to illustrate that point. The main conclusion I drew was: this man is a fool!
2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on January 31, 2002
Warning. This is not your typical Agatha Christie. This isn't even a typical mystery. It's a tragedy, a gothic and a love story about an ethereal young woman, the three men who loved her and the fruit of her incredible sacrifice.
0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on October 16, 2002
A great story, lots of twists and turns to see where it is going. The narrator gives a fascinating look at what it's like to be disabled.