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Agatha Christie at Home Hardcover – September 22, 2009
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The top best-selling author of all time (rivaling Shakespeare), Agatha Christie (1890-1976) had as many as eight homes at one time. Some were in London, and one was in Baghdad. Her favorite however--the one she felt was her true home for her and her husband, gave her the most inspiration, and is most associated with her mysteries--was Greenway in the county of Devon. A series of previous homes beginning with her childhood home and including rentals and changing homes as her career grew leads up to the stately Greenway. Though not a grand English estate which Christie could have lived in, Greenway was a small mansion. The presence of servants seemed natural; and Christie furnished and decorated the home with all types of Victorian objects. Her sensibility was always more Victorian than modern. She called one modernist building where she rented an apartment at one time "an ocean liner."
Though Greenway was the center of Christie's life, sensibilities, and ideas for her mysteries, this was so because it was situated in the midst of a traditionally English country environment (which to a large degree survives today). The book is organized so circles of this are seen as both extending from and enclosing Greenway. Each circle of the larger surrounding environment--town, county, parish--is perused as if enriching the atmosphere of Greenway--thus casting a light into the sources of Christie's works and her particular creativity.
In citing physical features such as rivers and hills and man-made parts such as shops and roads in delving into the widening circles of town, etc., Macaskill notes these as they appeared in different Christie mysteries. Even when names or some details have been changed for the sake of fictionalizing them, they are nonetheless apparent; for despite her bottomless imagination and numerous mystery novels, Christie never did stray far from the ideas and materials she found at Greenway and its environs.
The color photographs on nearly every page (80 of the total of 110 photos) are pleasing photos of Devon known for its Mediterranean-like climate. That they are connected with the popular author Agatha Christie adds immeasurable interest to them however. Devotees of her mysteries will enjoy matching photos to aspects of the books with author Macaskill's help as a guide. Readers interested in literature and writing find a window onto the connection between biography--and with Christie particularly, place--and an author's books. The photographs range from panoramas to nature scenes to shops and train depots and such to interiors of Greenway, now a public site under the direction of England's National Trust. Publishers Bookshelf
This [book] will have special appeal not only to Christie fans but also to gardeners. The author is a journalist and travel writer. This book offers rare insight into the private world of Christie (1890-1976) and the places she loved the most. Long after her death, she remains one of the best selling authors.
In this remarkable book, the author presents the story of each property and the role it played in Christie’s life. She also chronicles the books and other works that Christie completed in those places. Throughout this title, Macaskill points out special locations that were featured in the books.
This book allows readers to learn all about the daily life in these houses. The author presents details on all aspects of the households, including the servants and staff. The author explains how Christie took a hands-on approach to her homes, gardens, and households. Throughout the book, readers can see how these contributions of Christie can still be seen today.
This book follows the history of Greenway after Christie’s death. In 2000 Christie’s heirs donated it to the National Trust, which began an extensive restoration. Now the property is open to the public and has already become a popular destination. From Bella on Line
About the Author
Hilary Macaskill is a journalist and travel writer. She was formerly a publisher, a publicity manager for publishing companies and a lecturer in journalism at City University. She lives in London.
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Agatha Christie was born in 1890 to Frederick and Clarissa (Clara) Miller at their home, Ashfield, in Devon, an English county. Mathew Prichard, Agatha Christie’s grandson, writes in his foreword to Agatha Christie At Home that his grandmother loved Devonshire – something of a ‘collector’ of houses, Ashfield in Torquay, where Agatha grew up and Greenfield on the River Dart were homes that held special places in her affections.
Educated at home, Agatha taught herself to read before the age of five and with a much older sister and brother, led a rather solitary existence at Ashfield, imaginary companions created to fill the rooms of her doll’s house and accompany her on rambles in the garden, an expanse of lawns, woods and secret places (perfect for a girl who would become the world’s biggest selling novelist).
Hilary Macaskill’s description of Agatha Christie’s childhood is a delightful one where good manners and the conventions of the day were observed with a graciousness which (sigh) didn’t survive much past the 1950’s. The book’s early photographs of Agatha show her as sweet faced and serious, included is a photo of the possibly teenaged Agatha in her dance class, posed in loose flowing robes, the group’s air of innocence is charmingly evocative of the early twentieth century.
Agatha married Archie Christie in1914, when he was on leave from the Royal Flying Corps. The marriage produced a daughter, Rosalind, but ended unhappily in 1926; Archie was unfaithful, Agatha, distraught at his betrayal, disappeared, and was the subject of a police search which attracted widespread media attention. Life with Archie, did though produce one happy outcome – it kicked off Agatha’s career as a home owner, renovator, interior decorator and on occasion: landlady.
Agatha Christie At Home focuses on the houses that Agatha and her family and later, second husband, archeologist, Max Mallowan lived in. Before WWII Agatha owned eight houses; some purchased as investments, some to call home, all renovated with flair, the interiors planned with a keen eye for design and a delight in the purchase of items that make a house a home.
Hilary Macaskill skillfully links Agatha Christie’s residential purchases with the creation of her mysteries; houses and gardens where she resided or holidayed became the settings for new books, residents of nearby villages appropriated for characters. Agatha, a hardworking author, while enjoying the creation of her exciting mysteries was a woman of great practicality, she liked writing but also liked the rewards it brought her – if one of her houses needed a tweak, perhaps a conservatory could morph into a loggia, money from book sales spent on renovating was in Agatha’s opinion: money well spent. A thoughtful, generous woman, she nurtured her houses in the same way she nurtured her family and friends – with loving care.
Agatha Christie At Home is illustrated with photos of Agatha and her family (some rare), interior/exterior shots of her homes and glorious colour images of Devon, most particularly views of the River Dart and Greenway, Agatha’s home.
Bought in 1938, Greenway provided Agatha Christie with inspiration for her books and a happy haven for her family and friends.
Properly appreciative of the role servants played in her homes, Agatha bemoaned the difficulty of finding domestic help for her homes. She did though, find staff, most of who stayed for years, becoming friends of the family. Contained in the book are some delightful recollections of life with the Christie family from a former butler.
Hilary Macaskill, a London based journalist and travel writer, has used wide ranging research skills to create Agatha Christie At Home; source material is drawn from family, friends, professional colleagues and Agatha Christie’s autobiography, the text illustrated with archival images and fascinating glimpses of Agatha Christie’s houses and gardens.
Dame Agatha died in 1976, and whatever she’s doing now, I’m sure she would agree – this is a lovely read.
The book is organized in a logical manner, first starting with an overview of Agatha's life and career. Ms. Macaskill's research is thorough and she presents us new information. She reveals such facts as Agatha making her own mayonnaise and how she planned her next book's plot. However, this is not a biography--it is a tour of Agatha's homes and of the country that she loved so much.
The author takes us on a journey through Agatha's various residences and their influence on her. We visit twelve homes (before WWII, she owned eight of them!), plus a few more whilst she lived in the Middle East. With careful detail, we learn about her love of houses--from her doll houses of her childhood to her favorite--Greenway on the River Dart in Devon. Agatha had always loved houses we learn; says she: "I have gone over innumerable houses, furnished houses, decorated houses, made structural alterations to houses. Houses! God bless houses!"
The main focus of the book, however, is how her homes and the home county of Devon affected her as a person as well as a mystery writer. There is a direct tie between her homes and the settings of her books. Her home Greenway has featured in a few of her books and the various locales in Devon transform themselves into great fictional towns. Much emphasis is on the "well-appointed family mansion" that is Greenway. The photographs of its gardens, boathouse, and interiors are in stunning color. Britain's National Trust restored the home to the way it was when Agatha lived in it; this past spring 2009, Greenway was opened to the public. This book does not miss the opportunity to give you a personal tour by the National Trust volunteers and Agatha's only grandchild, Mathew Prichard.
The highlights of this book are many. The color photographs are spectacular, whether of the beautiful Greenway, Agatha's hometown of Torquay, or the various towns in her home county. Many photographs come courtesy of Mr. Prichard himself--some of which have never been seen before. I love the little insights of Agatha's domestic life. Ms. Macaskill talked about how Agatha loved to entertain her guests by reading aloud her own stories and playing the piano for her guests. I loved the inclusion of the book's final chapter, in which Ms. Macaskill discusses Agatha's legacy. She describes the events held in Torquay to celebrate Agatha Christie, the Torquay Museum and its exhibit on Agatha, and the various film/television adaptations of her writings. The only complaint I have on "Agatha Christie at Home" is the lack of detail of Agatha's living arrangements in the Middle East. However, the book's focus is on her native land.
This is the perfect book for anyone who wants to follow Agatha's footsteps. For anyone who might not travel to Devonshire, this book is invaluable. How I wish I can make the trip to Devon, but I now can with this book. Hilary Macaskill has done an excellent job in giving us a tour of southern England and a look into Dame Agatha Christie's domestic life. In his forward, Mr. Prichard describes Devon as magical. The wonderful photographs show the magic Agatha felt. You will also when you look through this book.
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