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Agatha Christie

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Agatha Christie

Postby Moonraker » 19 Jun 2009, 12:27

Seeing that there is quite a flood of discussion on school stories elsewhere, I thought that a read of Agatha's Cat Among the Pigeons might be of interest. It is one of my favourite novels and features events around a girls' boarding school, Meadowbank. The headmistress is along the lines of the Grayling, and has a certain Blytonian feel to it. It is probably the closest book that Agatha has written to compare to Malory Towers or St Clare's!

I have just started a re-read of it, and as I haven't read it for a few years now, it is all quite spiffing!

A rather racist paragraph appeared early on:

"You think everybody you meet is dishonest."

"Most of them are," said Mrs Sutcliffe....

"Not English people," said the loyal Jennifer.

"That's worse, one doesn't expect anything else from Arabs and foreigners, but in England one's off guard and that makes it far easier for dishonest people."


Now if that passage was in a Blyton, it would be certainly updated!
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Re: Agatha Christie

Postby Philip Mannering » 19 Jun 2009, 12:38

Arabs and foreigners... hmm, I think that's the common idea in the books. It's not just 'Cat in the Pigeons'. One such book is 'Dumb Witness' (one of her lesser novels) in which the main character, Emily Arundell, hates foreigners, especially Greeks and Turks.

I just can't understand why do they need to be in every book! It really makes it boring, all the same stuff copied in this book, that book.... Whether it's Christie's idea about things or just her characters I don't know, but I guess it's the former.

I used to be quite a fan of Christie a few months earlier, but I think I read few of her lesser books fairly quickly, one to the other, hoping that this one will be good, but none were. That rather dampened my interest in Christie, and the fact that the books are just so similar - she shares this with Enid Blyton! Rather old-fashioned, too. :?
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Re: Agatha Christie

Postby Kitty » 19 Jun 2009, 12:51

That is a coincidence - I was just about to re-read that one myself. Agree, it really is interesting to have a school story from Agatha.

Which is the one that is part school story - is it Towards Zero? If so, I love that too, with the HM's misunderstanding of psychology and the Superintendent's contempt.
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Re: Cat Among the Pigeons

Postby Moonraker » 19 Jun 2009, 13:33

Kitty wrote:Which is the one that is part school story - is it Towards Zero? If so, I love that too, with the HM's misunderstanding of psychology and the Superintendent's contempt.


Thanks, Kitty - I have been racking my brains to think of the title of that book, Towards Zero it is! Miss Amphrey - or the Amp - was the headmistress in question. However, the school part of the novel played only a small part in the book.

Phil, it must be remembered that, as with Blyton, Christie wrote her books at a time when Britain was very insular and many foreign countries were quite primitive. It was most normal then to view foreigners with suspicion. Do stick with Agatha Christie, I am sure you will come to love her books in time. Just take the anti-British remarks as a sign of the then times.
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Re: Cat Among the Pigeons

Postby Kitty » 19 Jun 2009, 17:03

Moonraker wrote:Phil, it must be remembered that, as with Blyton, Christie wrote her books at a time when Britain was very insular and many foreign countries were quite primitive. It was most normal then to view foreigners with suspicion. Do stick with Agatha Christie, I am sure you will come to love her books in time. Just take the anti-British remarks as a sign of the then times.


Agree with all you say here. Another thing I'd add is that Agatha Christie was only half-English herself, despite growing up in England, and I think saw herself as something of an outsider. Quite often (admittedly not always) the worst examples of prejudice are displayed by characters we are meant to dislike, and the 'victims' (hate that word, but can't think of a better on the spur of the moment!) are often admirable people, completely vindicated by the book's end. M. Poirot is obviously the most famous example of a character of great rectitude who is despised by some. :?

This is quite similar to John Buchan, who I also love. Some people want to see his work censored, but it is almost always the nasty sorts who display the prejudice!
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Re: Cat Among the Pigeons

Postby Boodi » 22 Jun 2009, 10:54

Kitty wrote: Another thing I'd add is that Agatha Christie was only half-English herself, despite growing up in England, and I think saw herself as something of an outsider


That is interesting, I had no idea! What other nationality was she?

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Re: Cat Among the Pigeons

Postby Moonraker » 22 Jun 2009, 16:00

Boodi wrote:
Kitty wrote: Another thing I'd add is that Agatha Christie was only half-English herself, despite growing up in England, and I think saw herself as something of an outsider


That is interesting, I had no idea! What other nationality was she?


Her father was listed as a "New Yorker", although Agatha never claimed any American citizenship or connection. She shared my birth date - well, apart from the year! - and was born in Torquay in Devon.
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Re: Agatha Christie

Postby Boodi » 23 Jun 2009, 09:12

That is new information for me. Just goes to show that one learns something new everyday. Thanks ever so much Moonraker.

As we are on the topic, I have not read an Agatha Christie book for years, but I seem to remember that my two favourites were "Murder at Bertram's Hotel" and "Murder Under the Sun". I sort of advanced on to Agatha Christie after I had (as I thought at that time) "out-grown" Enid Blyton....how wrong I was....still reading Enid and as I mentioned above, I have not read an Agatha Christie since 2002 (The ABC Murders I think)!!!!

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Re: Agatha Christie

Postby Moonraker » 23 Jun 2009, 11:12

Great stories. At Betram's Hotel and Evil Under the Sun are the titles you are referring to, and are great stories. As with you, I too advanced on to AC from EB, and as I have said before, the similarities in writing style are incredible.

One of the most entertaining factors for me in reading Christie is that they haven't been updated. I love the old-fashined values and prejudices of the time, even the xenophobia is quite entertaining!

Kitty wrote:That is a coincidence - I was just about to re-read that one (Cat Among the Pigeons) myself.


Have you read it yet, Kitty?
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Re: Agatha Christie

Postby Boodi » 23 Jun 2009, 12:40

Thanks again Moonraker! Odd that I stuck "Murder" into both titles...still, it must be about 30 years since I read the books. "Evil Under The Sun" somehow reminded me of one of my favourite Blyton's, namely "The River of Adventure"!!! I would actually like to read some Agatha Christie books again as there are loads I have not read. My Irish grandmother was a great 'fan of Agatha Christie and had a huge collection of her books. I seem to remember that there was one book (could it have been "The Mirror Cracked/Murder by Mirrors" or something like that? I think it was one of the later ones at any rate) that she decided was "unsuitable" for me. I remember choosing the book from her collection, only to have it snapped out of my hands and being told "You are too young for that at the moment". I am really curious to know what my grandmother found so objectionable/unsuitable!!

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Re: Agatha Christie

Postby Ming » 23 Jun 2009, 14:43

That was The Mirror Crack'd From Side to Side and I think it was about some actress, but don't remember it rightly - been a while since I read that.

My favourite AC's are Curtain, Murder on the Orient Express, Sleeping Murder, Towards Zero and Appointment With Death. Curtain, in particular, always sticks in my mind as a mastermind of psychology, and Towards Zero is a brilliant murder. Miss Amphrey does indeed rather seem like Miss Grayling.
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Re: Agatha Christie

Postby hope189 » 23 Jun 2009, 15:58

Was Towards zero published under some other name too?
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Re: Agatha Christie

Postby Ming » 23 Jun 2009, 17:35

As far as I know, it wasn't.
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Re: Agatha Christie

Postby Moonraker » 23 Jun 2009, 18:06

It was published in America as Come and be Hanged. I've never understood why American editions had to be renamed.

The actress in The Mirror... was Marina Gregg, played by Elizabeth Taylor in a film adaptation.
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Re: Agatha Christie

Postby Philip Mannering » 23 Jun 2009, 18:13

I really loved The ABC Murders and Murder on the Orient Express: my favourite Christies. I also liked Appointment with Death.

My least favourite Christie is 'Curtain' no doubt. The ending was just so unsatisfying.
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