Happy Agatha Day! It feels a little like we’re in a strange, alternate world right now, doesn’t it? I hope you’re all hanging in there and treating yourselves well. This month’s Agatha quote feels especially appropriate for this time.
“Life is really like a ship — the interior of a ship, that is. It has watertight compartments. You emerge from one, seal and bolt the doors, and find yourself in another. My life from the day we left Southampton to the day we returned to England was one such compartment. Ever since that I have felt the same about travel. You step from one life into another. You are yourself, but a different self.”
Context: This paragraph opens a new section where Agatha is talking about how it felt to return from an exciting but grueling international tour for her first husband’s job. She muses about how strange it can feel to return from such a trip, how foreign your old life can seem after such a long period of being abroad.
Why I Chose It: For me, it really does capture what it’s like to go through something and then “return” to your previous life. You’re not the same person. It has echoes of the title of the Thomas Wolfe book, You Can’t Go Home Again. And while Agatha was referring to traveling, it’s so applicable to any life journey. When you go through something, it changes you, shaping you into a modified version of the person you were. As she says, “You are yourself, but a different self.”
We’re all going through something major right now, and we’ll come out of it changed. For some people, it will be in minor ways, and for others, they will feel like they have become entirely different people. But what I find especially hopefully is that through implies movement, forward progress. Eventually we will arrive somewhere else. One day, we’ll emerge from this compartment, and we’ll seal the door behind us, moving forward as different selves. Until then, hold onto the hope of that day with as much strength as you can summon and be kind to yourself and to each other.
Happy Agatha Day! We have made it through March, although it sure seemed to last forever. I thought about skipping a quote this month, but then I remembered that Agatha had some things to say about the state of the world that are perfect for what we’re all going through right now. It’s a longer quote, but it’s absolutely worth a read.
“There is at least the dawn, I believe, of a kind of good will. We mind when we hear of earthquakes, of spectacular disasters to the human race. We want to help. That is a real achievement; which I think must lead somewhere. Not quickly — nothing happens quickly — but at any rate we can hope. I think sometimes we do not appreciate that second virtue which we mention so seldom in the trilogy — faith, hope and charity. Faith we have had, shall we say, almost too much of — faith can make you bitter, hard, unforgiving; you can abuse faith. Love we cannot but help knowing in our own hearts is the essential. But how often do we forget that there is hope as well, and that we seldom think about hope? We are ready to despair too soon, we are ready to say, ‘What’s the good of doing anything?’ Hope is the virtue we should cultivate most in this present day and age.”
Context: This paragraph follows Agatha’s musings about life after WWII. Having lived through both world wars, serving as a nursing assistant and then a pharmacy assistant in the first, and returning to work again in a pharmacy during the second, she saw a lot of tragedy and pain. To her, it seems war is pointless. What’s the purpose of winning one war if another is bound to follow? And yet, in spite of the things she has seen, she’s hopeful—hopeful that society is improving, that the future will be brighter than the past.
Why I Chose It: I think it’s a particularly insightful observation. And I agree with what Agatha says—so much attention is given to faith and love. People cling to faith and adore love, but much less consideration is given to hope. Often we look at hopeful people as being unrealistic or out of touch. But it takes great strength to be hopeful, especially in the face of tragedy. And the pain we feel for the suffering of others means we are connected, we care even though we may not know them. To feel that pain or fear and still hope—that is pure and beautiful strength. Cultivate hope, my friends. It’s more powerful than you think.
Happy March! I hope you’re all staying healthy and enjoying the weather as we move toward spring. This month I’ve chosen a rather illuminating quote about Agatha’s career ambitions in the world of writing.
“I personally had no ambition. I knew that I was not very good at anything. Tennis and croquet I used to enjoy playing, but I never played them well. How much more interesting it would be if I could say that I always longed to be a writer, and was determined that someday I would succeed, but, honestly, such an idea never came into my head.”
Context: This quote falls after a paragraph where Agatha is musing about her older sister’s literary pursuits. Madge began writing stories before Agatha and was in fact published in Vanity Fair multiple times, something she gave up once she got married. She later went on to write several plays, one of which was produced by the Royal Theatre.
Agatha also mentions that Madge was a talented actress. And, amusingly enough, in the line before this quote, reflects, “There is no doubt that Madge was the talented member of our family.”
Why I Chose It: Before I read her autobiography, I thought Agatha Christie must’ve been someone with great ambition, given everything she accomplished. So it was surprising to me to discover that writing was something she came to gradually, falling into it rather than doggedly pursuing it.
This quote also shows her humility, how she never imagined she would become a prolific author and a legend of the mystery fiction world. Whatever her assessment of her own capabilities, I think we can all agree that Agatha was truly talented in her own right. And even though she originally had no plans to establish herself as a writer, I’m so very grateful she did.
Happy February! As this is the month in which we celebrate Valentine’s Day, I thought it would be especially appropriate if I shared an Agatha Christie quote about her husband. (Her second husband. The good one.)
“I thought then, and indeed have thought ever since, what a wonderful person Max is. He is so quiet, so sparing with words of commiseration. He does things. He does just the things you want done and that consoles you more than anything else could.”
Context: After her first marriage ended, Agatha seized the freedom to travel, leaving her daughter in the care of Agatha’s sister. She was visiting an archaeologist and his wife in Iraq when she first met Max Mallowan, the archaeologist’s assistant. He was promptly tasked with showing her around and escorting her from one city to another.
They were in Greece when Agatha received a set of telegrams informing her that her daughter, Rosalind, was ill with pneumonia. While arranging return travel, Agatha sprained her ankle rather badly. Max immediately changed his plans so he could accompany Agatha back to England and provide any assistance she might need along the way. This quote falls in the midst of that story, as Agatha is considering the kindness Max showed then and in later years.
Why I Chose It: Well, it’s about love, for one thing. I appreciate seeing people speak positively about their spouses, emphasizing their positive traits. And it shows what Agatha appreciated in a partner—specifically, the consideration Max demonstrated. Since they weren’t married during the story she’s recounting, it also reveals what might’ve first attracted Agatha to Max.
As someone who is married to a kind and considerate human, I can tell you, those traits are far too often overlooked in favor of the flashier ones. But in my view, kindness is the purest and most beautiful trait in a spouse. Pretty words and grand gestures are great, but when you’ve sprained your ankle and are worried about a loved one, you want someone who’s there, who’s looking out for you, choosing small, considerate actions over words. That’s the kind of love that stands the test of time.
Happy New Year! As it is a Wednesday, it is also time for another Agatha Christie quote, which is, in my view, a wonderful way to start 2020.
“Always when I woke up, I had the feeling which I am sure must be natural to all of us, a joy in being alive. I don’t say you feel it consciously — you don’t — but there you are, you are alive, and you open your eyes, and here is another day; another step, as it were, on your journey to an unknown place. That very exciting journey which is your life. Not that it is necessarily going to be exciting as a life, but it will be exciting to you because it is your life. That is one of the great secrets of existence, enjoying the gift of life that has been given to you.”
Context: Just before this passage, Agatha is musing about how fortunate she was to be blessed with such time when she was a child. She always had tasks to do, of course, but she was able to arrange them as she wanted, providing her with a wonderful sense of independence and freedom.
Why I Chose It: First off, I love seeing Agatha’s mindset represented here. She seems to view life as an exciting journey, one meant to be enjoyed instead of just survived. And in spite of the difficulties she had as a child (losing her father, financial worries), she still looks back and appreciates all the positive aspects of her childhood.
It’s also an incredibly appropriate quote for the new year, isn’t it? Simply remembering to enjoy the life we have and appreciate the time we have been given can be powerful. So much has been given to us, so many wonderful gifts inhabit our lives, but too often we overlook those gifts in search of others. We are here, now, alive and entering a brand new year. That, my friends, is something to be celebrated.