My purpose for starting this Agatha Christie journey was to push back against all the speculation and assumptions bandied about by people who didn’t even know her. I wanted to rise above the noise and go directly to the source, to learn about Agatha by hearing from her.
It’s been a little like a Julie and Julia experience for me, exploring the life of someone who didn’t even live in this world at the same time as me but whose literary impact has arguably surpassed that of any other writer. As I read, I found an autobiography flowing with a warm voice and an honesty I wasn’t expecting.
Happy July! If you know anything about Agatha Christie, you’re probably aware of her disappearance. After all, those of us who love her work love a good mystery, and her disappearance is exactly that. There’s been so much speculation over the years, with theories ranging from plausible to absurd. In sharing quotes from Agatha’s autobiography, I wanted to highlight her voice instead of indulging assumptions, so this is the first time I’m wandering out into speculative territory. But like any good investigator, I’m going to back it up with evidence, focusing on some key clues in Agatha’s autobiography.
So let’s start with the facts. Here’s what we know: on the evening of December 3, 1926, Agatha Christie (who by this point had published six novels but was not the legend she is now) left home in her Morris Crowley car (this is significant). The next morning, her Morris Crowley was found abandoned on a steep slope near a quarry. A search ensued. For eleven days, this was big news, her face plastered on newspapers across the country.
On December 14, Agatha was recognized at a spa hotel, checked in under the name Mrs. Tressa Neele. After she was found, her husband told everyone she was suffering from amnesia and didn’t know who she was. Agatha herself didn’t offer any explanation for her disappearance and never spoke about it publicly. If she spoke to friends about it, they’ve kept quiet. (May we all have such loyal friends!)
There’s no mention in Agatha’s autobiography about this event, but there were a few things that stood out to me, clues that I think are meaningful.
Happy June! Cicada Brood X has emerged and is causing quite a racket in my neighborhood, but I can’t say I mind it. A little white noise is good for my brain. I just finished my most recent manuscript and am now trying to catch up on some reading while ideas of my next project circle around my mind like sharks going for the kill. That’s one reason I chose this month’s quote.
“There is always, of course, that terrible three weeks, or a month, which you have to get through when you are trying to get started on a book. There is no agony like it. You sit in a room, biting pencils, looking at a typewriter, walking about, or casting yourself down on a sofa, feeling you want to cry your head off. Then you go out, you interrupt someone who is busy — Max usually, because he is so good-natured — and you say: ‘It’s awful, Max, do you know I have quite forgotten how to write — I simply can’t do it any more! I shall never write another book.’
“‘Oh yes, you will,’ Max would say consolingly. He used to say it with some anxiety at first; now his eyes stray back again to his work while he talks soothingly.
“‘But I know I won’t. I can’t think of an idea. I had an idea, but now it seems no good.’
“‘You’ll just have to get through this phase. You’ve had all this before. You said it last year. You said it the year before.’
“‘It’s different this time,’ I say, with positive assurance.
“But it wasn’t different, of course, it was just the same. You forget every time what you felt before when it comes again. Such misery and despair, such inability to do anything that will be in the least creative. And yet it seems that this particular phase of misery has got to be lived through.”
Happy May! I hope the spring weather is absolutely lovely where you are. This month, I’m focusing on how Agatha Christie viewed her writing, especially in the early days as she was establishing herself as a storyteller.
“It was by now just beginning to dawn on me that perhaps I might be a writer by profession. I was not sure of it yet. I still had an idea that writing books was only the natural successor to embroidering sofa-cushions.”
Happy April! I sat outside earlier today to get some sunlight and wow, I’ve missed that all-natural Vitamin D. It always seems to warm up my brain, shooting creative inspiration all the way through it. Speaking of creativity and writing, our quote this month is one that quite amuses me, and I think you’ll see why.
“An early story of mine was shown to a well-known authoress by a kindly friend. She reported on it sadly but adversely, saying the author would never make a writer. What she really meant, although she did not know it herself because she was an author and not a critic, was that the person who was writing was still an immature and inadequate writer who could not as yet produce anything worth publishing. A critic or an editor might have been more perceptive, because it is their profession to notice the germs of what may be. So I don’t like criticising and I think it can easily do harm.”