The End of an Era

March 11, 2013

Page 131. The end is approaching and I'm not emotionally prepared for this. Out of 166 pages, 9 of them are about the author, related products, etc. So, there are a total of 157 pages of novel. And I'm on page 131. I've gone from the early interbella period through the 70's and now I'm approaching the end. In 1920 Agatha Christie published The Mysterious Affair at Styles, her first novel and the first Hercule Poirot mystery. Admittedly, I'm less fond of Poirot as I am of Miss Marple, but even she was born of a side character (not of the same name) in an early Poirot novel.

Thirty-three novels spanning from 1920 to 1972. And, I'm at the penultimate, which is probably the last of the Poirot novels I care to read. I read all of the Miss Marple novels first, but there are only 12 of those. I wrote about them here. I began to read the Poirot mysteries almost begrudgingly. "If I can't have the character I want I'll go ahead and read these." That was more or less my mindset. I've taken issue with him on occasion, but good lord, with that many novels not every one of them can please everybody. But, I've grown accustomed to him. I look forward to weekends with a light novel and a nap on the sofa. The Miss Marple novels helped me keep my sanity when I lived in a small town 20 miles from Austin (I ramble about that here) and Poirot has become a part of what I enjoy about my apartment; part of what makes this little place feel like home.

And now I'm on page 131.

The last novel is called Curtain and I'm almost certain that Poirot dies in it. It was written during WWII and set to be published postmortem. Actually, it was published just before she passed away, but after she had realized that she would not be able to write another novel. I'm not certain I want to read about him dying. It would be like watching the Last M∙A∙S∙H, knowing that Hawkeye was going to die. (He doesn't.) Miss Marple also had a final novel written at the same time and it was published after Christie passed away. I read it in the order it was written in, not published, so it fit in. (I think that Christie adjusted Curtain to fit in at the end of the series, but didn't get a chance to do so with Sleeping Murder.)

There's always Tommy and Tuppence, but, I'm not excited about them. Maybe I'll give them a whirl. There aren't that many of their novels. They could at least tide me over until I find the next thing that I want to read.

And, this is a remarkably long series. I really have nothing to complain about. When I started it, and I found an official reading order, I felt comfortable that I'd be set for a while. I guess I was. But, now it's coming to an end. I'm on page 131 and this is likely the last one I'll read and I'm sad, and not just a little anxious. How will I fill my Saturday afternoons? Cleaning? Pffft! I'm going to go to bed now and read. It's likely that I will be finished with the book before I fall asleep. And then tomorrow will come along and somehow I'll go on. Maybe I'll cry.

Until later,


BYRC – Appointment with Death

August 26, 2012

I have read all of the Miss Marple books I could find and now I'm working my way through the Hercule Poirot series. It just so happened that the next book on my list was Appointment with Death, which was published in 1938, so it qualified for the Birth Year Reading Challenge. It's kind of cheating because the challenge is supposed to introduce us to books we wouldn't have otherwise read, and clearly I was about to read this one anyway. But, oh well.

The story itself is 178 pages on my Nook, and the Nook is generally comparable to actual books w/r/t the number of pages. The publisher fills up the rest of the 209 pages with a list of Poirot books, snippets about the books and an "essay" by Charles Osborne, which was actually a list of facts about the book and its subsequent appearances on stage and screen. It was taken from a biographical companion to the works of Agatha Christie. I realize that I put far too much of my personal reactions in book reviews that I write, but that was just entirely too dry. (It was a little informative, though.)

In this novel Christie incorporates a dominant matriarch who is actually a "mental sadist". This sort of character is commonplace now, especially in TV, but I don't know how common it was in 1938. I did deep, in-depth research on the subject (I read the Wikipedia article on the book) and I did not find any reference to this aspect one way or another, so I can't report how edgy Christie was in writing about dangerously deranged people. (I'm trying not to be offended that the sadist is American.)

As usual Poirot interviews the suspects, but this time I couldn't help wondering why they agreed to be interviewed. I mean, I wouldn't have answered his questions; I wouldn't even have answered his summons to the interview. He didn't have any authority. A couple of the girls looked at him with pleading eyes, but why would they plead with this person who was not an official detective, when the real detective wasn't even present? Why would they collectively agree to gather together in the end with him so that he could reveal who did it? I don't remember ever feeling this way with the other Poirot novels, so I suspect that Christie didn't do as good a job this time of justifying it.

Not only that, I didn't want him to find the answer. She did a good enough job of creating the dominant, sadistic mother/bitch that I wanted him to keep his Belgian nose and his luxurious moustaches out of the family's business. Even the ending didn't satisfy me in this respect; it did not justify – in my eyes – his interference.

Christie married an archæologist in 1930 and from what I understand her experiences with him led to this novel – its location, anyway. I enjoyed her description of Petra and it seems accepted that it is accurate. In the snippets of her Autobiography that I read she shows acute interest in archeology and a longing for the Middle East whenever she left it.

I also read that she learned to hate Poirot, but was faithful to her readers and kept writing about him as long as they kept enjoying him, which was all of her life. I much prefer Miss Marple, though there are far fewer of her novels than of M. Poirot. I think I'm okay with that. Her Marple novels seem much more involved, especially with regard to character development. Christie wrote her first Poirot novel (indeed her first novel) in 1916. (It was published in 1920.) Published in 1938, Appointment with Death is her 16th Poirot novel, which doesn't even count the 4 novellas and many short stories. I can't help feeling that she's tired of him by now.

I read this Novel basically in one day. I enjoyed it, partly because it was not too taxing while I lay on the sofa drinking coffee. I have no real love for Poirot, but I do have a love for Christie's writing style and the whodunit nature of her books. I enjoyed the scenery she paints, even if I wasn't as fond of these characters that she used to paint it.

Thus concludes my review of the first book I read on my Birth Year Reading Challenge. Next up, I believe, is Are You There, God? It's me, Margaret.

More later,