Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Notes on Agatha Christie

  • She really has a knack for detailed and vivid description, genuinely human dialogue, both conceiling and revealing clues and red herrings in a way that builds to the climax. It is really hard to put her books down.
  • She is usually pretty psychologically astute, but occasionally her (masterful) manipulation of events shows through in an undermotivated action or decision on the part of one of the characters.
  • No one in my family actually likes Poirot or Marple as characters, although we certainly enjoy the books they appear in. We all agree that we enjoy better the ones they don't appear in.
  • She seems to have an obsession with Americans. They appear frequently in her stories. When they do she overdoes the slang, causing me to cringe. It isn't quite right--seems studied and overwrought--not natural.
  • She seems to have a typically British Guy Fawkes Day type abhorrance of things Catholic. I am always disappointed when I find perfectly intelligent Brits who are so unreflective about this prejudice. It's "civilization vs. those benighted, superstitious, jesuitical, untrustworthy not-quite-full Englishmen."--the very attitude that Waugh addresses by portraying the real Catholicism in Brideshead.

1 comment:

Innocent said...


I read your blog occassionally, though this is the first time I comment. It was through your post on Sertillanges that I first found your blog. I enjoy your writings.

Good observations about Agatha Christie.

I'm a Catholic, too.

I too had noticed that she made some of her significant characters (e.g., Amy Carnaby in The Flock of Geryon) treat the Catholic Church with a bit of disdain. But then I was surprised to read in The Adventure of the Christmas Pudding that when Col. Lacey says that midnight Mass is too much like "Popery" he then apologises to Hercule Poirot.

After that my curiosity was aroused and I tried to find out if Agatha Christie had ever mentioned Poirot's religion explicitly somewhere. Later, while reading The Apples of Hesperides in The Labours of Hercules, I was pleasantly surprised to learn that Poirot was "a Catholic by birth."

Later, I was even more surprised and happy to read in the short story The Chocolate Box Hercule Poirot saying to Capt. Hastings, "I am, as you also know, bon catholique ...."

I don't know Agatha Christie's opinion of Catholicism in general, (I have recently bought her autobiography. Perhaps, after reading that, I might learn what she thought about Catholicism.)

However, I do know that she signed a petition to Pope Paul VI requesting permission for the use of the Tridentine Mass in England and Wales. You can read about it here:


It's great to read those parts in the novels and short stories when Poirot upholds the good of the family, marriage, and appeals passionately to the plans and the will of Le bon Dieu.

I found one half of your third point different from my experience, since there have been times when I didn't particularly enjoy the plot-line of some novel or short-story, but I read it anyway simply because Poirot was in it. I, personally, would very much love to meet Hercule Poirot in person. (Though he would probably have a heart attack if he saw my room - complete lack of any order and method.) As a character, he is fascinating and unique.

Mrs. Marple, however, I don't find appealing as a character.

With love and prayers,

Yours in Christ,