Agatha Christie is the 2nd most popular author in the English language. Only Shakespeare beats her. She was prolific to the max and all her books are still in print. Why is so STILL so beloved? I really agree with her current biographer Laura Thompson that it’s the power of her writing. NOT just the mysteries themselves, which, yes, for the most part are brilliant.
But she could write like an angel and it’s very satisfying to read her books for, yes, her prose style, dare I say. The beginning of “Elephants CAN Remember” opens with a never-endlessly funny(to me) monologue for her also underrated mystery writer character(Really a caricature of herself, which she admitted freely) Ariadne Oliver.
ARIADNE, who, you say?
Well, in her later years, it is said she grew tired of her most famous creation the Belgian detective Hercule Poirot. The world fell in love with Poirot and it is said that it was his astounding popularity that propelled Dame Agatha to keep including him in her puzzles, her novels. She wrote over 80 of them, and Poirot is featured in something like 50.
The brilliant actor David Suchet, played him on the PBS series that ran for over 25 years. He filmed Poirot in every one. A great actor, he made the already endearing character, even more popular than ever. A Belgian, who was constantly mistaken for a Frenchman,(and he didn’t like that), was an OCD personality before that affliction even had a name.
His morning eggs had to be exactly the same size, for instance, and he was always com il faut, with his bow ties, cravats, vests, and patent leather shoes that were always too tight. Ariadne Oliver was his best female friend, a colleague, never a love interest, but she could be outrageous, while Poirot was always serious about his “little grey cells”(his ever-functioning brain).
I wish there was more of her. She turned up late in the Christie ouevre, but had Dame Agatha not died in 1976, at age 86, she was still writing, and I do believe Ariadne Oliver would have been more center stage than she was. In one of her last books “Elephants Can Remember” she practically elbows Poirot off to the sidelines.
She was irrestible. She was funny, in the drollest sense of the world, and she was constantly fed up with her writing and HER detective, Sven Hjerson, a Finn, who she grew tired of years previously. She beviled by him. Ariadne says “Of course, he’s idiotic, but people like him.”
British actress Zoe Wanamaker is just as sensational a scene stealer on the PBS TV series as she is in the books.
Addicted to eating apples constantly, she is always decrying her fate as a mystery writer/novelist in the wryest manner possible.
She appears in at least six of the later Poirot novels. She seems to make them bearable to Christie, who killed off Poirot in the ’40s in a book that wasn’t published til after her death “Curtain.”
To be continued…