First published: 2007
I prefer fiction to non-fiction, but from time to time I read some non-fiction about topics that interest me. For example, this one is a study about Agatha Christie, who is one of my all-time favourite authors.
The book starts with her childhood in Torquay. Agatha was born in 1890. Her mother was Clarissa, who everybody called Clara, and her upbringing was not easy. Her mother, Mary Ann, was widowed very young as her husband was killed in a riding accident. So her sister Margaret, who had no children, brought up Clara, a fact that Clara felt showed the lack of love of her mother. Then Clara married Margaret’s stepson, Frederick, who was an American.
The couple had three children, Margaret (Madge) Louis Montant (Monty) and Agatha.
Clara bought a house in Torquay where she raised her children.
Her mother didn’t want Agatha to be taught to read before she was eight, but the girl taught herself to read when she was four. her parents were responsible for teaching her to read and write and to be able to perform basic arithmetic, a subject that she particularly enjoyed. They also taught her about music, and she learned to play both the piano and the mandolin.
Her father died when she was just eleven, and from that moment the family had to live on a shoestring.
Agatha and her mother continued living in Ashfield. Madge married James Watts and moved to Abney Hall, the family stately home, where Agatha set some of her crime novels. Her brother Monty joined the army but he was unable to keep a job for long.
Agatha was sent to Paris where she was educated in three pensions – Mademoiselle Cabernet’s, Les Marroniers, and then Miss Dryden’s – the last of which served primarily as a finishing school. During this time she cultivated music, but she soon realised that she was not good enough.
Then Agatha and her mother went to Cairo. They stayed for three months at the Gezirah Palace Hotel. Agatha, always chaperoned by her mother, attended many social functions in search of a husband.