Who is the best author to go to when you’re falling behind in your monthly reading challenge? Agatha Christie is definitely one of the best writers for getting me back on track. I always enjoy her books and they’re usually really quick reads. Meaning I can cross off a couple of letters in a matter of days and stop stressing about it so much. So, I picked up a quick standalone novel. I realise that in my re-readings, I tend to focus more on the Poirot or Miss Marple novels. Well, apart from And Then There Were None which I never stop banging on about. But this is definitely one of her best. There’s a reason why it was included on my suggestions for where to start reading Christie books.
I meant to read Nancy Mitford’s Christmas Pudding back in December but I never got round to it. I ended up with far too many things to on my festive TBR and something had to suffer. Unfortunately, that was Nancy Mitford. Thankfully this month’s book club gave me the chance to make up for this when her novel The Pursuit of Love was chosen. It wasn’t my first choice but I was more than happy with the selection. In fact, it was probably the best bunch of novels so far. I’ve also learnt my lesson from previous months and not left the reading until the last minute. Of course, the chances are Ill have forgotten a lot of it by tomorrow’s meeting but it’s better than rushing the last third. This is what happens when people give me a reading deadline. I just lose all motivation to get it done.
I’m a fan of Shakespeare. I think he’s way more accessible than people give him credit for. I can also understand why so many people don’t get along with him. For me, it all comes down to how you first experience him. For most of us, we’ll come across our first Shakespeare play at school. If you go through this with the right teacher then he you’ll be able to embrace the Bard fully. If you don’t have the right teacher then you’ll just think he’s old and boring. Thankfully, the first play that I studied was Macbeth and it ended up being a lot of fun. Then I got stuck into Othello, Hamlet and King Lear. By the time I was 16, I was already pretty hooked on old Willy. Although, I’ve never been a big fan of a couple of his most popular plays. Romeo and Juliet and A Midsummer Nights Dream tend to be ones that most people are willing to watch. I guess they’re more like traditional romantic comedies, so they might be easier for modern audiences to get behind. Really, I don’t know why people love these plays so much. For me, they’re two of his most tedious plays. And, yes, I have studied the histories. Certainly in the case of Romeo and Juliet. I just think it’s stupid.
Tomorrow is Valentine’s Day, which means that lists of the most romantic reads are popping up all over the internet. Now, I have a huge problem with these lists. Mostly because of the books that continually appear on them. I’ll be honest, I’m not a massive fan of the romance genre anyway. It’s just not my thing. There’s nothing wrong with it but I get bored of the waiting. I also know that romance novels aren’t as terrible as certain people try to make out. There is a pretentiousness that often comes out when talking about romance that mostly occurs because, historically, it has been a genre written for women. I could go deeper into the problematic history of the genre and the marginalisation of certain writers/subjects but I think that’s best saved for a better writer. Instead, I want to focus on problematic books that appear on lists of Valentine’s Day reads. Let’s be honest, many of the supposedly most romantic books ever written feature relationships that we shouldn’t be celebrating. Everywhere I go, I see young bookish people romanticising toxic and awful relationships and I can stay silent no longer. Here are just a view literary loves that we really need to accept aren’t #goals.
So, yet again, my Christmas reading hasn’t gone to plan. It’s my own fault really because who has time for much reading at the moment? I just always seem to have something to do. Meaning all of the books that are over 200 or so pages just seem super long. To get something finished for today’s post, I decided to pick up another short one. I don’t think I’ve ever read the original version of The Nutcracker by German writer E.T.A. Hoffmann. Although, I’ve had this gorgeous illustrated copy for years. I figured it was worth finally checking it out.
How could I not read this during my Agatha Christie month? After all, it’s 100 years since it was first published. 100 years and Agatha Christie is still an important part of the literary canon. The fact that this year sees the release of another adaptation of Death on the Nile only proves that. As a writer, she is so often dismissed as being a writer of cosy crime but she has continually shown her longevity. It’s ridiculous to think that people still underestimate her but that’s always been the problem with the literary canon. And I understand that there are more than a few unsavoury moments that haven’t aged particularly well over the years but she’s not alone there.
You know you’ve made a cultural impact if you inspire an episode of Doctor Who, right? Season 4 is one of my favourite seasons because I think Donna is the best companion in modern Who. It also has some fun episodes. Most importantly for this post is The Unicorn and the Wasp. An episode in which Agatha Christie’s mysterious disappearance is connected with an alien murder mystery involving a giant wasp. Death in the Clouds is referenced towards the end of the episode as evidence that the encounter stayed with her subconsciously. I do wonder how many Who fans picked up the book following the episode. Maybe hoping for something fantastical and extraterrestrial? The giant wasp on the cover of my copy might certainly suggest something rather more sinister to anyone who hasn’t already read it.
Agatha Christie and trains go together like Hercule Poirot and a well-groomed moustache. She bloody loved them. More importantly, she bloody loved to see them feature in her murder mysteries. Nowadays, train travel doesn’t have the same romantic appeal as it may once have done. Although, it’s been about 8 months since I was last on a train so there might actually be some romanticism there right now. My morning commute was nothing very interesting but, now that it’s been taken away from me, I do miss it a bit. So, I thought I’d indulge in some train travel during my Christie month. This has never been one of my favourite Christie stories so I’m never that keen to revisit it. It was definitely time for a reread.
October is over halfway through and I’ve just finished my third Agatha Christie book of the month. I was hoping to be a bit further ahead at this point but the last couple of weeks haven’t been good for reading. I’m on holiday now and I’m planning on getting as much done as possible. Even if I don’t get any other Christie books read before Halloween (even though I definitely will have to read And Then There Were None for my book club), I have achieved the one thing I wanted. I’ve reread Death on the Nile before Kenny B brings his film out. You can see why it was the second in this latest series of adaptations. It’s one of the first murder mysteries that most people think of when they think of the Queen of Crime. You can definitely see why. As murders go, this is pretty memorable.
Like most book people, Autumn is my favourite time of year. Knitwear weather is starting but we’re still not in the potentially icy period. The leaves are starting to change, the nights are getting darker and socially acceptable to stay inside all the time. It is also the perfect time to read a whole bunch of Agatha Christie. I know people like to use the term “cosy crime” as a pejorative but it’s nothing of the sort. It is, however, cosy. There’s nothing I love more than settling down with a cup of tea and a murder mystery. I have several books that I want to get through this year but I decided to start with this one. Some may think it’s the wrong time of year for a crime thriller set in a Summer holiday resort but why not?