by A. Christie

Hardcover, 1977

Call number




Dodd, Mead & Co. (1977), Edition: 1st Printing, 560 pages


Dame Agatha Christie sheds light on her secretive life and tells of her early years, her marriages and rise to success.

User reviews

LibraryThing member reading_fox
Superb, really enjoyably charming with delightful historical insights into life in the early 1900s, and of course some of the details of Mrs Chrisitie's life.

The first third is perhaps the best part of the whole book. She describes growing up in 1890s through to her "coming out" in the 1910s as a
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young girl in a relatively lower income, but upper class family. They only had three servants for example. I really enjoyed the odd snippets of the families daily life. Mrs Chrisite hasn't tried to be structured in any way with this memoir - it is just that a connected series of memories, the things that stood out when she was thinking back on her childhood. The hours of fun one can have with a simple hoop, or the imaginary train lines she ran round the flower beds. The food she used to eat (prepared by the cook) seven course meals every day, a Christmas dinner with two different types of Turkey plus beef (and of course starters, the fish course, pudding, dessert AND cake). This is an example of one of the few problems with this book, because I really had to think a bit before the distinction between pudding and desserts. There are others - a "semi evening dress" for example. Customs and cultures that were the norm at the time, and still understood in the 60s when this was written, are now passing out of memory and explanation.

The only other complaint I have is the middle section slows down just a little. Somehow the period after the Great War, didn't have quite the gaiety in the writing that the earlier memories did, or the sense of discovery in the later ones. Maybe it was just that this part of Mrs Chrisities life wasn't as exciting, but I think it was also partly the writing here too. Most of the anecdotes concern places, either houses she was living in or the trips she took. They are of course populated by lots of characters, but somehow these serve to highlight the experiences rather than being key people in her life. It was interesting to note how little the two world wars featured. A few years of disturbance certainly, but life went on.

She only talks a little bit about her writing, some of the early attempts and getting her first book published, a few mentions of stories she felt particularly worked well, and just one or two instances of the influences that helped her develop a plot. A little time was spent in her switch to play writing, but given her vast output of books she explains quite well why it was only until late in life that se really thought of herself as an author. What I didn't realise is just how many different books she wrote, not all Hercule and Miss Marple, but on many other themes as well, including summaries of her 2nd husband's archaeological digs.

The writing style is light, gently humorous and very readable. Topics naturally flow into one another, which means that the chronology isn't always linear, but it is obvious. Mrs Christie has mostly only written about the positives which makes it a happy book to read. She does describe herself as mostly being a positive person though, and I think it's fair to say she's generally enjoyed life - even when it wasn't all fair sailing.

It's a fascinating read and something I'd thoroughly recommend to anyone who's enjoyed her books, or has any interest in 1900s English life
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LibraryThing member cstebbins
Thoroughly enjoyable, like all Agatha Christie's books. I figure this is as good a place as any to throw in my gratuitous opinion of the author's work, though I realize completely that it will contribute nothing to the world at large. For my money Agatha Christie far outshines the Baroness of
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Holland Park, the antipodean Dame, even the translator of Dante, to say nothing of her more distant rivals. She always gives value and pleases where the others pall. How? By modestly staying within the limits of the genre she did so much to define. With the exception of a (relatively) mild case of social snobbery, she avoids the defects that are so annoying, particularly on rereading, in various of her competitors: intellectual snobbery, pseudo-philosophical posturing, gloom and doom, world-weariness, empire fatigue and just plain old misanthropy. Agatha Christie is simply the best.
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LibraryThing member claude_lambert
Agatha Christie's memoirs are just as good as Pride and Prejudice, Her memoirs are not appreciated as they should because she was a mystery writer. But you will find here all the Victorian expressions of despair, revolt, love, adventure - and you have to read constantly between the lines. It is a
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big book to savor slowly. And I would give ten lives of Austen's characters for one as adventurous, intelligent and compassionate as Christie.
This was a real lady. More than that: a real woman.
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LibraryThing member purplequeennl
I am finally finished! This is a long read, a rambling look back over Agatha Christie's life. It was less about her writing career and more about all the other interesting things she has done: served as a dispensing chemist during the first world war; travelled extensively in the Middle East.
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Agatha writes it in 1st person, and very much her own style. It was like I could hear her speaking. I had to keep reminding myself that she finished it in 1965, as there were many references to things that made me think: 'if only she knew how things were now'. Her writing career is very much in the background of this autobiography, as she treated it so in her life. She didn't consider herself an author, she considered it just a sort of past-time which happened to make her money. She considered herself a 'married woman' first and foremost, which was very much a product of her era - being born in 1890. In fact her writing doesn't really get a mention until after the first 200 pages, after a rambling account of her childhood and the different places she stayed and things she did.

There are references to conversations and events written in French (as that was what they were spoken), which are not translated, as Agatha Christie lived in France for a time in her childhood so she could learn it fluently, and had a French companion/nanny as well. She also did this later in the book as she also used French when in the Middle East and I found it disappointing that the publisher didn't endeavour to provide a translation of them as you miss some bits of pieces - or that it didn't occur to her that a reader would not know French. (very much a product of her class and era).

Towards the end she discusses her novels and the writing in more detail, especially when she started to write plays, and it was interesting to think that she didn't consider herself as talented as such or that she had a gift. Her humble modesty is quite disarming.

Agatha Christie had an interesting and intriguing life, which is what keep me reading this rambling account. She would have been quite a person to have known.
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LibraryThing member Coffeehag
This chronological journey through Agatha Christie's life was one of the most fascinating books I've ever read. The philosophies and reflections Agatha shares along the way are refreshing and insightful.

Agatha's childhood, growing up in the Victorian era, was so different from what one would expect
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today (if one can ever talk about a "typical" childhood) that one cannot help but be struck by the comparison. Agatha did not, for example, attend school or have a governess. Her mother hired an untrained French girl to play with her daughter, so that Agatha could learn French. She learned other subjects in other equally unconventional ways. Because she did not attend school, she had time to give free reign to her gifted imagination.

Agatha lived through two world wars and worked as a volunteer dispenser of medical drugs to help with the war effort during both wars. During World War I, she married Archie Christie, who left her for another woman shortly after her mother died.

Agatha began traveling, alone, and met the man who would become her second husband when he was working on an archeological expedition. Agatha came to know a lot about archaeology and helped to clean sand from fragile artifacts using her face cream.

Agatha always had trouble thinking of herself as an author. However, as this autobiography illustrates, Agatha's works, whether fictional or otherwise, are highly entertaining and bear witness to her gift for depicting vivid characters. It was fascinating to witness how much Agatha's life shows up in her fictional works and from whence she drew her inspiration.
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LibraryThing member face_at_the_window
As interesting to read as any of her Marple or Poirot novels.
LibraryThing member exlibrisemk
An invaluable addition to the library of a Christie fan, her somewhat rambling autobiography gives the reader a glimpse of the author as the woman behind the mysteries, as well as descriptions of the background events in her life during her career.
LibraryThing member antiquary
I had read Christie's Come Tell Me How You LIve, a brief account of her archaeological experience, but I was somehow unaware of her posthumously published autobiography, which is a delightful picture of growing up in late Victorian England and her later life with her 2 husbands, particularly the
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archaeologist Max Mallowan.
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LibraryThing member GTTexas
One of the best and most enjoyable auto-biographies I've read in a long time. Most interesting to me to read a first hand account of live in late Victorian times by one who lived it, and, of course, Christie is one of my most beloved mystery writers which made it all the more enjoyable.
LibraryThing member mountie9
The Good Stuff

Delightful charming read
Fascinating stories of Agatha's life
Learned so much about life during the war in England
Interesting historical information
Enjoyed the chapter where Agatha talks about the production of going swimming as a girl and a women in Victorian England
Very wise and
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accurate observations of life
Was actually quite surprised how intriguing of a read it was, had a hard time putting it down on a couple of occasions
Absolutley flabergasted that she really never had an inkling that she wanted to be an author until quite far along in her life
Extremely funny at times
Very respectful of her ex husband which is extremely classy
Will be buying a finished copy with the bonus CD (hoping there are pictures in the finished copy as well)
Honestly this was just like sitting down and having her tell you the story of her life - just felt very personal and honest. I have never read an Agatha Christie book before, and now think I will be picking up a couple of them as I was so impressed by her autobiography
Was intrigued by all the travelling she did and especially of the times she spent with her husband on Archeaology digs -- truly fascinating
She just has such a postive hopeful attitude towards life in all its ups and downs, it was just so inspiring to read
The Not So Good Stuff

Almost too squeaky clean at times and obviously leaves out some interesting passages of her life. That being said I wouldn't want to air my dirty laundry either, but for the reader they might be disappointed by this
Drags a wee bit
Favorite Quotes/Passages

"I loved 'Problems'. Thought merely sums in diguise, they had an intriguing flavour. 'John has five apples, George has six; if John gave away two of George's apples, how many will George have at the end of the day?' and so on. Nowadays, thinking of that problem, I feel an urge to reply; "Depends on how fond of apples George is."
"One cannot, ever, go back to the place which exists in momory. You would not see it with the same eyes-even supposing that it should improbably have remained much the same. What you have had you have had. 'The happy highways where I went, And shall not come again...' Never go back to a place where you have been happy. Until you do it remains alive for you. If you go back it will be destroyed."

"Lake Louise was for a long time my answer when I was asked which was the most beautiful place I had ever seen: - a great, long blue lake, low mountains on either side, all of a most glorious shape, closing in with snow mountains at the end of it."

" We are all the same people as we were at three, six, ten or twenty years old. More noticebly so, perhaps, at six or seven, because we were not pretending so much then, whereas at twenty we put on a show of being someone else, of being in the mode of the moment. If there is an intellectual fashion, you become an intellectual; if girls are fluffy and frivolous, you are fluffy and frivolous. As life goes on, however, it becomes tiring to keep up the character you invented for yourself, and so you relapse into individuality and become more like yourself everyday."

Who Should/Shouldn't Read

Obviously fans of Agatha Christie will enjoy
Perfect for those who know nothing about her and want to learn something
Quite frankly most readers will get something from this
Those with an interest in Victorian England will find tons of interesting tidbits
4.25 Dewey's

I received this from HarperCollins in exchange for an Honest
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LibraryThing member Meredy
Probably through no fault of its own, this meandering 532-page memoir is failing to hold my attention. I'm letting it go at page 170 out of 532 (32%) and taking it back to the library.

The questions I want answered when I read a book like this are, first, what caused or enabled the young x to
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become the adult y, and second, what inklings were there from childhood of the traits or abilities that would manifest themselves in the mature individual? Quite possibly the answers are here, but they are too long in coming. Instead Christie seems repeatedly to deny that such a remarkable career as hers might have been anticipated from anything in her history.

Certainly we see young Agatha as a supremely imaginative child with an absorbing inner life as well as a positive, embracing attitude toward the world around her. It wasn't all satin gowns and silver bowls; the privileged early years gave way to relatively hard times after her father's death. As I leave the book, the first World War is still to come, and Agatha has not yet begun her career as an author.

I'm not much of a reader of biography and autobiography. Usually some driving interest has led me to the ones I've enjoyed, and it may be that the interest can't be forced; or perhaps I'm just in more of a mood for the escape of fiction right now--escape of the sort that dozens of Christie's own novels have afforded me in the past. This may simply be the wrong time for me to tackle such a long and desultory memoir. So I think I'm going to put it aside for now and get on with something that will hold my attention better.

In passing, though, I must mention that the book is marred by quite a number of surprising typos, considering how many times and ways the manuscript must have passed through authorial and editorial hands over the years and the editions. To mention only two, spotlighted by their status as well-known titles: Dumas' novel The Count of Monte Christo (should be Cristo) and the Puccini aria "Te Gelida Manina" (should be "Che gelida manina"). I regard such lapses, especially when numerous, as affronts to the attentive reader, who should always be treated with respect.

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LibraryThing member LibraryCin
Agatha Christie was 75-years old when she wrote (via dictation) this autobiography of her life. Born in 1890, she lived until 1976, so she lived through a lot and she did a lot of different things with her life. During the First World War, she was a nurse, then worked in a dispensary (pharmacy).
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She loved to travel and in addition to writing, she later helped her archaeologist husband at digs in the Middle East.

This was really good. I found it a little more interesting after she became an adult, but it was still interesting to read about the social customs at various points in her life - a lot of that was described really well about the early 20th century. Although I've not read a lot of her books, it was still interesting to read about where she got the ideas for some of her books and such. The edition I got from the library also had a CD included with portions of her dictation. This was recorded in the 70s, so not the best quality, but kind of neat to listen to. Not only that, as I was listening to it in the background while I wrote this review, I flipped back through the book and happened upon the same passage she was dictating; it was also interesting to see how it was slightly changed/rearranged.
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LibraryThing member SylviaC
Although Agatha Christie's autobiography got off to a slow start, I thoroughly enjoyed it. The broad categories that she included were her childhood and youth, WWI and her first marriage, her second marriage and travels in the Middle East, WWII, and sort of a post-WWII summary. Throughout the book
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she talks about her writing in a fair amount of detail, including spoilers—most notably for The Murder of Roger Ackroyd.

The childhood part was rather like listening to a grandparent telling stories of "the good old days", filling in every detail they can remember, and reflecting on how much better everything was, back in the day. This section went on for rather longer than necessary, but is full of fascinating remembrances of a Victorian childhood. She mentions such important subjects as lavatories and bosoms (and, later in the book, morning sickness and bedbugs). It took 200 pages for her to reach adulthood, but then things really got rolling. Once she reaches her late teens, the narrative becomes more continuous, although still with occasional digressions. By the time she got to the end of World War II, I think she was running out of things to say, because she covered the next twenty years in about 25 pages.

While Christie was quite candid about many things, it is not surprising that she leaves out others. She talks about her emotional turmoil at the breakup of her first marriage, but makes no mention of her famous disappearance. I was left wondering about her relationship with her daughter. They seem to have been apart for much of Rosalind's childhood, and Agatha mentions several times that their personalities were very different, yet there is no indication of any conflict. I suppose she wrote cautiously to protect her daughter's privacy.

There is so much that I like about this autobiography: her memories, her opinions, descriptions of the many places she's visited, and ways that she's traveled, her observations of social changes, her reflections on her writing. I guess my favourite thing about it is that I came away with the feeling that she really did share her life and personality with the reader.
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LibraryThing member MrsLee
I love this book. It was like visiting with my grandma in a way. Warm, humorous and interesting. A delightful look at the turn of the century in England, up through the second World War. Then she gets less chatty about her later life, yet it is fun to read about her different inspirations for her
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books. A definite keeper and one I want to share with my friends.
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LibraryThing member loraineo
Over 500 pages and I enjoyed each page. So much I didn't know about her life. She describes a happy childhood and a very close relationship with her mother. Encouraged to begin writing by her sister. So much interesting detail about her life. I Recommend this book to any one that wants to know
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Christie in her own words.
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LibraryThing member leslie.98
Reading this autobiography brought home to me that, while I am indeed a mystery fan, my love of Christie's books also stems from a liking of both her writing style and her personal viewpoints.

I don't read much nonfiction and when I do, I tend toward travel type books. So it may be my inexperience
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with autobiographies but this one struck me as unusual. Christie jumps around in time and interposes bits of personal philosophy or belief with anecdotes. She says quite openly towards the beginning that one of the things that elderly people like to do is remember and talk about their lives and that she was going to do this in book form rather than subjecting her family and friends to listening to a subject that would be boring to them. As such, it really is more of a memoir than an autobiography.
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LibraryThing member BrianEWilliams
Wonderful book. It's the adventures of Agatha Christie told in an episodic fashion chronologically arranged. It's something I want to read more than once.
LibraryThing member leslie.98
Reading this autobiography brought home to me that, while I am indeed a mystery fan, my love of Christie's books also stems from a liking of both her writing style and her personal viewpoints.

I don't read much nonfiction and when I do, I tend toward travel type books. So it may be my inexperience
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with autobiographies but this one struck me as unusual. Christie jumps around in time and interposes bits of personal philosophy or belief with anecdotes. She says quite openly towards the beginning that one of the things that elderly people like to do is remember and talk about their lives and that she was going to do this in book form rather than subjecting her family and friends to listening to a subject that would be boring to them. As such, it really is more of a memoir than an autobiography.
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LibraryThing member TnTexas
I read most of this book but didn't finish. I just wasn't in the mood for all it.

Having said that, I found what I did read to be interesting - kind of like sitting down and having a conversation with Ms Christie. It was rather rambly and out of order, especially at the beginning. But it was also an
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interesting glimpse at what she remembered and considered to be important in her life.
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LibraryThing member blbooks
ETA: I reread this one in January 2024. It had been years since I first read this one. I have so many dog-eared pages from both readings. If I was to quote everything I marked to "remember" to come back to, it would be so long. Definitely glad I reread this one.

Agatha Christie's autobiography has
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been on my tbr pile for years now. I have looked forward to reading it for so long! I must admit the length had me a little intimidated. But once I started reading this one, I found myself completely absorbed in it. It is truly a fascinating read cover to cover. I think this one could prove appealing to a variety of readers.

Do you love history? I found Agatha Christie's Autobiography to be fascinating. This book is rich in details. Readers learn in great detail about her family and her growing up years. What Christie is describing is a way of life, and the way she saw the world around her. Her thoughts on her parents, grandparents, siblings, the family servants--the cook and the maids and nannies. You get a real sense of what it was to be a child (and teen) growing up in England in the 1890s and 1900s. She was "out" (ready to date) a year or two (or even three) before World War I began.

Are you interested in World War I? in World War II? Christie details what life was like during the war years. She was a nurse for a great part of World War I. She also assisted in dispensing drugs. She fell in love and got married during this time. During World War II she again did her part in the war effort. I believe volunteering in a hospital. She was in and around London during the War. She recalls how she rarely (if ever) took shelter during the raids because she was afraid of being buried alive under all the rubble. She had a grown daughter by that point. A daughter who fell in love, got married, and had a child during this time.

England was at war. It had come. I can hardly express the difference between our feelings then and now. Now we might be horrified, perhaps surprised, but not really astonished that war should come, because we are all conscious that war does come; that it has come in the past and that, at any moment, it might come again. But in 1914 there had been no war for--how long? Fifty years--more? True, there had been the "Great Boer War," and skirmishes on the Northwest frontier, but those had not been wars involving one's own country--they had been large army exercises, as it were; the maintenance of power in far places. This was different--we were at war with Germany. (257)

Are you interested in archaeology? in world-traveling? She spends a good deal of time recalling her travels around the world. She accompanied her first husband on an extended trip--covering several continents. (She left her (quite young) daughter with her mother and sister.) After her divorce--he fell in love with another woman and blamed her for it--she traveled on her own. On one of her trips to the Middle East, she met the man who would become her second husband. He was an archaeologist. While she did not stay with him the duration of all of his digs, she accompanied him on some, and visited on others. Readers learn that Christie LOVED, LOVED, LOVED to travel.

Are you a rehab addict? Christie loved looking at houses, buying houses in need of repair, fixing them up, renting them out, and selling them. She owned many properties at various points in her life. I believe the book said she owned eight during World War II. The book talks about her remodeling and redesigning houses.

Are you interested in writing, in her writing life? You'll find plenty to delight you within her autobiography. She talks about different sides of her writing life. Her novels. Her mystery novels. Her plays. Her short stories. Her poems. She talks about her mistakes and successes. Readers learn about which books she liked best and which book she really, really hated!

It was while I was working in the dispensary that I first conceived the idea of writing a detective story. (289)

People never stop writing to me nowadays to suggest that Miss Marple and Hercule Poirot should meet--but why should they? I am sure the would not enjoy it at all. Hercule Poirot, the complete egoist, would not like being taught his business by an elderly spinster lady. He was a professional sleuth, he would not be at home all in Miss Marple's world. No, they are both stars, and they are stars in their own right. (502)

Do you love to read? Christie shares her thoughts on her favorite writers and books!

I want to emphasize the fact that you do not have to love mysteries in order to find this autobiography of a mystery writer fascinating! I marked so many passages that I wanted to share with you. Too many to actually share. It would overwhelm any post. So just trust me, read this one!

I will choose a quote which happens to bring to mind a certain song from Frozen.

One of the first things that happens when you are attracted to a man and he is to you is that extraordinary illusion that you think exactly alike about everything, that you each say the things the other has been thinking. (228)
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Edgar Award (Nominee — Critical/Biographical Work — 1978)


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