Agatha Christie

by Khadija Tauseef

 “Very few of us are what we seem.” 

Nowhere is this truer than with the case of Dame Agatha Christie, contrary to her public persona, she was a very private person. Her career spanned over fifty years, was a continuous rollercoaster ride. Earning the title of “Queen of Crime”, producing over 80 novels and numerous short stories. Each book provided an escape for the people, getting lost in a mystery where the murderer was never who you think. Even 100 years on, she continues to inspire young authors and her fan following simply continues to grow. The release of 2022 movie, “Death on the Nile” has introduced a new generation to her work. 

Christie in 1958
(image: WikiCommons)

Agatha Millar was born on 15th September 1890, in the English seaside town of Torquey, to parents, Frederick Alvah Millar and Clara Millar. The youngest of the Millar children. Her family resided in a two-story villa, called Ashfield, where Agatha spent her childhood. The Millar’s were a well-off middle-class family, and in her diary, Christie recalls her childhood very fondly. In her autobiography Agatha writes:

“One of the luckiest things that can happen to you in life is to have happy childhood. I had a very happy childhood. I had a home and a garden that I loved; a wise and patient Nanny; as father and mother two people who loved each other dearly and made a success of their marriage and of parenthood.”

Christie as a young girl
(image: WikiCommons)

When Agatha was young, her mother, Clara did not wish for her daughter to learn how to read until the age of eight. Being a curious child, who was bored at home, Agatha began to teach herself how to read. And by the age of five, she had become a proficient reader, devouring all the children’s books available to her at the time. She was homeschooled by her father, that is until the family started facing financial difficulties. Although a child, Agatha saw the impact the situation had on her father, whose health began to decline. After years of suffering, Agatha’s father passed away when she was just eleven.  

“Life took on a completely different complexion after my father’s death. I stepped out of my child’s world, a world of security and thoughtlessness, to enter the fringes of the world of reality.”

Despite the tragic event, life continued around them and whether they were ready or not, they too had to go on with their lives. Agatha travelled to Paris, where she completed her finishing school. She was soon flooded by invitations to social gathers and parties. Later, Agatha travelled to Cario, Egypt, for her official coming out, a rite of passage for each girl into womanhood. Her stay in Cairo was as Agatha puts it “a dream of delight”, even inspiring a first attempt at a novel called “Snow upon the desert”. 

Colonel Archibald Christie, officer of the Royal Flying Corps, 1915 (image: WikiCommons)

As a young lady, in 1912, she met Archie Christie, a charismatic and handsome young man, she was swept off her feet by him. However, her mother did not approve of Archie, saying that he had a ruthless streak, and he would hurt Agatha. Despite her mother’s protestations, Agatha married Archie in 1914, during the First World War. 

While her husband was at the front, she volunteered as a nurse in Torquey. It was here where she first encountered Belgium refugees, they may have been an inspiration for her well-known detective, Hercule Poirot. Soon, she shifted to the hospital dispensary, it was here that she first encountered poisons. Agatha studied about the numerous poisons, and it became a main method of murder in some of her books. It was here, in the quiet of the dispensary that Agatha began her first story, ‘The Mysterious Affair at Styles’ in 1916. 

Once her novel was completed, she sent it to the publishers, and it exchanged hands a few times, before it was published. Agatha’s book was published in 1920 and received a great response from the critics. The rest as they say is history. Her career really took off after the publication of her sixth book, “The Murder of Roger Ackroyd”, which was published in 1926. She chose to cast the murderer as the narrator, something that had never been done before in crime novels. She had made it as a writer and was going from strength to strength, unfortunately, good times must come to an end. 

In the same year Agatha’s life took a downturn. Her beloved mother passed away, and while she was still trying to cope with her mother’s loss, her husband came to inform her that he wanted a divorce. Devastated by the events, Agatha took a dramatic step, something that many people still compare to the plots of her own novels. On the evening of December 4th, 1926, Agatha kissed her daughter goodnight and departed from her house. On the 6th, newspapers were filled with the headlines of Agatha Christie’s disappearance. Despite the polices best efforts they were unable to locate the missing writer, that is until December 15, when Agatha was found at a Yorkshire spa. 

What prompted her to leave so suddenly? And in such a fashion as to make people think she had either been kidnapped or murdered? We will never know but she knew she was suffering and tried to find a way to mend the situation. 

In the years that followed, Agatha added more characters to her pantheon of sleuths. Hercule Poirot was followed by Tommy and Tupence, and later came the loveable Miss Marple, then Harley Quinn and Parker Pyne. The last two characters make an appearance in her short story collections. Each character has their own unique personality, but the most well-known are Hercule Poirot and Miss Marple. Her stories are an enduring legacy, even today her books continue to thrill and intrigue the reader. 

Recommended reading

  • The Mystery of Mrs Christie by Marie Benedict.
  • The Murder of Roger Ackroyd by Agatha Christie.
  • Death on the Nile by Agatha Christie.
  • Murder at the Vicarage by Agatha Christie.
  • Each one of Agatha Christie’s books are worth reading if you love murder mystery stories. 

About the Author

My name is Khadija Tauseef, I am a historian with a passion for writing. I try to make history interesting for people to read and take more interest in. After all in order to change the world we must learn from history. 

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