As much as I love biographies, I'm often hesitant about autobiographies. Everyone has an interesting story -- that doesn't meant they know how to tell it. There is no doubt Dame Agatha Christie knew how to tell a story. Hundreds of them. But her best may be her own.
She begins at the beginning (sort of) and tells a roughly chronological series of events. In fact, her fanciful meanderings are part of what makes the book so endearing. Her descriptions of late Victorian / early Edwardian society are not only priceless anthropologically, but an absolute joy to read. The tone is light and joyful, as a small child might tell her grandmother about the fairies at the bottom of the garden. Indeed, her young life was rather ethereal. One of those English upbringings that one wonders if it actually ever existed. Imagination was encouraged to run rampant and adventure was to be met head-on.
Her observations on life itself, too, are absolute gems. One could extract an entire philosophy from her thoughts. While recalling her studies in Paris, she muses, "It seems to me that teaching can only be satisfactory if it awakens some response in you. Mere information is no good, it gives you nothing more than you had before." Or her recollections of Christmas as a child. "After the pleasurable inertia of Christmas afternoon - pleasurable, that is, for the elders: the younger ones read books, looked at their presents, ate more chocolates and so on -- there was a terrific tea with a great idea Christmas cake as well as everything else, and finally a supper of cold turkey and hot mince pies. About nine o'clock there was the Christmas tree, with more presents hanging on it. A splendid day, and one to be remembered till next year, when Christmas came again." These and other memories of dances, parties, traveling to Egypt with her husband archaeologist and trips with grandchildren are an entirely enjoyable read. In fact, one doesn't need to be a fan of Agatha Christie or even mysteries to enjoy it.
My review copy does not include the audio disc of Agatha's actual voice dictating her memoir. I can only imagine it, too, is nostalgic and lovely.
In honor of this reissue from HarperCollins, we have teamed up to host a giveaway in honor of Dame Christie.
I've got a great little prize pack: A copy of Cards on the Table, a delightful little Hercule Poirot murder mystery surrounding a game of bridge in a strange scenario; a pack of Agatha Christie bookmarks; and a black and red Agatha Christie totebag. (This image is not to scale -- obviously.)
So, do you want to win? Leave a comment below with your NAME, EMAIL (at) DOT COM, and why you think you would be a good detective. This giveaway is open to anyone with a US mailing address. Have your comment posted before Friday, November 18, 2011 at 10:00 p.m. EST to be entered. Winning entry will be chosen by Random.org.
A huge thanks to Danielle at HarperCollins for the great gifts and the review copy of An Autobiography.