Investigating Agatha Christie: An Exhibition

The highlight of a recent trip to “Investigating Agatha Christie,” a temporary exhibition at the Point-à-Callière Museum in Montréal, was Agatha Christie’s notebooks.

Point-à-Callière is a museum of archaeology and history – so what was Agatha Christie doing there?

Turns out her husband, Sir Max Mallowan, was an eminent archaeologist who worked on sites in Iraq and Syria.

When her husband was on a dig, Agatha Christie wasn’t holed up in a local hotel, busily writing her novels, she was on the dig too, helping clean and classify artifacts, taking notes and photographs, and giving her opinion as to who was a good worker and who a slacker. (The sleuth’s eagle eye!)

Agatha Christie loved houses, and loved decorating them. At one point she owned eight! There’s a lovely black and white photo of her and Max kneeling on the floor, pouring over plans, while overhead old paint peels off the ceiling.

When she was young, she intended to be a concert pianist and practiced the piano seven hours a day.

But, as I say, what I found fascinating were the notebooks. Her handwriting (sorry, no photographs were allowed) is light, leaving hardly any indentation in the paper. It looks as though her pencil skimmed over the paper (all notebooks were lined) at speed. When I came to copying a couple of items, I found it wasn’t always easy to decipher specific words.

The first page I saw was in Notebook 35. Down the page, a list of single words, with a dash between each:

Who?

Why?

When?

How?

Where?

Which?

I found this delightful – partly because it connects Agatha Christie to all writers, famous or completely unknown (every writer is given or discovers this list early in their writing career), but also because it brought home the connection between mystery writing and archaeological research. Both require curiosity and a sleuthing nature!

In Notebook 16:

Mrs. Llewellyn dies (Natural?) Doubted?

Henrika disappears

Mary Drake – A handsome woman

 

 

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