Friday, 3 June 2016

Agatha: The Real Life of Agatha Christie Review (Anne Martinetti, Guillaume Lebeau, Alexandre Franc)

Agatha Christie is the best-selling novelist of all time having sold roughly 2 billion copies and her books are among the most widely-published in the world, third only to Shakespeare and the Bible! But while generations of readers have enjoyed her gripping whodunits, her own life wasn’t quite as interesting as shown in this short biographical comic, Agatha: The Real Life of Agatha Christie.

The book opens with her mysterious disappearance in December 1926, arguably the most compelling episode of her life story, where she briefly went into hiding/had a breakdown after losing her mother and discovering her husband was having an affair. In a way it was like life imitating art as her own life became like one of her mysteries. 

From there we go back to the start and work our way forwards. Agatha had a comfortable childhood being born into an upper-middle-class household, discovered literature late in life thanks to her mother who believed girls shouldn’t read until 8 years old, and served as a nurse during WW1. She got married, had a kid, and started writing, finding success quickly and building on it from then on. She went travelling, became an archaeologist, remarried, and, as time went on, her books became so popular they were adapted into radio plays and movies; her play, The Mousetrap, became the world’s longest-running play. In other words, it’s a straightforward bio of Agatha Christie. 

Except the book’s writers do something different by introducing Christie’s most famous creations, Hercule Poirot, Miss Marple and Tommy and Tuppence as characters who speak with their creator as if they’re real, perhaps to highlight the hold they had on Christie’s life and/or highlight Christie’s vivid imagination. As the years went on she came to resent her most famous character, Poirot, in the same way Arthur Conan Doyle did Sherlock Holmes, knowing that her audience would never allow her to stop writing about him by killing him off. 

Alexandre Franc’s artwork is similar to Herge’s clear line here and is appealing for its simplicity. Though competent, it’s an unexciting visual style chosen probably to focus readers more on the written content than anything else. And it is an informative read – you’ll come away with a well-rounded view of Christie’s life – even if a number of scenes rarely rise above simple exposition. One of the few moments where I got an idea of Christie as a person was her passing and unemotional observation that the men in her life all cheat on her at some point, perhaps because she doesn’t need them.

Agatha Christie lived a colourful and generally quiet life who comes across here as quite a modern woman for her time, though I suspect this had a lot to do with always being wealthy enough to be as free as she wanted. Agatha: The Real Life of Agatha Christie is an accessible and edifying, if uninspired, bio of the author’s life that will satisfy any reader looking to learn about the writer. However, as is often the case with artists, the best way to know them is through their art, rather than through third hand biographies – pick up one of her books (I highly recommend And Then There Were None) to get a sense of the real Agatha Christie.

Agatha: The Real Life of Agatha Christie

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