Sunday, 3 April 2016

Murder at the Vicarage by Agatha Christie

I first read this probably 25 years ago as a teenager when I went through an Agatha Christie phase.  I remember enjoying the stories, although the detail is all but lost to me so many years and so many books later.  I'm not sure what quite prompted me to read Christie again; I am reading a lot and want to be varied in my choices and she came to mind.  My aim to read the Booker Prize long list each year is all well and good, but these are not the sort of books that I particularly want to read back to back.  A little respite is certainly needed and I thought that this would provide it.

My initial thoughts were how much less easy to read Christie's writing was than that of other author's I have been recently been reading.  I was surprised and somewhat perturbed that I found the book so difficult to get into.  Perhaps this was just the style of her writing, perhaps that my initial reading was a little disjointed and so I found it difficult to track so many characters introduced so early in the text.  This all aside, once I sat down to read with a good run at it I did indeed get into the story and became engaged and interested in the characters.  I found the main storyline and its various twists and turns engaging and well thought through and broadly plausible.

Somewhat surprisingly though, having been brought up with Joan Hickson's Miss Marple on a Saturday evening, I found the manner in which Clement described her to be at odds with how I remembered her portrayal.  I remember her to be a kindly, intelligent 'harmless' older lady, yet he really did describe her for the best part as an interfering busybody.  Perhaps I misremember.  Perhaps I find and watch this episode and see...

I suppose, given when the book was written, it is no surprise that the text is something of an interesting study in how times, roles and ideas have changed.  I found this an added interesting dimension to the novel and one that could not have been predicted at its time on conception.

Overall, this was a quick and unchallenging read; a good story, well thought through, with characters that I found to be interesting.  I could happily have read an additional hundred pages so as to determine backstories in more detail, but the story pottered along without very well.

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