Title: Agatha Christie’s Secret Notebooks
Writer: John Curran
Publisher: HarperCollinsPublishers UK (2009)
Bought at: AbeBooks (thanks Yuska!)
I have been a fan of Agatha Christie since I was a teenager, found her books among the dusty shelves of my school library, followed by a fascinating discovery that my mom was actually a fan as well.
Since then, I devoured (almost) all Christie’s books, and even had admired Hercule Poirot with all my heart and soul 🙂
Therefore, I was very fortunate when I discovered (through my friends at Sel Sel Kelabu) about this particular gem. Agatha Christie’s Secret Notebooks is a rare opportunity to peek into the mysterious life of the Dame herself, especially on how her brain worked to create such wonderful, ingenious stories that became classics.
The most fascinating thing for me about this book is to see the creative process, behind the scenes episodes where Christie wrote her ideas in her notebooks, and developed them into the books I’ve known so well.
It was very fortunate that John Curran, the longtime literary adviser and friend of Christie’s family, was given the opportunity to gain access to her many Notebooks that nobody else could touch and read. It was also very fortunate that as a longtime fan of Christie, Curran could decipher the ineligible handwriting and sometimes the very unusual ideas of her and delved into some good, juicy analysis of the very well known stories.
I have to warn you that this book contained so many spoilers, even though Curran always mentioned which titles will be revealed in the beginning of every chapter. That’s why I will recommend this book for only Agatha Christie’s enthusiasts who have read (almost) all of her books. It will be more enjoyable for them, and easy to relate and understand the content of this book.
My other favorite thing about this book, apart from getting the first hand experience of delving into the genius brain of Agatha, is the way John Curran arranged the chapters. He tried to group the stories based on their classification, and for me they all seemed so fitting. My favorite is the chapter about Nursery Rhyme Murders, such as Crooked House, Five Little Pigs, Ten Little Niggers and some other stories based on nursery rhymes, one of Christie’s specialties. Curran discussed each story and its relation with the nursery rhyme that has been used as the idea.
Besides the main chapters, Curran also wrote some short chapters based on the tidbits he found among the Notebooks Christie used for writing her ideas. My favorite is “The House of Dreams: Unused Ideas”. This chapter discussed about the ideas that Christie wrote again and again, but never really executed in any of her story, like the one about identical twins, legless man that sometimes tall and sometimes short, or false Hercule Poirot. Reading about these unused ideas made me wish for more and more Agatha Christie’s books in the future, however impossible the craving sounds like 😀
Agatha Christie’s Secret Notebooks is one of the best reading companions I’ve read so far as a huge fan of the Queen of Crime. True, sometimes John Curran’s analysis seemed a bit out of focus and even too fantastic to digest. But I don’t mind at all. I can relate to him well, and can feel his enthusiasm (that sometimes seemed a bit like fangirling) that I truly enjoyed the book from beginning to end.