Nemesis, by Agatha Christie. “A very nice, peaceful day it was,” said Miss Marple.”I enjoyed it very much. Tomorrow I would like to go out and look again at that mass of white flowers coming into bloom at the end of the garden near that raised mound. It was just beginning to come out the other day. It must be a mass of bloom now. I should always remember that as part of my visit here you know.”
“I hate it,” said Anthea. “I want it taken away. I want to build up a greenhouse again there. Surely if we save up enough money we can do that, Clothilde?”
“We’ll leave that alone,” said Clothilde.” I don’t want that touched. …”
Thinking back, I had a complex relationship with Agatha Christie, too. I met her in a second hand city book rental store (Book X-change in Bangsar, KL, near TMC, if you know where that is 🙂 ), when I was 14, on the Nile river with the beautiful Jacquline (lol was that her name?). Anyway, cheesiness aside, I thought, at that time that Death on the Nile was the perfect murder mystery- it helped, i think now, that the rapid pace, and the beautiful young characters, with the older setting, were just what a teenager would be into. Hercule Poirot was a suitably upgraded version of Sherlock Holmes- just as annoyingly know-it-all, only his annoying-ness was made obvious to everyone- Poirot was not just irritating at times- he was made to be so- his genius was in being so-
It was funny really how little I read Christie- or how selectively, in the years that followed. Miss Marple was insufferably old-maid-ish and doddering..the characters were wonderfully made out, but a little hard to keep my attention- in fact I followed the advice of the teacher in that -was it called rose something? Mary Westmacott book of Christie’s- long before I even read about him, his tall, towering bitter-quirky self that seemed perpetually set in an old black-and-golden garden with lots of gnarled old trees that looked dead but were ancients…-when he said that the only way to read a book was to read the beginning, then the end,(or was it the end, then the beginning?) and then, only if it was worth it, the middle.
In fact I seemed stuck that way with all my books- skipping to the ending, and setting them aside, forever perhaps.
Except the Mary Westcamott books. They were too gripping to not read all the way- they told too much of Christie herself.
(And it’s all mixed with the Asterix comics, cuz that was the year I lived outside- and that was what our library had on display- and I got them perfectly, and my friends did not- and that was the year i took off.)
Around a year ago, a friend, who I liked a lot more than most people I’d known for such a short time, remarked that Christie was rather boring, overly repetitive, and not worth the hype. I remember giving her a few “I get what you means”, and nods. Didn’t read her for a long time afterwards, wondering, almost sub-consciously- if there was something in her words..
And then I picked up Nemesis again- on the usual every-few-months Christie splurge- and suddenly I felt exactly- all the things I had wanted to say about her- but somehow didn’t-
In fact I felt much more than I had before- I suddenly liked Miss Marple way more than Poirot- suddenly I exulted in each “old-maid-ish” act- and all the “dodderiness”- I regretted labeling her- as I read about a simply wonderfully ordinary woman- with such a wonderfully normal life- living alive, as alive as she could possibly be- this was not just a stage set of characters in a murder mystery- nor was it a secondary stage- in which the characters of the first stage are used to sketch subtly some hidden truths- it was layered so deeply- and at the core of it all was the simple old lady living- and something else- something simply deep- and- that I couldn’t put words to.