Friday, January 11, 2013

The Grand Tour by Agatha Christie

Dame Agatha Christie, the Queen of Crime, may have died in 1976, but she still has books coming out. I am not referring to reprints. The Grand Tour is a new title, nonfiction instead of fiction this time. How is this possible? In this case, her grandson Mathew Prichard has taken a bit of her autobiography, added letters that she wrote home from a trip around the world, and illustrated the volume with her photographs. The result is an illustrated travel journal that will interest historians and Christie fans.

As a travel memoir, The Grand Tour is not particularly exciting, as Christie had no grand adventures. No one dies. She was often seasick, danced late into the night, learned to surf, and met many Commonwealth industrialists interested in placing exhibits in the British Empire Exhibition of 1924. The Exhibition was the purpose of the 10-month trip. It was 1922, Christie was 32 years old, and she accompanied her husband Archie who was a member of the Exhibition mission to the colonies. Slated as a tag-along, the budding mystery writer with three mildly successful books to her credit helped the mission greatly with social functions.

Why did she go when she had a two-and-a-half year old daughter? Her mother intimated that it was unwise for a young wife to let a young husband travel alone. Christie also loved travel and the mission presented a great opportunity for her to learn about foreign places that she used as settings in future novels. Several of the letter are addressed to her daughter.

The historic setting is the strength of The Grand Tour. Historians get some insight into how Commonwealth business of the 1920s worked. Readers learn about the comforts and hardships of travel when it took weeks to get from London to South Africa and months to Australia and New Zealand. Fans get a rare peek into Christie's mostly very private life. 

Christie, Agatha. The Grand Tour. Harper, 2012. 376p. ISBN 9780062191229.

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