RCM Virtual Book Club: The Mystery of Mrs. Christie by Marie Benedict
Here at RCM, we love books. We also love any opportunity participate in an awesome book club. So we decided to smoosh the two together and create the virtual Rocket City Mom Book Club! More info about our next title is below, and you can request to join the conversation here. Happy reading!
This month’s RCM Virtual Book Club title is The Mystery of Mrs. Christie by Marie Benedict. Join us virtually on Thursday, February 25 at 8:30 PM CST. If you can’t make it at THAT time, check back in throughout the week to keep the discussion going. Big thanks to The Snail On the Wall Books for sponsoring our title selections, and Shannan for her review below!
Spoilers ahead. Continue at your own risk!
The Mystery of Mrs. Christie Review
The Mystery of Mrs. Christie is unlike any of the other books that we have read for book club. First, it is brand new; its release date was December 29, 2020. Second, it was the recommended by our sponsor Lady Smith, owner of our local indie bookstore, The Snail on the Wall. And finally, it’s our first historical fiction selection.
I am not an Agatha Christie fan but I was drawn to the premise of this novel when I discovered that the incident depicted within its pages actually happened. Christie did disappear for 10 days. Her then-husband was having an affair with a Nancy Neale, whom he later married. Her disappearance was a sensation; she was already a popular writer, which is why she kept Christie as her last name after her divorce and subsequent remarriage. Her disappearance, it is safe to say, did elevate her in the public’s awareness and the popularity of her work continued to rise.
In typical Agatha Christie fashion, Marie Benedict keeps us guessing. I read this as a digital advanced reader’s copy and likely because of the way it was edited and the fact that I hardly ever pay that much attention to chapter headings, I totally missed that Agatha’s “side” of the story was actually a manuscript. It was only at the end that I discovered that the manuscript was actually an unreliable narrator device. I’d been so very angry at her husband, at her mother, and more than a bit annoyed with Agatha herself. I understand the desire to be a good wife and to follow the wise counsel of one’s mother. Lord knows that I have found myself caught between someone else’s sincere advice and my own better judgement.
But when Benedict has Agatha confess to the “certain amount of fiction and exaggeration, primarily in the form of omission”, I was in awe. One of the feelings that she omitted was the distance between her and her daughter, Rosalind, and the irritation she felt sometimes when her daughters’ needs overlapped with her work, something I think is relatable right now as we try to do “all the things” in the time of Covid.
In the end, I was left more than a little thoughtful about how often we are unreliable narrators of our own lives. Yes, we want and need to tell our own story, and as women and minorities, this is important after having others tell our stories for us. In The Mystery of Mrs. Christie, Benedict seeks to imagine Agatha’s rationale and tell her side of this experience; we do not know why she disappeared. Agatha never commented and there is no mention of this incident in her autobiography.
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However, The Mystery of Mrs. Christie does does raise the question of how authentically and accurately can we even see our truth? Benedict expounds on this a little further in her notes on Goodreads about her book. She says, “after all, aren’t we all unreliable narrators these days in the manner in which we curate our lives for public consumption, particularly with social media?” And I too, often wonder, how honest am I in the telling of my story?
We will discuss this and many other interesting aspects of The Mystery of Mrs. Christie at our Virtual Meeting on Facebook, Thursday, February 25 at 8:30 PM CT. See you there!
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Shannan Moore Malone squeezes in the time to write while taking care of the Buddy Man. As you already know, she loves books but she also loves great movies, running, and is, beyond a shadow of a doubt, a foodie. Though generally more on the quiet side, you can get her talking by mentioning living authentically, the importance of clarity and organization, and enjoying life, which she occasionally writes about on her blog her blog and posts about on Instagram.