[Review] Agatha Christie: An Elusive Woman by Lucy Worsley

Publisher and Publication Date: Pegasus Crime, an imprint of Pegasus Books, Ltd. Distributed by Simon and Schuster. September 6, 2022.
Genre: Nonfiction. Biography.
Pages: 428 written pages. And 52 black and white illustrations.
Format: Hardcover.
Source: Self-purchase.
Audience: Readers of biographies. Fans of Agatha Christie. Readers of women in literature.
Rating: Excellent!

Link at the publisher for more information: Pegasus Crime.

Link at Amazon.

Link at Barnes and Noble.

Lucy Worsley Goodreads author page.

Website for Lucy Worsley/ Blog/ Facebook/ Twitter.

Summary:

Lucy Worsley expresses that Agatha Christie wanted people to have the impression she was an “ordinary” person, an “ordinary” woman. This is untrue. How can a woman who was born in the late Victorian era who rose above the culture and society of that day to become a successful author of mystery books be considered ordinary? Agatha Christie was a trail blazer in this genre. She was a trail blazer as far as her generation of women having a successful writing career.

Agatha Christie: An Elusive Woman is a biography of the whole life of an amazing woman. It touches on every area of her life. It does not focus on one aspect. For example, her writing career.

Lucy Worsley is a historian and curator. She is knowledgeable about the research process. Her expertise is strongly noticed in this new work.

My Thoughts:

I have An Autobiography by Agatha Christie on Kindle but have not read it yet.

I have three other books, one a collection of her stories, all on Kindle.

I am currently reading The Murder of Roger Ackroyd.

I’m planning to read as many of her mysteries/crime fiction as possible.

I’m a newbie to Agatha Christie. I knew very little about her personal life before reading Agatha Christie by Lucy Worsley. This is a good thing in that most of what I read is fresh. I consider this book a fresh perspective of the whole of Agatha Christie. This is the first reason why I love this book!

Additional reasons why I love this book:

  1. It does not leave me with an unfulfilled curiosity about parts of her life that was left untouched in the biography. What I mean is the bio takes in every area of her life as a person, wife, mother, daughter, writer, traveler, divorced woman, single mother, and career woman.
  2. I enjoyed reading about her work during WWI and WWII. She is quick to enlist in helping with the war effort and wounded.
  3. I enjoyed reading about her life as a child, especially the parenting roles of her parents, and their homelife.
  4. I enjoyed reading about her unique personality and character. Even as a child, there is something about her that stood out as unique and gifted.
  5. Worsley points out Christie’s prejudice opinions about domestic help and people of other races are common for that era. The reader should not be quick to dismiss her or judge her books based on our current history, society, culture, and beliefs.
  6. Worsely reminds me where most of the females of the early 20th century worked. In 1901, there are only 31.6% of females in Britain employed. Most of them worked in the textile and domestic areas. This book will not give a strong history lesson in females in the work force during Agatha Christie’s life. The statistic is given to share the standard in respect to her life. She was expected to marry and marry well. She was not expected to have a paid writing career.
  7. I enjoyed reading about the first serious relationship Agatha had with her first husband, Archie. World War I started to put a damper on their courting. However, they sped things up by a quick marriage in late 1914.
  8. I enjoyed reading about her crafting of the characters in her books. For example, Hercule Poirot and Miss Marple.
  9. I love how Worsley included the writing and publishing of Christie’s books plus what was simultaneously going on in her personal life.
  10. I enjoyed reading about what Christie thought about her own writing, especially in regard to her contribution to the mystery literature world.
  11. The period of time in 1926 when Christie is missing. This period in time is a strength of the book. Worsley takes her time in piecing together the steps during Christie’s disappearance, as well as her return and her own remembrance. It was during this part of the book that I became so captivated I lost track of time.
  12. I read the book in two days!

[Review] D-Day Girls: The Spies Who Armed the Resistance, Sabotaged the Nazis, and Helped Win World War II by Sarah Rose

Publisher and Publication Date: Crown Publishing. April 23, 2019.
Genre: Nonfiction. History. Resistance in France during World War II. Espionage. Women in literature.
Pages: 394. I counted every written page. From pages 289 to 394 is Acknowledgements, Notes, Bibliography, Index, and About the Author.
Format: Hardcover. Library binding.
Source: Public library.
Audience: World War II history readers, especially those with an interest in the Resistance work in France.
Rating: Very good.

Author page @ Goodreads for Sarah Rose.
Website/ Twitter.

Summary:

A character chart is located before the first chapter. The characters are Andrée Borrel, Lise de Baissac, Odette Sansom, Yvonne Rudellat, Mary Herbert, Francis Suttill, Gilbert Norman, Peter Churchill, Claude de Baissac. In addition, I noted other characters: Hélène Aron, Andre Girard, Major Karl Bömelburg, André Marsac, and Phyllis Latour.

Beginning in 1940, England recruited 39 women to train for various spy work in a new government agency called the Special Operations Executive or SOE. These women were recruited because most young men were busy in military service. These women were from all walks of life. They spoke French. They were all trained with knowledge and abilities to carry out specific spy and espionage work in France. Some examples of the work are radio operators and sabotage efforts.

The inside flap cover of the book mentions Sarah Rose used extensive research for the book, including “recent declassified files.”

Odette Sansom was recruited in 1942. Her story has been written about in other books I’ve read, and she is a defining character in D-Day Girls.

The book begins in 1942, and the climax will be during the D-Day invasion of Normandy beaches in France.

My Thoughts:

I’ve mentioned this before, but World War II history is one of my favorite subjects to read. It doesn’t matter if it’s nonfiction or fiction. I like all of them. I’ve read children to adult books in this subject.

The principal reason I love this genre is my dad was a veteran in World War II. He was a veteran of Omaha Beach, D-Day, June 6, 1944.

I stood on that beach with dad and other family members in the fall of 1999. Dad reminisced about that event. It was then I realized his story was no longer a story told in bits and pieces at the dinner table. His story was real. Violent. Historical. Memorable.

Several reasons why I love D-Day Girls:

  1. There is no fluffy stuff in the book. What I mean is the book delivers exactly what the inside flap summarized about the book. The women involved in the SOE work in France in the two years before the D-Day invasion. Fluffy is added material in a book that creates a larger and longer work with information not necessarily pertaining to the main topic.
  2. No one character is in the spotlight. The work they all did as a whole is explored and studied and recreated for the reader.
  3. I’m amazed at the courage, bravery, ingenuity and savvy nature of all of them. Even one of the last characters in the book who is suggested as not that bright is a person of determination.
  4. I saw one of the most important traits of a spy, to be one step ahead of the enemy. To think and plan and be one step ahead of them.
  5. A baby is difficult to hide. In one person’s case it is a double blessing for them.
  6. D-Day Girls is a concise, panoramic view, and engaging read.

[Review] Miss Eliza’s English Kitchen: A Novel of Victorian Cookery and Friendship by Annabel Abbs

Publisher and Publication Date: William Morrow Paperbacks. October 26, 2021.  
Genre: Historical fiction.
Pages: 400.
Format: E-book.
Source: I received a complimentary e-book from NetGalley. I am not required to write a positive review.
Audience: Readers of historical fiction.
Rating: Good to very good.

Link @ Amazon.

Link @ Barnes and Noble.

Annabel Abbs’s Goodreads author page.

Summary:

Victorian time period. 1837. England.

A heavy responsibility and burden falls on Eliza Acton. Her father has left the family and country to escape his debt. Her mother takes control and plans a marriage prospect for Eliza. Eliza wants to write poetry. And, she enjoys a new endeavor in learning to cook.

Ann Kirby is a young woman who is employed in the Acton home. Ann and Eliza create interesting dishes in the kitchen. They work together to create a cookery book.

My Thoughts:

Both women take turns being the narrator. I read the word “I” often. “I must”, “I stand”, “I loathe”, I want to be”, “I rise, and dress myself.” This is my least favorite form of writing in a story. I don’t like this point of view. Further, I don’t want to be told the minutiae details of the characters. Those two reasons are the only tidbits I dislike.

What I like about Miss Eliza’s English Kitchen:

1. I love cooking and baking. I love recipes and cookbooks.
2. I love the story taking on a different type of love: friendship. If you read other reviews I write, you will remember I enjoy reading about other types of relationships and not just romantic type love.
3. Eliza’s mother is selfish and annoying. She causes strong internal and external conflicts in the story. Eliza does not have a loving bond with her mother. Her mother is not a person she can depend on to have the best intentions for Eliza. Her mother is about her own life and their financial situation. Her mother is a person who waits for others “to do something for her.”
4. I love the plot. And I love the form or structure of the story that advances towards the plot’s conclusion.
5. Eliza and Ann are of different ages. They are from different socio-economic backgrounds. They are two people who shouldn’t be friends. Yet, a love of a common interest creates and bonds their precious friendship.
6. The story is mainly chronological. At the start of the story, there is a future date where the character remembers the past and how the events brought about the gift of today.
7. I love Eliza’s bold personality. She draws a line in the sand so to speak. She will tolerate only so much and then that’s it! She speaks plain. I love this in a personality.
8. I love Ann’s kind personality. She has a sad background with what has happened to her mother. In this era people who had a mental illness were not taken care of well. They were often abused. They were often cast aside and forgotten. Ann has not forgotten her mother. She does not understand all the details with her mother’s illness, but she loves her. Ann is kind. I wish there had been more about this in the storyline. I understand there is only so much room in a book for the whole of a story, but I think about the importance of this subject.

Themes in the story:

Friendship, cooking, perseverance, honesty, acceptance, kindness, sacrifice, hospitality, judgment, injustice, dreams, grief, charity, and tolerance.

[Review] Three Words for Goodbye by Hazel Gaynor and Heather Webb

Publisher and Publication Date: William Morrow, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers. July 27, 2021.
Genre: Historical fiction.
Pages: 395 total pages with written material. I counted!
Format: Paperback.
Source: Self-purchase.
Audience: Historical fiction readers. Readers who have an interest in World War II stories, travel, relationships, and romance.
Rating: Good.

Link @ Amazon.

Link @ Barnes and Noble.

Link @ Book Depository.

Author pages @ Goodreads.
Hazel Gaynor.
Heather Webb.

Summary:

1937. The story begins in New York state.

The matriarch of the story is Violet. She has cancer. She has one daughter, Celestine Sommers. Celestine is a widow with two daughters. The two daughters are Clara and Madeleine.

Clara and Madeleine are in their twenties. Their personalities are as different as night and day. Clara is an artist. Madeleine is a writer. Clara is engaged. Madeleine doesn’t want a relationship to tie her down.

Violet asks them to travel together to Europe and deliver three letters. Violet has arranged all travel plans. The sisters will travel to Paris, Venice, and Vienna.

The sisters do not like each other and they usually avoid one another. Traveling together for an extended trip causes immediate angst. Their grandmother assures them all will be okay. She has arranged everything.

My Thoughts:

I have mixed feelings about the story. Over-all I enjoyed it. Over-all I read the book in two days because I couldn’t stop reading it. However, there are some things about the story I don’t like.

What I like about Three Words for Goodbye:
1. The story is about two sisters who are polar in personality. Their differences create internal and external conflicts. Their differences create a background and current circumstance. Their differences bring added drama to the story. Their differences bring satire to the story and to the dialogue. Their differences bring a strong interest for me to keep reading.
2. Violet is a strong character. Even though she is in poor health, she is a strong and interesting character. She is unlike most females of her generation.
3. I love the travel itinerary. I love the cities they visit.
4. I love the strong descriptions of the three cities. Whether they travel by ship, train, or air ship, I am there. I too am traveling with them. Plus, Clara has an eye for art. Her perspective is as an artist. Madeleine is a writer. Her perspective is as a writer. Both of them bring their perspectives of what they see and experience.
5. There is a transformation of the sisters. In the beginning, each see their own viewpoint and feelings. As the story progresses, they begin to understand their way has been one-sided.
6. I love stories that share what the characters think. When a story only shares the dialogue that is audible to others that’s not enough for me. I want to know how they feel that is not expressed audibly. I want to know their fears, insecurities, hurts, doubts, and anxieties.

What I do not like about the story or what I found lacking:
1. I know who Celestine is (the name) but she is like a ghost in the story. I know Violet. I know Clara and Madeleine. I know their deceased father. I know their deceased grandfather. But what is Celestine like. I feel she should have been completely dropped from the story. Let her be dead like the father and grandfather. She is unneeded. Her name takes up space.
2. I read one reference to Madeleine smoking. I read a few statistics about smoking in the first half of the 20th century. From the 1920s to 1950s, 70% of men smoked. In the 1920s females who smoked were rare. But smoking became more common as advertisements encouraged smoking. My mother was born in 1926 and she did not smoke. Her mother was born in the early 1900s and she did not smoke. Both my grandfathers smoked. My point in all of this is a story in this time period should reflect people and their common habits. It should reflect a lifestyle similar to that period and to the people themselves. Several references are made to drinking alcohol and gambling, but why only one reference to smoking?
3. The story is predictable. It is predictable from the first page to the last page. The romances are predictable. The direction of the story period.
4. I had hoped to read more of an emphasis on what is going on in Europe pre-World War II.
5. The biggest love story is between the two sisters. I feel this should be the primary focus with the theme of love and relationships. After-all, there are different types of love; there are different levels of love.

Closing thoughts:
1. I’m happy to state this is not a dual time period story. The story moves chronologically in time.
2. Madeleine is presented as a female trying to create a career in a male dominated world. Let her remain single. Let her write her own story about the trip or Violet’s life. People do not have to have a romantic storyline. It is an additional point to read. People do not have to be in a romantic relationship for life to be complete and enjoyable. Be a breath of fresh air and let them be focused on the joy of career and friends.

Themes in the story:

Love, relationships, family saga, romance, travel, acceptance, kindness, circle of life, injustice, conformity, beauty, and greed.

(Review) Alligators And Me: My Life In Alabama 1968 by Molly Milner

 

39857183

Publisher and Publication Date: Shoe Button Press. March 23, 2018.
Genre: Nonfiction. Memoir.
Pages: 272.
Source: I received a complimentary copy, but was not required to leave a positive review. The review copy is paperback and was provided by Molly Milner. The review is in cooperation with Book Marketing Expert.
Rating: Excellent.

Amazon

I was born in 1964. I don’t remember the turbulent 1960s (expressed in this book) except through the news that came on in the afternoon at supper time, and the music and culture lived out in my older siblings. My eldest sister, born in 1949, remembers seeing water fountains that stated “for white” or “for colored.” As a little girl, she questioned this in her mind.  I grew up in a completely different culture. Mixed dating was frowned on, but I went to school with and played with people of all races. My children have grown up in a culture different than mine. And in future generations, I hope people no matter the color of their skin will live in acceptance and harmony.
The time period for this book is 1966-1969.
Molly Milner in her memoir, Alligators And Me, is the story of a Midwest newlywed couple who accepted the call to move south and pastor a church in Mobile, Alabama. Neither knew what the future held. Both had dreams and ideas about what they hoped to accomplish. Their hopes were a mix of naivete, courage, and determination.
The first theme is racism and segregation in the south. Alabama was a different place from Midwest thinking in regards to segregation of blacks. The book gave me a strong view of what it was like to live in a community of like-minded people who did not believe in equality. I want to clarify, there were white people who believed in the civil rights movement, but their group was small and docile in comparison to a larger group who were vigilant about the status quo of the South.
A secondary theme is the changing culture in regards to women. The idea of having a career outside the home is new in the 1960s. Women who married, and especially after having children, were expected to be homemakers and mothers. Most women did not work after having children. Married mothers who worked outside the home were looked at as suspicious. And don’t get me started on what people thought about divorced women, they were gossiped about and often ostracized.
The 1960s was a decade of radical change in culture and history: President John F. Kennedy was assassinated, Senator Robert Kennedy was assassinated, Martin Luther King was assassinated, the Vietnam War, the civil rights movement, the Peace Corp program started, a building distrust of government, and the women’s liberation movement.
A third theme in the book is Ed and Molly Milner make a commitment to be apart of the change in how people think and respond to African Americans in society. They wanted to be apart of the growing movement to bring about freedom and equality.
Milner is transparent about her thoughts, feelings, and behavior when her husband tells her they are moving. She was not in agreement. I wondered how on board she was about being a pastor’s wife? She had no idea about this new role, nor the big move. She had been wrapped up in love and in “I do.”
Ned had a commitment to liberal social causes. He’s drawn to helping and persevering for the civil rights movement, but less so with women’ rights. I add this later part, because he was not always understanding about Molly’s feelings. He was headstrong in wanting to help in social causes-the civil rights movement, and this was the key focus in his thinking.
The strength of Alligators and Me is Molly’s ability to take me to this time period. This is an important feature, because of the history involved, as a reader I have to “feel” the time and events.
I saw a transformation in Ned and Molly. What they experienced, and not always together, brought maturity. It is one thing to speak a commitment, it is quite another to follow through with the commitment.
A beautiful added storyline is their sweet dog, Tallulah. No matter what is going on in their lives, they had a beloved dog who loved and accepted them.
I recommend this book for anyone interested in the 1960s and the civil rights movement.