The Christie Affair by Nina De Gramont

The Christie Affair is one of my featured reads from The Christie’s Missing Readathon and is a new release this month – expected out on 20 January 2022 in the UK

I thoroughly enjoyed this story, but not how I thought. The blurb had me sold on the concept for this story, but the delivery was different from what I expected. Agatha’s disappearance has always been a mystery, so I was looking forward to this fictional take from the mistress’s point of view.

The Plot had many more strands than I expected; this is only partly about Agatha Christie’s disappearance and ties in murder-mystery, romance, and even historical fiction – that touches on the effects of the First World War and the plight of unmarried mothers in Ireland at the time.

While I didn’t mind having so many plot elements, I imagine any readers who enjoy a focused piece of writing could find this book a bit frustrating, especially when an overview of the whole storyline shows a weaving in and out of different timelines. Add to this that while the book is being narrated by the mistress, Nan, she shifts from first person to third-person omniscient, describing the thoughts of other characters and things. Earlier in the book, Nan says she has filled in some blanks by using the details from her correspondence with another character.

However, there are scenes when neither of these characters is present. In the author’s acknowledgements, Nina De Gremont states: “Nan’s theories of lucid living couldn’t have conjured a more perfect editor for this project than Jennifer Enderlin.” This tells us that the narrator has used their intuition and judgement to guess certain events. I found this narrative style a little distracting.

The character development is perhaps my favourite part. I enjoyed that the wife and mistress were able to communicate. We slowly came to understand their perspectives and motivations in the same way they came to understand one another.

Nan’s internal monologues often enhance the dialogue, particularly in her interactions and observations of Archie Christie.

Overall, I enjoyed this book. If this book were a painting, it would not be in the style of a realist but an impressionist -it’s broad strokes for many of the elements, and somehow it works. As a fiction of Christie’s disappearance, it doesn’t seek to represent itself as accurate and truthful but instead enhances the fiction by portraying an essence of the event.

Agatha was not the central character, but I think the murder-mystery was a tip of the hat to her, while the romance slant was perhaps in honour of her writing as Mary Westmacott.
Thank you, NetGalley, for the advance reader copy

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