Reading progress update: I've read 12%.

Death on the Nile - Agatha Christie

First off, I am confused about the differences in page count between the kindle version I have (421p) and the regular paperback (320p). For the purposes of the BL-Opoly game, I'll go with the lower page count.


Now to Death on the Nile. I love this story. It is one of the first Christie stories I encountered as a child - in the form of the Ustinov film adaptation - and has always remained a favourite, along with Evil Under the Sun and Murder on the Orient Express and 4:50 from Paddington. Don't ever ask me to choose between them. 


The fabulous thing about re-reading the original book is that you learn things about the characters and notice things about the writing that are less prominent on the first, and even the second or third, read. It really depends on what you're reading the book for. 


My last re-read is only a few months ago, so the mystery itself is still fresh on my mind. However, when I picked up the book again this morning I noticed a few things that I had ignored in favour of reminding myself of more plot-focused aspects before.


1. The initial setting is odd: We are joining a group of punters at a pub discussing the appearance of a known wealthy young woman. It struck me on this re-read as if Christie wrote this in a way that makes the reader a part of the conversation at the pub, a member of the group that shares in its envy of the young woman's wealth:

The girl came out of the post office and climbed into the car. As she drove off, the lean man followed her with his eyes. He muttered: ‘It seems all wrong to me–her looking like that. Money and looks–it’s too much! If a girl’s as rich as that she’s no right to be a good-looker as well. And she is a good-looker…Got everything, that girl has. Doesn’t seem fair…’

I also know that this is a very clever bit of foreshadowing by Christie, but I had not noticed before that this could be read in a way where the reader is actually complicit in part of the story, because, essentially, Christie invites the reader into the story as part of the gawking public. (This also reminded me of Josephine Tey's A Shilling for Candles, but that's a tangent for another post...) 


2. In this first part of the book, Linnet Ridgeway seems a very different person from how she is usually portrayed in the tv/film adaptations. She's actually a very nice and very supportive of her friends. In fact, she's the nicest of any of the characters in this part of the book. 


3. Christie includes an interesting discussion of women giving up their identity in marriage. I had not noticed this before. 

Ah, but Wode was hers! She had seen it, acquired it, rebuilt and re-dressed it, lavished money on it. It was her own possession–her kingdom. But in a sense it wouldn’t count if she married Windlesham. What would they want with two country places? And of the two, naturally Wode Hall would be the one to be given up. She, Linnet Ridgeway, wouldn’t exist any longer. She would be Countess of Windlesham, bringing a fine dowry to Charltonbury and its master. She would be queen consort, not queen any longer. ‘I’m being ridiculous,’ said Linnet to herself. But it was curious how she did hate the idea of abandoning Wode…


4. Christie can create a marvellous atmosphere with very few words. It looks effortless, and yet, I often complain that this is exactly the thing that a lot of authors can't seem to manage.

A good sprinkling of young people–some vacant-looking–some bored–some definitely unhappy.

How absurd to call youth the time of happiness–youth, the time of greatest vulnerability! His glance softened as it rested on one particular couple. A well-matched pair–tall broad-shouldered man, slender delicate girl. Two bodies that moved in perfect rhythm of happiness. Happiness in the place, the hour, and in each other.

The dance stopped abruptly. Hands clapped and it started again. After a second encore the couple returned to their table close by Poirot. The girl was flushed, laughing. As she sat, he could study her face, lifted laughing to her companion.

There was something else beside laughter in her eyes.

Hercule Poirot shook his head doubtfully. ‘She cares too much, that little one,’ he said to himself. It is not safe. No, it is not safe.’

Boom! We're invested in a young couple in a hotel ballroom, and Christie didn't even have to describe the room. She makes it look so easy, doesn't she?


Oh, and how is this for an exquisitely damning description of a character - or should I say, a character assassination?

"He was a tall, thin young man, with dark hair and a rather narrow chest. His mouth had a very sweet expression: his eyes were sad and his chin was indecisive. He had long delicate hands. Threatened by consumption some years ago, he had never displayed a really robust physique. He was popularly supposed ‘to write,’ but it was understood among his friends that inquiries as to literary output were not encouraged."

There is just so much to love even in just the first chapter where nothing has actually happened, yet!