Monday, January 16, 2017
Agatha Christie = Mary Westmacott
Posted by JaneGS
I've always enjoyed Agatha Christie mysteries, so when I discovered that she also wrote non-mysteries under the name Mary Westmacott, I thought I would give one a try.
I found a copy of The Rose and the Yew Tree and it made perfect airplane reading just after Christmas. It was a fun, interesting little novel, with shades of psychological drama that kept me engaged. Overall, the premise is pretty implausible but the writing is solid and the structure of the story interesting.
The basic idea is that the narrator, Hugh Norreys is an invalid, paralyzed due to a traffic accident, and so is an observer. He is convalescing during the close of WWII with his artist brother and political neophyte sister-in-law in Cornwall, where the local election brings a new man, John Gabriel, into the sphere of the resident fading gentry, a couple of elderly sisters and their young ward, Isabella.
The book is a study in class structure, prejudice, and opportunism as well as sexual freedom and limitations, free will, love, and sacrifice. From a historical perspective, it was interesting to read about the 1945 election in Britain that gave the Labour party victory over Churchill's Conservative party. Having just finishing watching The Crown, I appreciated the author's take on how that happened.
Sadly, none of the characters are particularly likable, and Isabella is more a symbol than a real person, but I enjoyed the story and didn't guess the way it worked until just before the author revealed all. At her heart, Christie was a mystery storyteller and this was structured much as her mysteries were with the reader guessing at the outcome right to the end.