Monday, November 24, 2014

In its 75th Year: And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie

THIS POST CONTAINS SPOILERS SO PLEASE DON'T READ IT IF YOU HAVE BEEN LIVING UNDER A ROCK AND HAVE NOT READ AND THEN THERE WERE NONE.




I was in school when I first read And Then There Were None. Agatha Christie was already a great favourite and I was searching for all her books and reading them. I remember the suspense and the tension became so unbearable towards the end that I turned the few pages left and read the last page. Couldn't believe my eyes when I read the name of the person pulling the strings. I don't know how many times I have read the book subsequently and never has it failed to give me the thrills.



This year being the 75th year of its publication (it was first published in November 1939 at a time when the world was witnessing yet another catastrophe) I read it once again. and found that with age one's focus of interest shifts.



Ten people are called to an island. Though strangers to each other, they have one thing that binds them, they have all caused the death of somebody. Never did I really pay great attention to the crimes that they had committed. Yes, they were all murderers but the first time I read it my interest was more on finding the true identity of U.N. Owen and subsequently at how skillfully Christie weaves her tale [though thinking about it dispassionately it has always seemed to me that a lot of the success of U.N. Owen's plot depends on sheer luck: An old man walking so silently that he is able to bash the heads of not one but two men, is able to inject poison into the arms of an old lady, an alive man masquerading as a dead man. Would a new author have been allowed to get away with all this?]

"What a duty-loving law-abiding lot we all seem to be!

Most of them are guilty of a dereliction of duty. The doctor botches up an operation. The policeman indicts an innocent man. A governess plots her ward's death. An officer leaves his men to die. A general sends one of his men to his death. Two servants withhold medical aid to their mistress. Anthony Martson forgets his responsibility on the roads. Emily Brent, who professes to be a pious Christian actually forgets all about Christian charity in her dealing with her maid.

Dr. Armstrong and the Rogers kill an elderly person. Tony Martson and Vera kill kids. Arthur Richmond and Beatrice are young. Landor and Morris are middle-aged. Lombard's 21 men must have been of varying ages. This time round my thoughts were with these victims.

Landor had had a wife - a thin slip of a woman with a worried face. There'd been a kid too, a girl about fourteen. For the first time, he wondered what had become of them.

Like Ex-Inspector Blore, I too thought about the families of those who had died. Surely, there must have been people who loved them. What happened to the parents of the kids killed by Martson? Did Arthur Richmond have a family? Did Louis Mary Clees have children who were devastated by their mother's death? Did Cyril's mother - who had already lost her husband - survive the shock of her young child being drowned? And contrary to the stance maintained by Lombard death for the 'Natives' is as easy or tough as for a White man.


That was what murder was - as easy as that!
But afterwards you went on remembering...

And did the blood on their hands make any difference to them? Dr. Armstrong pulled himself up and presumably went on to become a better doctor; Tony Martson learnt nothing. General Macarthur was assailed by guilt (as was perhaps Mrs. Rogers), no such feeling crossed the minds of  Blore and Brent. Vera remembered the drowning but had Hugo married her wouldn't she have congratulated herself on the success of her scheme? More than anybody else, it is Vera's crime that gives me the shivers.To plot the death of a small child who is in your charge and to execute it in such a cold-blooded manner and to rue it only because you didn't get the man and his fortune. How does one describe a person like that?

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First Line: In the corner of a first-class smoking carriage, Mr. Justice Wargrave, lately retired from the bench, puffed at a cigar and ran an interested eye through the political news in The Times.

Title: And Then There Were None
Author: Agatha Christie
Publication Details: London: Harper Collins, 1993
First Published: 1939
Pages: 223
Source: College Library [823.871 C463M]

Other books read of the same author: (Among others) Endless Night

*

Submitted in the "Book Published Under More Than One Title" in the Vintage Mystery Challenge @
My Reader's Block because as a perceptive reader once remarked, the different titles reflect the growth of our social conscience.








20 comments:

  1. I read this book again last year. Still love it.

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    1. It's amazing, Nitu di, how it never fails to thrill. :)

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    2. Purva has been mentioning that she wants to read it too. I should perhaps remind her. She hardly reads but when she does, she wants to read mysteries and suspense. She has been talking about this book since she saw "Gumnam" and I told her it was loosely based on this story.

      Did I tell you that I bought a collection of 3 Christie stories from a used bookstore in Australia called "The Time Machine"?

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    3. I am so glad Purva is interested in Mystery stories. :)

      I thought of Gumnam as a travesty but have since come to know that almost all cinematic presentations of this book have a happy ending. To me, that is killing the spirit of the book. Gumnam atleast had some haunting songs.

      No, you never told me about the visit to this bookshop. I love the name. What else did you buy?

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    4. I bought just this book from there.

      There are many used books stores in Australia and the names are really interesting. The one I liked best was "Well Thumbed Books".

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    5. I think you did tell me about that store. In Delhi, second-hand book stores have now virtually disappeared. Remember that Raddiwallah?

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  2. It's a disturbing story and a true one-of-a-kind book - thanks for a very refreshing take on it Neeru!

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    1. Thank you Sergio. Glad you liked the post.

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  3. Neeru - What a thoughtful and well-written discussion of this book. It's one of my top Christie novels and like you, I find something different in it with every re-read.

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    1. Thanks Margot. It is one of my favourite mysteries of all-time. I don't know how many times I have read it.

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  4. I probably read this years ago and maybe even saw movie versions, but I don't remember a thing and I want to read it again. So I will come back to this post after that. Hopefully soon.

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    1. Please do read it Tracy. To me, it is unforgettable. I await your reaction.

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  5. Yes, I'm one of those who lives under a rock. I'll move it up. Thanks!

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    1. Keishon, you are lucky. You have a treat waiting for you.:)

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  6. It remains my favorite Christie - and, I would argue, runs counter to the belief that Christie really didn't "do" characters very well. Your review makes it quite clear that there is a reasonable amount of depth here, which is one of the reasons we care about what is happening. And whodunit certainly remains a surprise!

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    1. Welcome to the blog Les Blatt. In this book, the characters are well etched out. To me the most heart-stopping moment in this book is when two characters look into each other's eyes - they are the only two left and...

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  7. I always like reading the "when I first read this book" kind of post. So much more intimate and personal.

    And the infamous Gollywog cover! --gasp-- ;^) For me it will always be Ten Little Indians and Indian Island no matter how many times they change it. What is it now? Soldiers? Or has it been changed again because its "offensive" to veterans. What nonsense.

    Sadly, Vera sounds like so many young woman making headline news in Chicago. I barely can watch TV news anymore. Cruelty and savagery are on the rise in the US.

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    1. Thanks for liking the post, John.

      The first time I read the book, it was the one with the 'infamous' cover. Have heard that all mention of Gollywogs in Enid Blyton is now being purged. 'What nonsense' covers it well. Too much of political correctness is also as irritating (and insulting) as prejudice and discrimination.

      In India, we have a new trend of sexual crimes against children. It is just so sickening. Cruelty and savagery are on a rise everywhere in this world.

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  8. ''And Then There Were None'' is my favorite Agatha Christie novel! It's so scary and suspenseful!

    Shounak @ Life with Books & Movies

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    1. Welcome to the blog Shounak.

      It is my favourite Christie too. :)

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