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Mark Passmore, National Trust/AP

Will the Opening of Agatha Christie’s Home Provide Insight Into Her Life?

February 25, 2009 01:57 PM
by Sarah Amandolare
The vacation home of prolific mystery writer Agatha Christie opens to the public this week, but parts of Christie’s life remain shrouded in ambiguity.

Will Greenway Reveal Clues?

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Christie vacationed at Greenway, an 18th century villa in Devon, England, at various times from 1938 until 1959. The home will open to the public for the first time this Saturday, following two years of restoration efforts costing $7.8 million. Previously, only the grounds surrounding the home have been open to visitors, as Christie’s daughter, Rosalind, lived there with her husband until their deaths in 2004 and 2005, according to the Associated Press.

“It does feel very much in a time warp,” Robyn Brown of the National Trust heritage group told the AP. Christie’s bedroom, and all of her “books, papers, boxes of chocolate and bunches of flowers” look nearly identical to when she was there. Fans of Christie’s novels can look forward to “murder-mystery tours and Christie-themed events” expected to be held at Greenway eventually.

According to UNESCO, Christie is “the world’s most frequently translated” of modern authors. But her books are only part of her appeal. Christie’s life is perhaps even more intriguing than her novels.

Fans and publications still debate Christie’s 11-day disappearance in 1926, which occurred after she discovered her first husband, Archie, was having an affair, and came not long after the death of her mother. According to the Straight Dope, Christie “was known to have been nervous and depressed,” and some say a nervous breakdown caused her to flee.

Christie almost never discussed her disappearance, and blamed it on temporary amnesia, according to fan site All About Agatha Christie. The site delves into another theory, instigated by the daughter of Christie’s sister-in-law, Nan Watts. Of the incident, Watts’ daughter told an interviewer, “it was carefully orchestrated … She wanted Archie back … She wanted to give him a shock … If she had had amnesia she would not have signed the register in the other woman’s name.” Christie reportedly signed into a hotel in Harrogate called the Swan Hydro, “and signed in under the name of Teresa Neele,” using the last name of her husband’s mistress.

Key Players: Agatha Christie

According to The Christie Mystery, young Agatha was a shy, solitary child with a vivid imagination. She was home-schooled, while “her two elder siblings were away at boarding school.” She worked as a nurse, and used her knowledge of poisons and medicine in her crime novels. Her travels in the Middle East also influenced her work.

It was “sibling rivalry” that first inspired Christie to pick up the pen, however. According to the Biography Channel, Christie’s sister challenged her “to write a detective story, where the ending could not be guessed so quickly.” The result was “The Mysterious Affair at Styles,” which Christie wrote in just three weeks in 1920.

Related Topic: Literary Travel

Trip Advisor presents a guide to the historic homes of European Authors, including Shakespeare's birthplace in Stratford-upon-Avon, England, and Franz Kafka's birthplace in Prague.

Agatha Christie’s “Murder on the Orient Express” is a classic mystery novel set on the famous European train, which is detailed in findingDulcinea’s feature article on the Orient Express Railroad Route.

The Sylvia Beach Hotel suits literary travelers, and has a room called the “Agatha Christie” with shelves of her books, and a clue from each mystery hidden in the room. The hotel is featured in findingDulcinea’s Oregon Travel Web Guide.

Reference: National Trust; Great Britain; Books Web Guide

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