Family Roundabout by Richmal Crompton

I’ve always been a fan of Richmal Crompton’s ‘William’ books for children. Liberally peppered with hilarious incidents and cringeworthy escapades, it is hard to think that Crompton could be capable of writing a sentence that was not funny. I was therefore, intrigued to discover Crompton was a prolific writer of adult, ‘serious’ novels. ‘Family Roundabout’ published by Persephone books, is my first experience with Crompton, writing a non-William book and I must say that I rather enjoyed this alternative voice of Crompton too!

Excerpt: This Persephone book looks at the complex relationship between two neighbouring families, the Fowlers and the Willoughbys,  whose outlooks on life, are on one hand in opposition to one another, but on the other hand, find their paths unavoidably intertwined. Both the matriarch’s of the families, keep a close eye on the fates of their beloved families, but employ different styles in guiding them. Mrs Willoughby, has control of the family fortune, and dictates the actions of her family members by way of controlling the money she endows them. Benevolent Mrs Fowler, watches silently, as her children fall in and out of their individual problems. Most of her children appeal for her help when they require it. But despite, however, much the mothers’ try to resolve their children’s problems, new troubles, recur in cyclical events, almost like a roundabout.

  • Title: Family Roundabout
  • Author: Richmal Crompton
  • Published: 1948 by Hutchinson , later published by Persephone Books in 2001.
  • Location of the story: rural England, in the years preceding World War II.
  • Main Characters: the two families: the Fowlers and the Willoughbys.

Family Roundabout, essentially deals with the domestic events occurring in the neighbouring households of the Fowlers and the Willoughbys. At the start of the book, both the patriarchs of the families have died, leaving their wives at the helm of family affairs.

Mrs. Fowler or Millicent has for so many years moulded her personality to suit the requirements of her husband and family, she has forgotten that she has an individual voice of her own. Quite interestingly, in the first few pages of the book we are introduced to the concept of Millicent having a split personality of sorts- that of the muddle-headed, self-effacing, diminutive ‘Milly’ and also that of ‘Millicent’ – a more discerning, quick-witted, astute individual with a sharp intellect.

Stupidity is not an easy quality to assume, and there had been times when her real self had broken through the barricade

We see in the course of the novel, Mrs Fowler, taking judicious steps to guide the progress of her family but always hiding proof of any deliberate intentions under the ruse of the bemused ‘Millie’.

The Fowlers are a large family who live in Langley Place, a country house located in the small village of Hurstmede, three miles away from the country town of Bellington. When Henry Fowler dies, he leaves behind Millicent, and their five children: Matthew (28) (living abroad in Kenya), Peter an architect (26)(married to Belle), Anice (24), Helen (22) and the youngest Judy, a schoolgirl of 16.

Willoughby, the owner of a large paper-mill, leaves his money in its entirety to his wife, Mrs Willoughby who chooses to distribute this money to her children as she sees fit. As a result she has complete control over the movements of her children. Dasg and dash, wedded to dash and dash respectively, respond to Mrs illooghby’s beck and call much to the consternation of their husbands. But household expenses, clothes and school fees are paid for so there is little or no protest. Max, as the eldest son, takes over as the de facto head of the mills. The youngest son, Oliver, has literary aspirations to publish a novel but his ideas are met with strong disproval from his mother and he forced to at least appear to work in the family business.

While Henry  Fowler and Willoughby were alive the two families paths seldom met. They were separated from one another by a vague idea of class difference and contempt for each other’s standing in society.

The Fowlers were of the county, while the Willoughbys were of the town.”

After the death of the two patriarchs Max and Helen decide to marry, thus unavoidably intertwining the paths of the two families.  Cool and calculative Helen  meets with her mother-in-laws approval and is usually consulted regarding all family affairs. The two youngest children of the respective families, Judy Fowler and Cynthia Willougby are close friends and go to school together. They share a shared juvenile obsession for a famous contemporary author.

Slowly, we are introduced into the individual lives of the Willoughbys and Fowlers. We learn that Peter Fowler has an unhappy home that he shares with his neurotic, manipulative wife Belle and their young daughter Gillian. Peter has a close bond with his brother Matthew, who lives in Kenya , but who frequently writes to their mother about his intentions of returning to his family home.

Anise, close in age to Helen, has grown up in her beautiful younger sisters shadow, marries a poor bookshop employee four of  love and lives an unhappy life constantly trying to compete with her wealthy sister Helen. Judy, grows up to be a beautiful young woman, and she and Oliver , the youngest Willoughby fall in love with one another. Mrs Willoughby, disapproves of the alliance, and tries to discourage Oliver from marrying her. Judy, yearning for the city life, cajoles Oliver into forsaking his position in the family business and tries to convince him to live an independent life in the city as a writer, However, timid Oliver finds himself constantly mustering up the courage to make this tremendous leap into financial insecurity.

Mrs Fowler, silently witnesses the trial and tribulations of her family. She waits in the sidelines, anticipating each wrong turn that her children and grandchildren might make and silently tries to steer them in the right direction. She suffers silently and is often unable to make matters right.

Mrs Willoughby, on the other hand, rules her family with an iron hand. Though she is benevolent and kind to her extended family, several of them poor and aged, she is often dictatorial and uncompromising with her immediate family.

Both women have the well being of their families foremost in their minds, whatever, their methods of dealing with their family problems might be. At the end of the story the two women have a remarkable conversation about family troubles, recurring at cyclical intervals,almost like a constantly moving roundabout.

Family Roundabout by Crompton is a well written, critical observation of domestic drama  and complex familial relationships. Crompton  simultaneously relates the interplay of several plot threads. Each of the characters and their relationships are described with remarkable clarity. Foibles in human character are acutely observed. None of the characters are perfect. Each one of them has their own individual shortcomings and they are remarkably  human. They are prone to make mistakes, and just as their mother’s rush to their sides to offer them assistance, so too do they awaken the sympathy of the reader.

 

12 New Authors I Would Like to Read in 2016

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Now that I’m approaching my fourth decade of life, I feel more confident about the choices that I make in life. For example, I know when I enter a Starbucks, to be confronted by a bewildering array of choices, that I am NOT a green tea latte type of person. Most definitely not. For me, it is the subtle aroma of the simple cappuccino, made with a hint of sugar, that gives me pleasure.

Similarly, I have accepted the fact that I will never be the ‘skinny jeans wearing type of gal’ with the permanently furrowed brow. Give me the comfortable boyfriend jeans and I will sink comfortably into my favourite couch, to reach for that reassuring book.

When it comes to book choices too, I have finally reached that beautiful place, when I am able to appreciate in advance, exactly what kind of book I will enjoy reading, even when I have never read a single line written by that author.

Most of them are modern classics, written in and around the twentieth century and deal with stories related to the home and society.

Here in no particular order, are the twelve authors whom I have never read, but I expect (and hope!) will give me many hours of unadulterated reading pleasure in 2016.

1) E.M. Delafield-  The Diary of A Provincial Lady

2) Elizabeth Jenkins-  The Tortoise and the Hare

3) E.F. Benson- Mapp and Lucia

4) D.E. Stevenson- Mrs Tim of the Regiment or Miss Buncle’s Book

5) Monica Dickens-Mariana

 

 

6) Penelope Lively- Consequences

7) Muriel Spark-The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie

8) Beryl Bainbridge- The Bottle Factory Outing

9) Winifred Holtby- South Riding

10) Barbara Comyns- Our Spoons Came from Woolworths

11) Elizabeth Taylor- Mrs Palfrey at the Claremont

12) Josephine They- The Franchise Affair

Please let me know if you enjoy reading these particular authors and which books you have enjoyed reading by them.

Which books do you look forward to reading in 2016?

Here’s to a great year of reading ahead!

 

The Thoughtful Holiday Gift List for the Booklovers in Your Life

For the Mystery Lover


For the Relaxation Seeker


For the Picture Book Lover


For the Movie Lover


For the Older Child


For the Childlike Adventure Seeker


For the Poirot Lover


For the Poetry Lover


For the Literarature Lover


For the Romantic Escapist


For the Charming Vintage Romance Novel Lover


For the Classics Lover


For the Person Who Has Little Time to Read


For the Music Lover


For the Anne of Green Gables Fan


For Yourself


Or If You Prefer Something More Contemporary

October 2015 Book Wrap Up

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Here is a round up of bookish favourites for the month of October, 2015. For a glimpse into September, 2015’s Bookish Favourites look here.

1. Books

The month of October was a fine month for reading. After reading only two books in September I managed to read a grand total of nine books! Most of the books were superlative reads.

A Year in Provence (4/5*) by Peter Mayle describes the author’s year long diary style narrative of spending a year in a small village in Provence. The writing style is simple yet descriptive. A beautiful travelogue. I tried to read a chapter a month this year (corresponding to the month described in the book) but decided to finish the book off in October. For a look at my art journal entry based on the cover illustration look here.

The Eye of Love (4.5/5*) by Margery Sharp. This is an unusual, quirky, humorous fairytale romance story. An unlikely hero (portly, middle-aged Henry Gibson) and an unlikely heroine (angular, past her prime Dolores Diver) meet at a Chelsea Arts Ball dressed as a brown paper parcel and Spanish dancer respectively. Thus springs an unusual decade long love affair that is threatened by economic situations. Enter an unemotional orphaned niece with a large appetite for food and drawing random objects, a few unusual characters and situations, lots of candor, romance and intelligence and you have the makings of a fine novel. ‘The Eye of Love’ by Margery Sharp is a fantastic read. For a full review click here

A Murder is Announced (4/5*) by Agatha Christie. This is Christie at her best. A Murder is Announced is a Miss Marple story. In the small village of Chipping Cleghorn a murder is announced in the local gazette. The murder will take place at 6.30 pm on October 29th at Little Paddocks.Various neighbours and members of the household gather in the living room at the stipulated time. The lights go out at the exact time announced and a masked intruder charges into the room and orders everyone to stick their hands up. A gun shot is fired and when the lights turn on, the hooded guest is found dead on the floor. The motive behind the killing forms the core of the mystery. I enjoyed the structure of the story. Each chapter led us methodically, deeper and deeper into the mystery. Cozy, delicious details of village life in the Cotwolds interspersed the detecting. Miss Marple at her very best! A very enjoyable read.

84 Charing Cross Road (5/5*) by Helene Hanff. This is an account of the correspondence between Helene Hanff, a freelance writer in New York and Frank Doel, an employee of a used antiquarian bookstore in London. The correspondence is spread over the years 1949 to 1969, documenting the lively dialogue between two people, with nothing in common but a knowledge and love of good books. Set in the years after World War II, the reader is treated to an insight of the reality of what it was like to live in the aftermath of the war. The book is funny and poignant and shows how people separated by great distance and circumstances can nonetheless, touch each others lives and create the most beautiful of relationships.For a full review click here.

The Priory (5/5*) by Dorothy Whipple.

“She saw for the first time that the history of Saunby was a sad one. It had been diverted from its purpose; it had been narrowed from a great purpose to a little one. It had been built for the service of God and the people; all people, but especially the poor.”

‘The Priory’ is the story of how the future of Saunby Priory might be diverted to recover the livelihoods, dignity and self-worth of a large community of people, united in their purpose. It is a beautiful novel, worthy of the highest praise. For a full review click here

Inspector French’s Greatest Case (4/5*) by Freeman Wills Crofts. I reviewed Inspector French’s Greatest Case by Freeman Wills Crofts as part of  Simon from Stuck in a Book’s #The1924Club. In the second half of October everyone was asked to review books published in 1924. The link to the complete list of blogger reviews is here.
In ‘Inspector French’s Greatest Case’ we are introduced to a case of murder that occurs at the offices of Duke and Peabody, a diamond merchant located at Hatton Garden in London. On a cold night in the middle of November, the body of an employee, by the name of Mr. Charles Gething is discovered prostrate on the floor in the inner office of Mr. Duke. Mr. Duke’s large Milner safe has been ransacked with the loss of thirty-three thousand pounds worth of diamonds and a thousand pounds in bank notes. Mr. Gething has undoubtedly been murdered as evidenced from the ugly wound made to the back of the skull by a blunt instrument.
The theft of the diamonds and money previously secured in the safe are the motive behind the murder. To investigate the case, Inspector French of the Criminal Investigation Department of New Scotland Yard is called in. For a full review of the book click here.

Dying in the Wool by (3/5*) by Frances Brody. This a ‘cozy’ mystery set in post World War I Yorkshire. It is the first in the detective series starring an amateur sleuth- Kate Shackleton. In this case, Kate investigates the inexplicable disappearance of the father of an old friend of hers. The man in question, was a fabric mill owner. Though the characters in the story were well drawn and the details of the period depicted sounded authentic, the story failed to grip me.

Martha in Paris (4/5*) by Margery Sharp. This is the second book in the ‘Martha Trilogy’ of Margery Sharp , the first of which was ‘The Eye of Love’. In this book we find that the unusual character of Martha has grown up. She is eighteen and about to embark on an adventure. She is to stay in Paris for two whole years to study art. This short book is quirky and funny and made me laugh frequently. It also made me ponder about the trials and tribulations of falling in love with a person with an artistic temperament.

Cheerful Weather for the Wedding (5/5*) by Julia Strachey. This is the most unusual book I have read this year yet so very wonderful. This is a Persephone Classic. It describes at length the wedding day of a young girl who is reluctant to get married. The bride takes to glugging a bottle of Jamaica Rum in her bedroom to quell her fears whilst downstairs a strange collective of characters have assembled to participate in the wedding celebrations. There are eccentric relatives, friends, a former beau who wishes to propose and yet is not certain of himself and a bevy of peculiar servants who help in the wedding preparations. The book is interspersed with memorable dialogues. I highly recommend this book!

2. Blogposts

Most of the blogposts this month were book reviews. I published eight book reviews excluding this round-up post this month. Four were reviews of children’s books: Blueberries for Sal, Tuesday, Goodnight Moon and Owl Moon. The remaining four were reviews of ‘grown-up’ books- including The Eye of Love, Inspector French’s Greatest Case, 84 Charing Cross Road and The Priory.

3. Movies

Since I devoted most of my evening leisure time to reading I didn’t watch as many movies or TV series as usual. I did watch dramatizations of Miss Marple’s A Murder is Announced (starring Geraldine McEwan), 84 Charing Cross Road (I was not a fan of Anne Bancroft’s acting; I felt it was slightly too affected), a re-watch of Far From the Madding Crowd starring Carey Mulligan (the movie makes me want to re-read the book), Testament of Youth (re-watch) and Hocus Pocus on Halloween.

4. Audiobooks

 I started listening to Alan Bradley’s book ‘The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie’ on audio starring a young detective Flavia de Luce. This was fresh on the heels of completing the brilliant audio series ‘In and Out the Kitchen’ written by Miles Jupp.

5. Miscellaneous

 I bought a few books this month. These included a second hand book purchase of some beautiful books of the Emily of New Moon series by L.M. Montgomery. To take a look at the beautiful book covers click here. I also found two e-books from the British Library of Crime Classics series on sale – they are the Murder in Piccadilly by Charles Kingston and Resorting to Murder: Holiday Mysteries by Martin Edwards

6. Next Month

I am devoting the majority of next month’s books to reading Children’s Literature for #ReadKidsLit. I hope to discover/ rediscover the joy of childhood tales. Here is a peek at next month’s ‘TBR’ pile.

Wish you all a happy and bookish November!

84 Charing Cross Road by Helene Hanff

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Title: 84 Charing Cross Road

Author: Helene Hanff

Published: 1970

Location of the Story: New York and London from the period 1949-1969

Main Characters: Helene Hanff (freelance writer in New York), Frank Doel (bookseller in London)

The Story: This is an account of the correspondence between Helene Hanff, a freelance writer in New York and Frank Doel, an employee of a used antiquarian bookstore in London. The correspondence is spread over the years 1949 to 1969, documenting the lively dialogue between two people, with nothing in common but a knowledge and love of good books. Set in the years after World War II, the reader is treated to an insight of the reality of what it was like to live in the aftermath of the war. The book is funny and poignant and shows how people separated by great distance and circumstances can nonetheless, touch each others lives and create the most beautiful relationships.

The correspondence starts in October of 1949 when Helene Hanff responding to an advertisement in the Saturday Review of Literature, writes to ‘Marks and Co.’, located at 84 Charing Cross Road for certain antiquarian books. These are books that are unavailable to her in New York at suitable prices that are affordable to ‘a poor writer with antiquarian taste in books.’

An employee named ‘FPD’ responds to the request and supplies Miss Hanff with several of the requested books. Over the next few months we see a further exchange of letters. We witness Hanff’s friendly, sarcastic and witty personality emerge in her letters. Her letters are liberally scattered with profanities, underlined phrases and expressions written in capitalized letters for emphasis. As ebullient as Hanff is in her writing, ‘FPD’ retains a very impersonal, professional yet helpful air in accordance with his professional requirements at ‘Marks and Co’.

This impersonal attitude is broken, however, in the face of Hanff’s extreme generosity. Hanff is appalled to discover the strict rationing imposed on the British public after the war (2 ounces of meat per family per week and one egg per person per month!). In sympathy she sends a hamper full of food as a Christmas present to the employees at Marks and Co.

The employees at Marks and Co. are overwhelmed by the generosity of Hanff’s gift and ‘FPD’ for the first time thanks Hanff in a letter signed ‘Frank P. Doel’. The letters continue. Hampers and food parcels are sent from Hanff to mark Easter, Christmas and other celebrations  despite her modest income and circumstances. In further correspondence little tidbits of information about Hanff and Doel’s respective lives are shared. We learn that Doel is happily married to Nora and that they have three daughters. We read about the purchase of Doel’s first family car, their brief summer holidays, how the children grow up and find employment. We also learn of the highs and lows of Hanff’s writing career. How much she would love to visit London and meet the employees of Marks and Co. in person and visit the literary landmarks of London.

What are the chances of two unrelated people, located 3500 miles apart forging such a strong connection through a series of letters particularly in the pre-internet age? Hanff and Doel demonstrate it can be done and that people can care about one another in a world riddled with hostility and hatred. Particularly in respect to the bloody, gruesome war that took place a few years before this correspondence started, the letters are particularly heartening and renew one’s confidence in the humanity prevalent in mankind.

September 2015 Favourites : Books, Audiobooks, Bookish Blogposts, Movies, Library Hauls and Much More.

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September 2015 was a slow but good month for new books, audiobooks and movies. It took a little time getting into our normal routine after our month long trip to India. Here is a round up of my September (and a little bit of August) favourites …

In the month of August the only two books I had read from my Holiday Reading List were coincidentally Enchanted April by Elizabeth von Arnim (a fantastic read) and Tempestuous April by Betty Neels.  Both of them contained April in the title but here the similarity end. I will leave you to arrive at your own conclusions…

Enchanted April is the perfect read for a summer vacation and found it into my September blogpost that lists Eight Books that Remind Me of Summer. Set in Portofino, Italy, Enchanted April tells of a sort of ‘re-birth’ of four different women who travel to Italy to spend time in a rented medieval castle, to find solace in the beautiful surroundings.

In September we frequently visited our library.

Little M and I are continuing to read from the Time Magazine’s list of Top 100 Children’s Books. Two books on this list are Tuesday by David Wiesner and Owl Moon by Jane Yolen.

Tuesday is more of a picture book with terrific illustrations. It tells the tale of a series of animal invasions that strike at a particular time and place, namely Tuesday evening at around eight o’clock in a small suburb. Frogs invade the skies in hundreds of thousands, flying along on lilypad aircraft. They invade backyards, dark sitting rooms where people are dozing off in front of the television. Neither the press nor the police know what to make of it the day after, when the town is strewn with abandoned lilypads. All is well until next Tuesday at the same time… when a shadow of a flying pig is seen eerily set against a barn door…

Owl Moon is another wonderfully atmospheric book. It tells the story of a young child setting out on her very first owling expedition with her father. The night sky glows with the golden glow of a full moon- the best time to view an owl in the deep, snow laden woods. It is a tale of patience and forbearance, excitement and anticipation.

We are really enjoying all the books on the Time Magazine’s list of Top 100 Children’s Books. I cannot recommend them enough. Not on the list but of great entertainment value to Little M, is another installment of the Sofia the First entertainment series (she missed her a great deal whilst in India).

My reading in September was slow. I’ve started The Land Where Lemons Grow  by Helena Attlee which is a history of the introduction of citrus fruit in Italy. In great detail it researches how this fruit  has invaded the Italian imagination, from Calabria’s Diamante citrons, the blood oranges of Sicily, to the bergamot thriving on narrow strips of coastline. There is a bit of everything in this part history, part horticulture, sociopolitical culinary book offering.

I finished the latest installment in Alexander McCall Smith’s Edinburgh series featuring philosopher Isabel Dalhousie called ‘The Novel Habits of Happiness’. As usual the book has a little bit of everything that I love, scenes from a Scottish city, romance, a light mystery, memorable characters and very large doses of reflection. It is the first book I reach for when I come back from our holiday.

Another book that I have started is a ‘cozy’ post-WW1 mystery set in Leeds called ‘Dying in the Wool‘ by Frances Brody. Speaking of mysteries, September marked the 125th Birth Anniversary of Dame Agatha Christie which I celebrated with my blogpost ‘An Ode to Agatha Christie: Celebrating Her 125th Birth Anniversary with Eight Memorable Books’.

I bought an audiobook from Audible in September called ‘In and Out of the Kitchen’ by Miles Jupp and cannot recommend it enough. It is a BBC 4 radio drama about a ‘cookery writer’ Damien Trench and his writing and domestic struggles.The writing is so very funny in a wry sort of way… really enjoying it.

As the mother of a 3 year old I find it impossible to visit the cinema nowadays and watch ‘non-princess themed’ movies. One of the bonuses of the Emirates flights to and from India was the excellent selection of current movies . On the way to India I watched ‘Far From the Madding Crowd’ which I loved and has inspired me to give this favourite Hardy a re-read. On the way back to the US, I was lucky enough to watch the dramatized version of Vera Brittain’s poignant WW1 memoir ‘Testament of Youth’ which was epic. I cannot recommend these two movies enough.

Lastly, the whole family watched not one but two dramatized versions of C.S. Lewis’s classic -The Lion The Witch and The Wardrobe… and Aslan made it into my art journal.

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Hope you had a wonderful September. See you in October xxx.

An Ode to Agatha Christie: Celebrating Her 125th Birth Anniversary with Eight Memorable Books

If you love to read crime fiction novels, chances are you will most definitely have read an Agatha Christie novel. Growing up, my group of school friends loved to read and share different books together. Agatha Christie was a great favorite. A quick and guaranteed good read. Someone you could rely on to divert you away from all those fat textbooks and the required English reading list.

Agatha Christie was definitely the writer who developed my love for vintage crime fiction. She was someone I read before venturing to read the works of Ngaio Marsh, Margery Allingham, Dorothy L Sayers, Patricia Wentworth, Nicholas Blake and Edmund Crispin.

To celebrate Christie’s 125th birth anniversary I have chosen some of our best-loved childhood reads that we read many years ago and continue to read today. As one friend recently remarked, “I still read a lot of Christie. It’s my comfort reading when I’m miserable…”

Here in no particular order are some of our most memorable Christie novels.

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1)And Then There Were None- this along with the ‘Murder of Roger Ackroyd’ has to be one of the best loved Christie novels. It has a unique plot: ten guests with seemingly little in common, are invited to a millionaire’s house on a private island, off the coast of Devon. One by one, quite systematically, all the guests are killed until nobody is left…

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2)Murder on the Orient Express- the luxurious backdrop of the Orient Express forms the setting of this spinechiller. In the dead of the night, a traveller on the Orient Express is brutally murdered in a locked compartment and further investigation reveals that he has been stabbed many many times. Enter Poirot to the rescue.

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3)The Pale Horse- this is a nice stand alone novel. It doesn’t feature either Hercule Poirot or Miss Marple but instead showcases Ariadne Oliver as the detective in charge. This book has a hint of the supernatural and the occult, has references to witchcraft and is nice to read during Halloween (another book that comes to mind for this season is Halloween Party). A dying woman bequeaths a list of names to Father Gorman and shortly after receiving the list he is killed. Mark Easterbrook along with Ariadne Oliver try to decipher the clues locked inside the list- a thankless task, because the people have nothing in common, except for the fact that they are being serially marked for murder.

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4)4.50 From Paddington- this is another Agatha Christie featuring a murder associated with trains but this time Miss Marple comes to the rescue. It seems Miss Marple’s character was based on Christie’s grandmother. Miss Marple definitely reminds me in certain ways of Patricia Wentworth’s elderly sleuth- Miss Silver. I love the storyline of this particular mystery: two trains traveling in opposite directions pass one another in the evening. The occupant of one train, an elderly lady called Mrs. McGillicuddy, sleepily observes something quite sinister occurring on the opposite train, a man strangling a woman. When she reports the incidence to her friend, Miss Marple, they are unable to uncover a missing body but further sleuthing proves that what Mrs. McGillicuddy saw, might have been correct.

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5)The Murder of Roger Ackroyd- this supposedly is the mystery that launched Christie’s career as the ‘Queen of Mystery’ and brought her great popularity. A young widow commits suicide in a small village and her death sparks rumours of her having been blackmailed regarding her affair with wealthy Roger Ackroyd- another inhabitant of the village. Very soon, Roger Ackroyd is found dead in his locked study after having discovered the identity of the unknown blackmailer. The identity of the blackmailer/killer is called into question by village inhabitant Hercule Poirot. What makes this mystery stand apart from all other Christies is the ingenious plot and very surprising identity of the killer.

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6)Hercule Poirot’s Christmas- I usually reach for this one during the festive season even though the book is completely lacking in ‘christmas spirit’. Simeon Lee gathers his large family to his large country house during the holidays, only to be brutally murdered in a classic locked room mystery. I also enjoy watching the dramatized version of this book featuring the inimitable David Suchet as Poirot.

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7)Murder in Mesopotamia- This has always been one of my favorites. I love the Christie mysteries set in Egypt and the East. The have a distinctive flavor and resonate with Christie’s own experiences on archaeological digs with her second husband- Max Mallowan- a renowned archaeologist. This book has a surprising solution to a clever plot.

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8)Endless Night- This is a book I actually read recently and was struck by its very mature and spine-chilling narrative. It has a dark, pent-up psychological tension that is similar to that found in a Hitchcock thriller. Do read this book if you are interested in reading a Christie with a difference.

Which Agatha Christie novels are your favorites?

Poirot or Marple?

Hats off to Agatha Christie for creating two such original, memorable detectives along with a host of other characters.