“A long time ago, in another country, I nearly killed a woman. It’s a particular feeling, the urge to murder. First comes rage, larger than any you’ve ever imagined. It takes over your body so completely, it’s like a divine force, grabbing hold of your will, your limbs, your psyche. It conveys a strength you never knew you possessed. Your hands, harmless until now, rise up to squeeze another person’s life away. There’s a joy to it. In retrospect, it’s frightening, but I daresay in the moment it feels sweet. The way justice feels sweet.”
So begins The Christie Affair, told from the point of view of Miss Nan O’Dea, a fictional character but based on someone real. In 1925, she infiltrated the wealthy, rarified world of author Agatha Christie and her husband, Archie. A world of London townhomes, country houses, shooting parties, and tennis matches. Nan O’Dea became Archie’s mistress, luring him away from his devoted wife. In every way, she became a part of their world–first, both Christies. Then, just Archie.
The question is, why?
And what did it have to do with the mysterious eleven days that Agatha Christie went missing?
The answer takes you back time, to Ireland, to a young girl in love, to a time before The Great War. To a star-crossed couple who were destined to be together–until war and pandemic and shameful secrets tore them apart.
What makes a woman desperate enough to destroy another woman’s marriage?
What makes someone vengeful enough to hatch a plot years in the making?
What drives someone to murder?
These questions and more are explored in Nina de Gramont’s brilliant, unforgettable, lush, and powerful novel.
I received a copy of this audiobook from Netgalley. All thoughts and opinions are entirely my own, and I am writing a voluntary review.
The Christie Affair. Such a simple title, but one that has so many layers, especially considering the events that take place in this book.
Let’s just start with the premise. I love Agatha Christie’s books, and so I was intrigued to read one about her life. The premise of filling in her ‘missing days’ was intriguing, and it was fascinating to get a glimpse into the events that shaped her life. The author did a phenomenal job of making it read like one of Christie’s novels in both voice and plot, which I really admire. Overall, it was excellently written and enjoyable to read.
The part that lost me was in how many details were added or changed in rather drastic ways. Personally I feel that, if a book is going to novelize a part of history, all aspects of the story should be kept as close to accurate as possible (skip the rest of this paragraph to avoid spoilers). There is nothing to suggest that Nan O’Dea (or Nancy Neele as she is known to history) had an unnatural fascination with Archie and Agatha’s daughter, spent time in a corrupt convent, or was involved in a complicated murder of former Catholic church leaders. Her entire character appears to be fictionalized apart from the basics of being Archie Christie’s mistress and then, after his divorce, his wife. Agatha, while more accurate, also participated in an intense dalliance with a virtual stranger over the course of her disappearance, and then only saw him one other time before marrying someone else. It just seemed rather like a soap opera, especially since – while it technically could work solely due to the fact that there is no record of what Agatha did during her disappearance – it wasn’t based on any solid facts.
Other than this, I didn’t love that it was told from Nan’s point of view. It seems highly implausible that Agatha would (even hypothetically) confide in her ex-husband’s mistress/new wife, especially when it comes to details she refused to talk about with others. I personally think it would have been better if the narrative had switched perspectives instead of giving Nan an unnaturally large amount of knowledge surrounding other characters’ private thoughts and actions.
Overall, I loved the premise, but the execution fell short for me. In the story itself they say that the simplest answer to a mystery is generally the right one, and yet it felt like this story broke that rule and was injected with drama and scandal solely for the sake of doing so.
Content warning: There are references to rape and sexual abuse, as well as descriptions of intimate moments between some of the main couples. Nothing is described explicitly, but it is still clear what is going on.