Content Warnings: none
Somewhere along the way, my husband acquired the graphic biography Agatha: The Real Life of Agatha Christie by Anne Martinetti. It is co-authored with Guillaume Lebeau, illustrated by Alexandre Franc, translated from French into English by Edward Gauvin, and was published by Self Made Hero in 2016. I’ve stumbled on a couple of graphic biographies recently, and I’m not sure the genre works. Fire!! The Zora Neale Hurston Story was a hot mess. You had to already know Hurston’s life story to understand anything in the graphic memoir. I found the same issue with Agatha.
The book beings December 7, 1926 — and Agatha Christie has vanished. Fortunately, I’d heard this bit of information before. Christie disappears, is found 11 days later, and has no recollection of what happened (or so she says). In Agatha, her husband is accused of killing his wife. Other famous authors, like Arthur Conan Doyle and Dorothy L. Sayers, posit theories as to what happened. Meanwhile, Christie checks into a hotel in Harrogate, “a spa town in North Yorkshire, England.” There, she converses with a man. After a bit, the wacky mustache tipped me off: she’s imagining conversations with Hercule Poirot. In London, someone (Sir Arthur Conan Doyle?) takes one of Christie’s gloves to a medium, who uses the item to transport readers to Christie’s past to see if he can divine where she is.
The plot isn’t meant for someone who wants to learn about Agatha Christie. People come and go without introductions, events happen without reason. Every two pages or so is a new year and location. What I gathered is Christie traveled a lot, had two husbands who cheat, and didn’t spend much time with her daughter, Rosalind. Instead, Christie went to new locations and was inspired by the settings.
Thus, she wrote her novels starring Hercule Poirot, Miss Jane Marple, and Tommy and Tuppence. While all of her detectives make appearances to chat with their creator, Poirot is the most bothersome. Christie is constantly threatening to kill him off. The best part of the book was seeing Christie talk to her detectives like real people. Poirot even sneaks into a ladies-only bath.
The drawing style is simple and clear. The frames reminded me of how Joann Sfar structures his The Rabbi’s Cat books 1 and 2. That little bit of space makes each frame clearly it’s own thing, preventing one frame from blending into another. I appreciated the technique, especially since I just read The Customer is Always Wrong and noted that sometimes the frames aren’t clearly separated. Oddly, both Agatha and The Rabbi’s Cat books are from France. Perhaps this separation of frames and unpolished line around each frame is a French thing? It does make for easier reading.
In the end, I’ve had a little Agatha Christie week here at Grab the Lapels, starting with a review of Murder on the Orient Express. The graphic memoir Agatha wasn’t for me because so much is skipped in the timeline. It’s now, I see, a book written for hardcore fans who may want to see something new about a woman who tried many things: early flight, surfing, archaeology, and disappearing.