Agatha Christie at Home
Note: HPC received an advance copy of a new book, Agatha Christie at Home, about Agatha's homes and domestic life. It was published in October 2009 by Frances Lincoln.
All of these photos here of Greenway are from the book, and are reproduced by permission. Following is my review of this fantastic book.
It has been a great pleasure to read Agatha Christie at Home by Hilary Macaskill. Many books focus on Agatha's writings, but very few that tell us how she lived. Ms. Macaskill gives us a
different Agatha Clarissa Miller than we're used to. We see Agatha not as an author, but the lover of homes, comfort, her country, and her family. Ms. Macaskill accomplishes this with great
success! Ms. Macaskill received invaluable assistance from Agatha's grandson, Mathew Prichard, and she interviewed others who knew Agatha and her family.
Agatha and Max, her second husband, with her dog Bingo at Greenway.
With the kind permission of Mathew Prichard.
The book is organized in a logical manner, first starting with an overview of Agatha's life and career. Ms. Macaskill's research is thorough and she presents us new information. She reveals
such facts as Agatha making her own mayonnaise and how she planned her next book's plot. However, this is not a biography--it is a tour of Agatha's homes and of the country that she loved so
The author takes us on a journey through Agatha's various residences and their influence on her. We visit twelve homes (before WWII, she owned eight of them!), plus a few more whilst she
lived in the Middle East. With careful detail, we learn about her love of houses--from her doll houses of her childhood to her favorite--Greenway on the River Dart in Devon. Agatha had always
loved houses we learn; says she: "I have gone over innumerable houses, furnished houses, decorated houses, made structural alterations to houses. Houses! God bless houses!"
The main focus of the book, however, is how her homes and the home county of Devon affected her as a person as well as a mystery writer. There is a direct tie between her homes and the settings
of her books. Her home Greenway has featured in a few of her books and the various locales in Devon transform themselves into great fictional towns. Much emphasis is on the "well-appointed family
mansion" that is Greenway. The photographs of its gardens, boathouse, and interiors are in stunning color. Britain's National Trust restored the home to the way it was when Agatha lived in it;
this past spring 2009, Greenway was opened to the public. This book does not miss the opportunity to give you a personal tour by the National Trust volunteers and Agatha's only grandchild, Mathew
The Morning Room at Greenway.
© National Trust.
Agatha's bedroom at Greenway, overlooking the River Dart.
© National Trust
The Hydrangea Walk leads visitors to the Top Garden at Greenway.
Photo by Michael Shipman
The highlights of this book are many. The color photographs are spectacular, whether of the beautiful Greenway, Agatha's hometown of Torquay, or the various towns in her home county. Many
photographs come courtesy of Mr. Prichard himself--some of which have never been seen before. I love the little insights of Agatha's domestic life. Ms. Macaskill talked about how Agatha loved to
entertain her guests by reading aloud her own stories and playing the piano for her guests.
I loved the inclusion of the book's final chapter, in which Ms. Macaskill discusses Agatha's legacy. She describes the events held in Torquay to celebrate Agatha Christie, the Torquay Museum and its exhibit on Agatha, and the various film/television adaptations of her writings. The only complaint I
have on Agatha Christie at Home is the lack of detail of Agatha's living arrangements in the Middle East. However, the book's focus is on her native land.
Greenway's boathouse on the River Dart. This boathouse was featured in the Poirot novel Dead Man's Folly.
Photo by Michael Shipman
This is the perfect book for anyone who wants to follow Agatha's footsteps. For anyone who might not travel to Devonshire, this book is invaluable. How I wish I can make the trip to Devon, but
I now can with this book. Hilary Macaskill has done an excellent job in giving us a tour of southern England and a look into Dame Agatha Christie's domestic life. In his forward, Mr. Prichard
describes Devon as magical. The wonderful photographs (over 100!) show the magic Agatha felt. You will also when you look through this book.
HPC rates this book:
Out of 5 mustaches
Special note to those interested in touring Greenway: Cars are not admitted to Greenway without prior booking, subject to availability, and no parking is allowed in the roads leading to
Greenway or in Galmpton. Visitors arriving by "green transport" -- boat, bus, bike, foot -- get discounted entry. For those of you planning to visit Greenway, please refer to The National Trust's
official website on Greenway. Included on this site are the admission prices and the hours Greenway is open to the public.
There is plenty to do there: guided tours of the house and its gardens, lectures and workshops, and lunches and afternoon teas are offered to visitors.