Agatha Christie adopted the pen name Mary Westmacott to publish six romance novels. The word "romantic" is in quotations simply because these novels are not in the actual sense of the word or even like the literary era called "romanticism." Critics have even gone as far as saying these six novels aren't romance, they're simply, well, just--novels. They're romantic because these stories aren't unhappy, they give us some added values to life, and they affirm living.
The focus on these books is human relationship. There's even a hint of autobiographical elements that Christie inserts. There are several themes, to briefly mention a few: possessiveness, failure in human perception, nature and the inequality of love, self-evaluation, and awareness of one's and others' feelings. In the books there are even contemplation of suicide and supernatural elements.
The author and theatre critic Charles Osborne wrote that the Westmacott novels have much immorality in them. In addition to the themes mentioned above, he also lists jealousy, greed, and adultery. These themes, said Osborne, are destructive. There are no murders in these six novels, but certainly other negative acts paired with emotions.
As Westmacott, she is a distinct person from Agatha Christie. In 1950, when she was invited to a celebration for her work, she quipped, "Thank you for asking me to meet Agatha Christie. If you don't mind, I am bringing my old friend Mary Westmacott with me."
Why romance novels?
The Westmacott novels were simply written for "fun," to put it loosely. Christie had said in her autobiography that she wanted "to do something that is not my proper job," i.e., writing detective novels. She said she wrote the first, Giant's Bread, with a "rather guilty feeling" and enjoyed the project she had undertaken. Although Mary Westmacott was revealed to be Agatha Christie in 1949, it didn't stop her from publishing two more Westmacott novels, still under her pseudonym. This is another affirmation that Agatha could write more than just great detective stories.
The six novels Christie wrote under the name of Mary Westmacott are:
- Giant's Bread (1930)
- Unfinished Portrait (1934)
- Absent in the Spring (1944)
- The Rose and the Yew Tree (1947)
- A Daughter's a Daughter (1952)
- The Burden (1956)