Moira Russell's Reviews > And Then There Were None

And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie
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Feb 19, 2010

bookshelves: 2010-50-new-books-challenge, favourites
Read on May 14, 2010

I admit I am a late, reluctant and suspicious convert to Christie. I avoided her studiously as an adolescent, because dozens and dozens of her paperbacks were always on sale with equally cheap indistinguishable romances and other 'women's books,' and I wanted no part of those. I read Chandler, not Christie; Hammett, not Sayers; James, not Marsh. I even read a few Spillane books, for Chrissakes, at a friend's urging (UGH), but still no Christie. Those endless TV adaptations, with the dotty Miss Marple and dorky Poirot, didn't help either. I had her books written off - predictable - cozy - tricksy - unreal - feminine. I liked Patricia Cornwell and noir. Show me a grisly procedural and I'll sink into it like a warm bath.

The result of this prejudice, of course, was that I never saw what was actually there and only cheated myself. But matters weren't helped when I took a (delightful) genre studies course in graduate school (The Singing Sands, Ashenden, Knight's Gambit, An Unsuitable Job for a Woman, Poe, Doyle....) and we had to read The Murder of Roger Ackroyd, about whom legendary snob Edmund Wilson famously asked: Who Cares? Not me. (Not that I cared for Wilson either.) I hated that book.

But during that course I ran across something interesting. For my final topic I chose the work of P.D. James (and read all of her books published up til then - through Original Sin - in about a month; dizzying but v fun) and you couldn't miss emblazoned on all her paperbacks at the time, THE NEW QUEEN OF CRIME, SHE USURPS CHRISTIE'S THRONE, CAGEMATCH BETWEEN PHYLLIS AND AGATHA, TWO BITCHES ENTER ONE NOVELIST LEAVES, &c &c you get the picture. This was mainly very stupid marketing because James and Christie have almost nothing in common (even tho James's first, derivative novel had the classic locked-room scenario). But I read a lot of interviews with James, and while she was polite about Christie (well, she's British) I sensed something else: respect. Apparently her tone's changed a bit in her most recent nonfiction book about mysteries, but then she said something like: 'She is a conjurer with those cards, and each time you think you know which one she is turning face-up, and each time you are wrong.'

Well, now that was interesting. Every time? And I discovered the answer is, yes, pretty much. Call it a trick, call it a gimmick, call it masterful puzzle-plotting, call it a kind of genius, whatever it is, it's frighteningly consistent. It is what Stephen King terms the 'gotta' in Misery raised almost to an art form. It is what Magnus Eisengrim describes in Robertson Davies' World of Wonders as what makes a great magician: 'A man who can stand stark naked in the middle of a crowd and keep it gaping for an hour while he manipulates a few coins, or cards, or billiard balls.'

This would have been a far, far better book for me to read in that class that was almost fifteen years ago now (gosh). For one thing, it has a sharp, strong, original female central character (she's not quite a heroine); its gimmick is equally as good as Ackroyd's; and it is a dazzling distinctive example of the One-Of-Us-is-a-Murderer-But-Which-One plot. Even better, there is no trace of that horrific Socratic bore Hercule Poirot or any of his little grey cells. For all that critics harp on Christie's cardboard characters and outlandish setups, this book depends largely on characterization and atmosphere. Each of the ten people brought to a deserted, barren island is guilty to a greater or lesser degree of causing the death of another person, and the book becomes almost a meditation on - what is guilt? What is responsibility? The murderer isn't just randomly cutting people down, but manipulating them, and enjoying it. Even if they are all as guilty as she or he thinks they are, do they deserve to be picked off and psychologically tortured? What justifies passing sentence on someone else? These are not easy questions and Christie does not give easy answers.

(Also trying to write a spoiler-free review of this is hard, yeesh.)
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Quotes Moira Liked

Agatha Christie
“One of us in this very room is in fact the murderer.”
Agatha Christie, And Then There Were None

Agatha Christie
“It had come about ex­act­ly in the way things hap­pened in books.”
Agatha Christie, And Then There Were None

Agatha Christie
“It was An­tho­ny Marston who dis­agreed with the ma­jor­ity. 'A bit un­sport­ing, what?' he said. 'Ought to fer­ret out the mys­tery be­fore we go. Whole thing's like a de­tec­tive sto­ry. Pos­itive­ly thrilling.' The judge said acid­ly: 'At my time of life, I have no de­sire for "thrills," as you call them.' An­tho­ny said with a grin: 'The le­gal life's narrow­ing! I'm all for crime! Here's to it.' He picked up his drink and drank it off at a gulp. Too quick­ly, per­haps. He choked -​ choked bad­ly. His face contort­ed, turned pur­ple. He gasped for breath -​ then slid down off his chair, the glass falling from his hand.”
Agatha Christie, And Then There Were None

Agatha Christie
“Present­ly, when the strain re­laxed, Blore said: 'There are habits and habits! Mr. Lom­bard takes a re­volver to out-​of-​the-way places, right enough, and a primus and a sleep­ing-​bag and a sup­ply of bug pow­der, no doubt! But habit wouldn't make him bring the whole out­fit down here? It's on­ly in books peo­ple car­ry re­volvers around as a matter of course.' Dr. Arm­strong shook his head per­plexed­ly.”
Agatha Christie, And Then There Were None

Agatha Christie
“The oth­ers went up­stairs, a slow unwilling pro­ces­sion. If this had been an old house, with creak­ing wood, and dark shad­ows, and heav­ily pan­elled walls, there might have been an eerie feel­ing. But this house was the essence of moder­ni­ty. There were no dark corners - ​no pos­si­ble slid­ing pan­els - it was flood­ed with elec­tric light - every­thing was new and bright and shining. There was noth­ing hid­den in this house, noth­ing con­cealed. It had no at­mo­sphere about it. Some­how, that was the most fright­en­ing thing of all. They ex­changed good-​nights on the up­per land­ing. Each of them went in­to his or her own room, and each of them automatical­ly, al­most with­out con­scious thought, locked the door....”
Agatha Christie, And Then There Were None

Agatha Christie
“Will you pour out tea, Miss Brent?' The el­der wom­an replied: 'No, you do it, dear. That tea-​pot is so heavy. And I have lost two skeins of my grey knitting-​wool. So an­noy­ing.' Ve­ra moved to the tea-​ta­ble. There was a cheer­ful rat­tle and clink of chi­na. Nor­mal­ity returned. Tea! Blessed or­di­nary everyday af­ter­noon tea! Philip Lom­bard made a cheery re­mark. Blore re­spond­ed. Dr. Arm­strong told a hu­mor­ous sto­ry. Mr. Jus­tice War­grave, who or­di­nar­ily hat­ed tea, sipped ap­prov­ing­ly.

In­to this re­laxed at­mo­sphere came Rogers. And Rogers was up­set. He said ner­vous­ly and at ran­dom: 'Ex­cuse me, sir, but does any one know what's become of the bath­room cur­tain?'

Lom­bard's head went up with a jerk. 'The bath­room cur­tain? What the dev­il do you mean, Rogers?'

'It's gone, sir, clean van­ished. I was go­ing round draw­ing all the cur­tai­ns and the one in the lav -​ bath­room wasn't there any longer.'

Mr. Jus­tice War­grave asked: 'Was it there this morn­ing?'

'Oh, yes, sir.'

Blore said: 'What kind of a cur­tain was it?'

'Scar­let oil­silk, sir. It went with the scar­let tiles.'

Lom­bard said: 'And it's gone?'

'Gone, Sir.'

They stared at each oth­er.

Blore said heav­ily: 'Well - af­ter all-​what of it? It's mad - ​but so's everything else. Any­way, it doesn't matter. You can't kill any­body with an oil­silk cur­tain. For­get about it.'

Rogers said: 'Yes, sir, thank you, sir.' He went out, shut­ting the door.”
Agatha Christie, And Then There Were None


Reading Progress

05/14/2010 "Very entertaining, altho the casual racism is repellent." 4 comments
05/14/2010 "I kind of love Rogers the butler. His wife's dead and he's anxious that lunch should be satisfactory. V Admirable Crichton of him."
05/14/2010 "Granted, lunch is 'cold ham, cold tongue, boiled potatoes, cheese, bis­cuits and tinned fruit' //gag (cold tongue? srsly?)"
05/14/2010 "....but wouldn't they recognize the voice on the gramophone record? - This is why people hate watching movies with me."
05/14/2010 "First person to say 'But this wouldn't have happened if they had cell phones!' gets a sock in the mouth (I HATE that 'criticism')."
05/14/2010 "'Philip Lom­bard said: It's a case of echo an­swers where?' AHAHA, Jean Rhys makes that joke too. I think it's a Byron or Shelley quote."
05/14/2010 "HA, is that a Lizzie Borden reference? I do believe so."
05/14/2010 "'Ve­ra said: I shall nev­er eat tongue again.' If you say so, Vera."
05/14/2010 "HA! Okay, she accounted for the gramophone record. You got me, Agatha."
05/14/2010 "'Blore,' said the As­sis­tant Com­mis­sion­er forcibly, 'was a bad hat!'"
02/06/2016 marked as: read

Comments (showing 1-49)




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message 49: by Moira (new) - added it

Moira Russell Elizabeth wrote: "I must admit the horrible tv shows have completely turned me off Christie. I know, I need to get over it.

I'm thinking I might like Miss Marple more, because Christie apparently based it on her grandmother and her 'cronies,' and I do love nosey old ladies (Granny Weatherwax FTW!). But I just can't get over those late-night A&E endless rerunnings of Hercule Poirot, AUGH.

You went back and read Sayer, right?"

....ummmmm.....if I say no you will still <3 me right? (They're all in a pile! Right on the bookshelf! I just keep forgetting!....)


message 48: by Moira (new) - added it

Moira Russell Elizabeth wrote: "Just read Gaudy Night."

So many people say to read it! But shouldn't I read all the others first?....well ha ha no probably not. Okay I'll read it first to hook myself in, I've done that with other series. //digs out book from pile


message 47: by Moira (new) - added it

Moira Russell Elizabeth wrote: "Um, have you read my review of it? I started there. Really. It's very good."

NO. Where is it? Ah there it is. //does the clicky


message 46: by Meredith (new)

Meredith Oh, read Gaudy Night!! I had that same "where have you been?!" experience. And I haven't read others yet, either, but it stands alone.

I read all the Christies (maybe not the Poirots) when I was around 10-12 years old. I loved them until I got really sick of them. I think this one was my favorite.


message 45: by Moira (new) - added it

Moira Russell Meredith wrote: "Oh, read Gaudy Night!! I had that same "where have you been?!" experience. And I haven't read others yet, either, but it stands alone."

OMG I TOTALLY will - I know _just_ where the Sayers books are, too, right on a bookshelf in a neat stack in the bedroom, unlike THE ROVING PROFESSOR AND THE WANDERING MADMAN. //sobs

I really liked the first few Marples I read, then hit a bad patch, urgh. I don't like the ones where she isn't as prominent.


message 44: by Meredith (new)

Meredith You won't regret Gaudy Night, I think. Christie marked the end of a longstanding love affair I had with mysteries (inspired by Nancy Drew, of course). When I got to where I could predict the endings, I had to abandon the entire genre. I still remember the day. . . . And I still don't have a sense of suspense because of the heavy dose of Christie and Tom Clancy movies in my childhood. I broke.


Christy Christie marked the end of a longstanding love affair I had with mysteries (inspired by Nancy Drew, of course). When I got to where I could predict the endings, I had to abandon the entire genre.

I went through something similar when I was younger. I started with Nancy Drew and read through all of the Agatha Christie books (or most of them anyway) and read some Ellery Queen and Dashiell Hammett and lots of others as well. And then I just got sick of it. I could either predict the endings a mile away or, as with some of Christie's novels, I felt like the author was sort of cheating by withholding information.

Recently, though, I've begun enjoying mysteries again, mostly of the Scandinavian detective sort (Mankell, Larsson, Sjöwall and Wahlöö, etc.). I have also really enjoyed Tana French's books. The difference, I think, is that I care a lot less about the mystery itself now and a lot more about the people attempting to solve the mystery; these books are good for that.


message 42: by Meredith (new)

Meredith Christy wrote: "I could either predict the endings a mile away or, as with some of Christie's novels, I felt like the author was sort of cheating by withholding information."

Exactly, and it bugs me when they cheat you of the information, too. I completely agree about it being so much better when it's about the people, not the mystery. That was why Gaudy Night was so wonderful. I have been reluctant to start the Larssons. Not because of the people I know who didn't like them, but more because of the people I know who really loved them. I hate to be a hater.


message 41: by Moira (new) - added it

Moira Russell Meredith wrote: "more because of the people I know who really loved them. I hate to be a hater"

Heh, it's slightly amusing how in the reviews everyone who didn't like it focused intently on the sandwiches. What I noticed was that awful Billy's Pan Pizza.


message 40: by Moira (new) - added it

Moira Russell Meredith wrote: "more because of the people I know who really loved them. I hate to be a hater"

More seriously, I think the series stands or falls on Lisbeth. People who know me well told me I would love the character - I wasn't that interested in the books before then - and I love Bad Girls, and I'd read a fair amount about his intentions in writing the trilogy and how bad the translation was, which made me more forgiving, I think. A lot of the writing is clunky and he does go into seemingly unnecessary detail and follow the characters in what seems like slo-mo, but that's also a direct carryover from stuff like Dashiell Hammett (at one point, hand to God, I think it's in Maltese Falcon, Hammett gives us a really detailed description of Sam Spade making....A SANDWICH) which Larsson was a big fan of. I also don't think he got a chance at all to revise and polish even the first book, let alone look over the English translations, so again, I tend to be more forgiving, mainly because of LISBETH. If you don't like her you probably won't like the series. She's the hook.

Anyway, let a thousand interpretations bloom! That's what GR is all about, right? (I think we can all agree Bree Tanner SUCKS, tho)

(ha, uh, I did not do that on purpose, srsly.)


Christy I have been reluctant to start the Larssons. Not because of the people I know who didn't like them, but more because of the people I know who really loved them. I hate to be a hater.

I have to say, I really enjoyed the first two (was let down by the third). I can't say I would call them among the best novels I've ever read, but there was plenty there for me to like. I would recommend Henning Mankell (the Wallander series is great) and Maj Sjöwall and Per Wahlöö (the Martin Beck series is also great--so far) over Stieg Larsson.


message 38: by Moira (new) - added it

Moira Russell Christy wrote: "I would recommend Henning Mankell (the Wallander series is great) and Maj Sjöwall and Per Wahlöö (the Martin Beck series is also great--so far) over Stieg Larsson. "

I've heard GREAT things about both those, especially Martin Beck. - I actually thought the second Larsson book was more of a letdown than the third - but actually the 2nd and 3rd volumes are more like one big book (that cliffhanger right at the end of the 2nd doesn't help). I do wonder what he'd planned for the future books.


Esdaile What you say about Agatha Christie's conjuring ability is very valid and I can empathise with a stubborn refusal to flow with the current, a reaction to a feeling of pressure to like somone whom you are supposed to like, of being made ot like them, like an unloveable relative. Out of stubbornness the temptation is to say, with no better reason than the wish to safeguard one's own identity/dignity, "this writer is overrated".
On another subject, I have a gripe with your decision to refer to Agatha Christie as simply Christie as though you didn't have time or space for the first name. Like many commentators and critics these days, you disregard what used to be considered the courtesy of referring to women writers by their first name as well as second name or as Mrs or Miss.... I know that what was once regarded as couteousness is now regarded as condescending, with the result that women writers are as often referred to curtly by their second names as male writers are but surely there are some writers, and Agatha Christie is one of them, who are so well known by their first and second name in combination, that the name Agatha Christie is the whole name, that referring to them plainly by their second name is not only discourteous (which is definitely is), it is downright confusing. If someone talks about a person called "Christie" my first thought is that they are talking about the serial killer John Christie. "Agatha Christie" please, not "Christie".


message 36: by Meredith (new)

Meredith Do you feel that way about Jane Austen? You don't think it's okay to call her Austen in a work of criticism?


Esdaile Sparrow wrote: "Do you feel that way about Jane Austen? You don't think it's okay to call her Austen in a work of criticism?"

No I don't.


Christy Esdaile wrote: ". Like many commentators and critics these days, you disregard what used to be considered the courtesy of referring to women writers by their first name as well as second name or as Mrs or Miss.... I know that what was once regarded as couteousness is now regarded as condescending, with the result that women writers are as often referred to curtly by their second names as male writers are but surely there are some writers, and Agatha Christie is one of them, who are so well known by their first and second name in combination, that the name Agatha Christie is the whole name, that referring to them plainly by their second name is not only discourteous (which is definitely is), it is downright confusing. If someone talks about a person called "Christie" my first thought is that they are talking about the serial killer John Christie. "Agatha Christie" please, not "Christie". "

Does this apply only to women writers for you? If so, then I would take your perceived discourtesy and confusion over sexism any day. The idea that we should refer to women writers as Mrs. or Miss (not even Ms.?) and not do the same for men or that women need to have their whole name included but men don't is ridiculous. And if readers cannot figure out, in a review of an Agatha Christie book, what "Christie" is being referred to, then that is not the writer of the review's problem.


message 33: by Esdaile (last edited Dec 21, 2011 02:04PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Esdaile I would add to my answer that "ok" is such a vague word that it is difficult to know what you mean exactly when you ask me "is it ok" or not ok to do something but I think it is typical of the age in which we live to simplify, reduce and not to embellish and I deplore an unwillingness to embellish. It is also typical of the time in which we live that "time saving" is regarded as a major virtue. It saves time to drop the first name (which has no practical use and everything today must have a practical use, as EM Forster observed in Howard's End when he made that telling comment about the Wilcox family-"they put everything to use")and ergo, a writer's first name is unceremoniously dropped. In day-to-day intercourse most individuals, including those who refer to writers by just their second names, would themselves feel slighted if they were to be addressed by only their second name. There are writers, however, whose status is linked to one word, for example, Shakespeare, Marx. This icon status is usually indicated by the possibility of making an adjective of their names: Marxist, Shakespearean.


message 32: by Meredith (last edited Dec 21, 2011 02:26PM) (new)

Meredith Esdaile wrote: "I would add to my answer that "ok" is such a vague word that it is difficult to know what you mean exactly when you ask me "is it ok" or not ok to do something but I think it is typical of the age in which we live to simplify, reduce and not to embellish and I deplore an unwillingness to embellish. It is also typical of the time in which we live that "time saving" is regarded as a major virtue. It saves time to drop the first name (which has no practical use and everything today must have a practical use, as EM Forster observed in Howard's End when he made that telling comment about the Wilcox family-"they put everything to use")and ergo, a writer's first name is unceremoniously dropped. In day-to-day intercourse most individuals, including those who refer to writers by just their second names, would themselves feel slighted if they were to be addressed by only their second name. There are writers, however, whose status is linked to one word, for example, Shakespeare, Marx. This icon status is usually indicated by the possibility of making an adjective of their names: Marxist, Shakespearean."

I will agree to replace the word "okay" with the word "acceptable." Maybe I think oppositely to you because I work in a legal community and we all call each other by our last names (in day-to-day intercourse). I find it respectful and collegial.

Otherwise, I agree with everything Christy said. But, I do enjoy the insufferably patronizing tone you are using. It's been a while since I've seen quite such an entertaining tone.


message 31: by Meredith (new)

Meredith Actually, in filing legal documents, in the U.S., it is required to use the last name of adult parties, and only children are referred to with first names. I find the requirement to use a first name with only women likewise infantilizing.


message 30: by [deleted user] (new)

I am certainly in amazement, Ms...um, what should I do about your last name here, Elizabeth?

I think it is the NYT that refers to all mentioned parties with Ms. or Mr. I love it when they write an article about Meat Loaf and call him Mr. Loaf.

Wait, why exactly is it only for women writers? Or should I say authoresses?


message 29: by Moira (new) - added it

Moira Russell ....wow, I missed this WHOLE ENTIRE ARGUMENT. GO MOI. Yeah, referring to female authors by their last name only is a standard litcrit thing, and adding the first name just because they're women is patronizing and sexist, thanks everyone for stepping up to the plate while I was NOT GETTING NOTIFICATIONS WTF.


Esdaile Moira wrote: "....wow, I missed this WHOLE ENTIRE ARGUMENT. GO MOI. Yeah, referring to female authors by their last name only is a standard litcrit thing, and adding the first name just because they're women is ..."

Using upper case on the internet is widely considered to be the written equivalent of shouting
and there is no cause to shout, even if I
have touched a raw nerve. I have no intention of following "the standard litcrit thing", thank you very much. I have a question for you: would you mind if someone, a police constable for example, or a doctor, addressed you with just your surname, instead of Mrs. Miss or Ms (and can someone tell me how Ms is pronounced?)?


message 27: by Moira (new) - added it

Moira Russell OMG no. Good day sir.


message 26: by Moira (new) - added it

Moira Russell Thomas wrote: "with frustration with goodreads for not getting a notification. "

Yeah, exactly. (NOW I'm getting notifications. WTF.)


Esdaile Elizabeth wrote: "I've only got one name, like Cher or Madonna. Are we advocating for "Mrs. Cher" here in the review of her works, or, even better:

Miss Madonna's book, Sex, is a true masterpiece of e..."


Madonna is similar to the "icon names" I meantioned, besides which it is not even an official name but an artistic or iconic one. Madonna, Marx, Shakespeare, Stalin are "brand names" if one can call them that and are in that sense enough in themselves.

There are two wholly different reasons that I would not refer to Agatha Christie as just "Christie". One is that famous writers do acquire "labels" of names with or without initials, with or without first names, which become through usage the names which they are called in print: George Bernard Shaw but TS Eliot, Keats, Agatha Christie and Dorothy L Sayers. This does not follow any logical system, it follows from usage and convention; it often has something to do with harmony, by which I mean that the chosen appelation often sounds especially pleasant.
A quite separate argument stems from the convention that in the past it was considered discourteous to refer to a woman just by her surname, whereas in the case of a man it was acceptable. This is considered "patronising and sexist" in the, to borrow a phrase, "lit crit convention" and by the standards of the liberal modern age in general. The standards of the liberal modern age claim to be open minded and tolerant but they are not so, insisting for example that everyone follow down the path of disembellishing language, abusing those who are reluctant to do so.
In the case of Agatha Christie I have a strong hunch (I cannot prove it but she was conservative in most things) that she herself would have preferred to be referred to as Agatha Christie, not Christie, were she alive to voice her opinion (sofaras I know, she died before the use of plain last names came into vogue). Some might see that as another argument for referring to her as Agatha Christie and not just Christie. It is likely to have been what the writer herself would have preferred.


Esdaile Elizabeth wrote: "I call Jane Austen "Jane" only in all my reviews because through her books she has become my intimate friend and I feel we should be on a first name basis by now. Obviously, I have not asked her pe..."

Elizabeth wrote: "I've only got one name, like Cher or Madonna. Are we advocating for "Mrs. Cher" here in the review of her works, or, even better:

Miss Madonna's book, Sex, is a true masterpiece of e..."


You do not say why you regard the argument as "stupid" but clearly people feel strongly enough to react (strongly) to it so not everyone thinks it is stupid. I do not think it is in the least stupid. The persistent use of last names (and scorn for those who keep to convention in this respect) is a telling example of the trend of our times to strip down, simplify, diminish and equalise. Here are my sentiments expressed better by far than I could hope to express them:


reason not the need! Our basest beggars
Are in the poorest thing superfluous.
Allow not nature more than nature needs,
Man's life is as cheap as beast's.


Esdaile Thomas wrote: "oh deary. she was EMPHASIZING. not SHOUTING. you might even notice that none of the CAPITALIZED WORDS have anything to do with the actual argument, but with frustration with goodreads for not getti..."

If you say so. I do not understand why it was necessary to emphasise (especially with the expression abbreviated to WTF which is usually shouted and hardly an emphasis but never mind).


message 22: by [deleted user] (last edited Dec 22, 2011 08:08AM) (new)

This guy is like a Christmas present. I love the argument that while he condescends and claims to speak for women - how would you feel, etc? Like it had never occured to us women to take offense over people treating us the same as dudes - our strong reaction against his patronising and infantilizing statement & tone shows a "strong reaction" and is evidence of his argument's merit?


HAHAHAHAHA.

That's not shouting, that's horrified laughter.

Oh, and I forgot to quote the relevant passage:

You do not say why you regard the argument as "stupid" but clearly people feel strongly enough to react (strongly) to it so not everyone thinks it is stupid. I do not think it is in the least stupid. The persistent use of last names (and scorn for those who keep to convention in this respect) is a telling example of the trend of our times to strip down, simplify, diminish and equalise. Here are my sentiments expressed better by far than I could hope to express them:


reason not the need! Our basest beggars
Are in the poorest thing superfluous.
Allow not nature more than nature needs,
Man's life is as cheap as beast's.


As long as we're douchily quoting poetry, he's my bit:

'A woman can be proud and stiff
When on love intent;
But Love has pitched his mansion in
The place of excrement;
For nothing can be sole or whole
That has not been rent.'


message 21: by Meredith (last edited Dec 22, 2011 08:21AM) (new)

Meredith I think Moira might have been shouting, but not at you, Esdaile, never at you. I don't know how long you've been on goodreads, but for the past couple of years the notifications often stop working with no alert, and it is VERY ANNOYING, and people are DRIVEN TO SHOUTING about it. It has nothing to do with you.

The Miss Madonna usage sounds stupid because, in the U.S. at least, we only ever refer to someone by "Ms." or "Mr." and a first name if they are a kindergarten teacher, so it has come to indicate that a person referred to that way teaches a low grade of elementary school. So, juxtaposing that with Madonna's sex book, I think, would only ever be done as a joke. The joke is that it evokes in image of Madonna reading the Sex book as a picture book to a group of children.

To clarify, I do not find it offensive for someone to refer to me by "Ms." and my last name, nor do I find it offensive for someone to refer to me by my last name alone. But, I do find it kind of hilarious for a man to get on the internet and reprimand a woman for how women would feel about being referred to without a first name or prefix. I hate to speak for everyone, but maybe some of us feel like it is more disrespectful to reprimand a stranger on the internet because of rules of address that no longer exist, than to refer to someone by a last name.


message 20: by [deleted user] (last edited Dec 22, 2011 08:11AM) (new)

Don't worry. I have alerted the irony brigade. I am hopeful that they will be able to put this one out.

Edit: And I quote again, for posterity. Who knows when he will huff off, affronted by women having an opinion about how women are addressed, leaving a wake of deleted posts.

Madonna is similar to the "icon names" I meantioned, besides which it is not even an official name but an artistic or iconic one. Madonna, Marx, Shakespeare, Stalin are "brand names" if one can call them that and are in that sense enough in themselves.

There are two wholly different reasons that I would not refer to Agatha Christie as just "Christie". One is that famous writers do acquire "labels" of names with or without initials, with or without first names, which become through usage the names which they are called in print: George Bernard Shaw but TS Eliot, Keats, Agatha Christie and Dorothy L Sayers. This does not follow any logical system, it follows from usage and convention; it often has something to do with harmony, by which I mean that the chosen appelation often sounds especially pleasant.
A quite separate argument stems from the convention that in the past it was considered discourteous to refer to a woman just by her surname, whereas in the case of a man it was acceptable. This is considered "patronising and sexist" in the, to borrow a phrase, "lit crit convention" and by the standards of the liberal modern age in general. The standards of the liberal modern age claim to be open minded and tolerant but they are not so, insisting for example that everyone follow down the path of disembellishing language, abusing those who are reluctant to do so.
In the case of Agatha Christie I have a strong hunch (I cannot prove it but she was conservative in most things) that she herself would have preferred to be referred to as Agatha Christie, not Christie, were she alive to voice her opinion (sofaras I know, she died before the use of plain last names came into vogue). Some might see that as another argument for referring to her as Agatha Christie and not just Christie. It is likely to have been what the writer herself would have preferred.



message 19: by Meredith (new)

Meredith Thanks. I'm glad you're on top of these notices.

I just wanted to get this one copied for posterity:

Esdaile wrote: "Madonna is similar to the "icon names" I meantioned, besides which it is not even an official name but an artistic or iconic one. Madonna, Marx, Shakespeare, Stalin are "brand names" if one can call them that and are in that sense enough in themselves.

There are two wholly different reasons that I would not refer to Agatha Christie as just "Christie". One is that famous writers do acquire "labels" of names with or without initials, with or without first names, which become through usage the names which they are called in print: George Bernard Shaw but TS Eliot, Keats, Agatha Christie and Dorothy L Sayers. This does not follow any logical system, it follows from usage and convention; it often has something to do with harmony, by which I mean that the chosen appelation often sounds especially pleasant.
A quite separate argument stems from the convention that in the past it was considered discourteous to refer to a woman just by her surname, whereas in the case of a man it was acceptable. This is considered "patronising and sexist" in the, to borrow a phrase, "lit crit convention" and by the standards of the liberal modern age in general. The standards of the liberal modern age claim to be open minded and tolerant but they are not so, insisting for example that everyone follow down the path of disembellishing language, abusing those who are reluctant to do so.
In the case of Agatha Christie I have a strong hunch (I cannot prove it but she was conservative in most things) that she herself would have preferred to be referred to as Agatha Christie, not Christie, were she alive to voice her opinion (sofaras I know, she died before the use of plain last names came into vogue). Some might see that as another argument for referring to her as Agatha Christie and not just Christie. It is likely to have been what the writer herself would have preferred."



message 18: by [deleted user] (new)

Whoops. Double teamed.


message 17: by Meredith (new)

Meredith haha!! Too many copies are better than none.


message 16: by [deleted user] (new)

My heart still bleeds that we lost much of Virgin John's output. Never again!


Esdaile Christy wrote: "Esdaile wrote: ". Like many commentators and critics these days, you disregard what used to be considered the courtesy of referring to women writers by their first name as well as second name or as..."

We have to disagree then. I would prefer to be thought sexist than discourteous. Incidentally, nobody has yet said whether they would mind or not mind being addressed by their surname only by say an official or a doctor. It is sad that people have a problem with using the two words Agatha Christie. This was her name (and I think she wished to be referred to as "Agatha Christie"-would that count for nothing?) used in public reference to her and her writing from the time of the publication of "The Mysterious Affair at Styles" in 1920 until about 1980, when dropping first names came into vogue. For over half a century it was rare to find a reference to just "Christie" but around 1980 our modern and tolerant age with its customary complacency, began to preach that it is "absurd" that men and women should be treated differently, consequently in the case of referring to writers it was absurd (and sexist) that anyone should bother to mention more than the writer's surname. It is part of the pervasive and pursuasive late twentieth century fashion to reduce everything and everyone to the simplest common denominator, so it is part of a widespread trend. It is used for the titles of books too. Anthony Powell's "Dance to the Music of Time" is pruned back by some commentators to a skimpy "Dance". As anyone who has read 1984 will remember, totalitarian regimes are pioneers of abbreviations and abbreviations have taken the form of a kind of linguistic foot rot in the modern world. For example, most English commentators on Nietzsche persist in referring to his works by the first letters of the titles, sometimes German titles sometimes English (and that is confusing). Thus "GM" in an essay on Nietzsche probably refers neither to General Motors nor to Gay Marriage, but to Zur Genealogie der Moral.


message 14: by Meredith (last edited Dec 22, 2011 03:46PM) (new)

Meredith In my opinion, sexism has, among many other negative features such as greed and self-indulgence, the aspect of being very discourteous. I would not have a problem with a doctor referring to me by last name if that was the common practice of the doctor. I don't think anybody has a problem using Agatha Christie's first name, but I think we have a problem with you reprimanding somebody for not doing so.


Esdaile I do not know what "we" means here but I agree that sexism can and often is a form of discourtesy. I think I am regretting more than reprimanding. Be that as it may, I have given my reasons why I dislike the use of just the second name and rest my case.


Miriam I have no issue with being addressed only by my surname. It is the norm in the military and some schools.

And I agree with Sparrow that sexism is inherently discourteous, even if it is not so intended.


message 11: by [deleted user] (new)

Miriam wrote: "I agree with Sparrow that sexism is inherently discourteous, even if it is not so inte..."

...and additionally, that treating women with a separate-but-equal set of standards in terms of address is inherently sexist. The "convention" to which you keep gesturing is long dead. Let's keep it that way.


Miriam Wasn't it a fairly brief convention in any case? Most of the Victorian criticism and scholarship I've read used "Mr" for men rather than just the last name.


message 9: by Moira (new) - added it

Moira Russell Yeah, plus I'm just, um, ALLCAPSY. It's sort of a terrible habit. I blame Harriet the Spy.


message 8: by Meredith (last edited Dec 22, 2011 05:58PM) (new)

Meredith Esdaile wrote: "I do not know what "we" means here but I agree that sexism can and often is a form of discourtesy. I think I am regretting more than reprimanding. Be that as it may, I have given my reasons why I dislike the use of just the second name and rest my case."

By "we" I meant the ladies that have expressed disagreement with the argument that you are making. I do not intend, however, to speak for everyone, so I used the qualifying language "I think," if you were confused by the non-specificity of that as well.

Perhaps I didn't understand your use of the word "gripe," and your criticism that the name Christie is confusing without the first name Agatha. This came off as reprimanding to me, but maybe you were actually being humble in noting the regrettable fact that you didn't realize a review of a book by the author Agatha Christie also refers to the author Agatha Christie when it says "Christie." If so, I agree that it is regrettable, and maybe we can all just have a good laugh about that mistake.


Esdaile Ceridwen wrote: "Miriam wrote: "I agree with Sparrow that sexism is inherently discourteous, even if it is not so inte..."

...and additionally, that treating women with a separate-but-equal set of standards in ter..."


Sparrow wrote: "Esdaile wrote: "I do not know what "we" means here but I agree that sexism can and often is a form of discourtesy. I think I am regretting more than reprimanding. Be that as it may, I have given my..."

Ceridwen wrote: "Miriam wrote: "I agree with Sparrow that sexism is inherently discourteous, even if it is not so inte..."

I am gratified to learn that you do not intend to speak in everybody's name, message 54.

Well, I certainly reprimand you now for implying that I am such a dullard as not to realise that Christie (usually) refers to Agatha Christie! The suggestion that I might think "Christie" referred to John Crhistie was mainly tongue in cheek, although the practise of referring to people by their surnames or first names alone can lead to confusion. ("When you say Dylan, he thinks you are talking about Dylan Thomas, whoever he was. The man aint got no culture.") I have had to double check in the past to find out if a reference to "Lawrence's writing" was to DH Lawrence or TE Lawrence. To repeat: I find the use of Agatha Christie's last name without the first name curt and lazy and I suppose that I am allowed to express that view (one has to be careful about what views it is permissable to express in tolerant liberal Britain these days). It jars. For some people it does not jar. Although the point appears at first glance trivial, there are opposed views of the world revealed here and a person who vigorously espouses one view or the other is unlikely to wish to seek out the company of the other if it can be avoided.
If we (by "we" I mean those commenting in this thread) continue discussing this we are all likely to repeat ourselves, so I suggest letting it rest at that, with neither "side" if sides is what we are, claiming the last word.



mark monday THE NEW QUEEN OF CRIME, SHE USURPS CHRISTIE'S THRONE, CAGEMATCH BETWEEN PHYLLIS AND AGATHA, TWO BITCHES ENTER ONE NOVELIST LEAVES,

words can't describe how much I loved reading that


10c2jameswaterhouse I completely disagree, this is a great book


Linda Hart interesting & thorough non-spoiler analysis...difficult to do. I especially like "'She is a conjurer . . . each time you think you know which one she is turning face-up, and each time you are wrong.'. . . Call it a trick, call it a gimmick, call it masterful puzzle-plotting, call it a kind of genius, whatever it is, it's frighteningly consistent." And I think you like that, and like that she doesn't provide an answer to the moral question at the end. Am I correct? so, your star rating is what.....0?


message 3: by Miriam (last edited Nov 05, 2015 08:06AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Miriam Linda wrote: "so, your star rating is what.....0?"

0 is what goodreads uses as "no rating" -- it doesn't count towards the total rating of the book. Unfortunately there is no setting for "not giving ratings". Quite a few people dislike the star rating system and so skip it.


Linda Hart Miriam wrote: "Linda wrote: "so, your star rating is what.....0?"

0 is what goodreads uses as "no rating" -- it doesn't count towards the total rating of the book. Unfortunately there is no setting for "not givi..."


thanks, Miriam for the clarification ;-)


Lindsay Oh priceless - I came for the book review and stayed for the terrible breakout of mansplaining that occurred a few years ago, looks like I missed a doozy!


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