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Group Challenges > 4:50 from Paddington

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message 1: by Susan (new)

Susan | 9297 comments Mod
Welcome to our June read - halfway through already!

Published in 1957 this novel changed titles several times. The novel had several changing times - from 4.15 to 4.30 then 4.54 before becoming 4.50, with the original manuscript being called the 4.54 From Paddington. It was originally published in the US as What Mrs McGillicuddy Saw and, in 1961, Margaret Rutherford played her first role as Miss Marple in a film adapted from this book (our next read - The Mirror Crack'd From Side to Side is dedicated to Rutherford.

Please refrain from posting spoilers in this general discussion thread.


LovesMysteries  | 234 comments We have a reference to Griselda Clement who appeared in the first Miss Marple novel, Murder At the Vicarage. Now we hear that she has a child. Interesting. Maybe she'll make another appearance in a future Miss Marple.


message 3: by Susan (new)

Susan | 9297 comments Mod
I have just started, The Mirror Crack'd from Side to Side, LovesMysteries, and she is mentioned.


message 4: by Judy (new)

Judy (wwwgoodreadscomprofilejudyg) | 8313 comments Mod
After the stunning opening of A Murder Is Announced, Christie does it again in this one, with an opening which has since been much imitated. She might be most famous for her final twists, but her beginnings are really something too.


message 5: by Pamela (new)

Pamela (bibliohound) | 319 comments I don't own this one so am waiting for a copy from the library. I'm now first in the queue so should get it mid-month. Great to see that it's still so popular that there's a waiting list (and the library has 3 copies).


message 6: by Jill (new)

Jill (dogbotsmum) | 1808 comments I agree Judy. The opening pulls you in straight away, and no matter what, you find yourself wanting to keep reading


message 7: by Marcus (new)

Marcus Vinicius | 169 comments Yes. I found the opening engaging. I cannot stop reading.


message 8: by Mark Pghfan (new)

Mark Pghfan | 362 comments Again, one of the better Miss Marple's. Christie really hit her stride with her in the 1950's. A beautiful opening, with lots of dramatic effect, which was used in the three adaptations (so far)!


message 9: by Abbey (new)

Abbey (abbess) | 93 comments LovesMysteries wrote: "We have a reference to Griselda Clement who appeared in Murder At the Vicarage. Now we hear that she has a child. Interesting."
wellll, it *was* a fun plot thread IN "Vicarage"!

Amost a SPOILER (a teeny one) for that bit in VICARAGE:
[Christie allows the reader (and Rev Clement!) and the neighbors to think Griselda is having an affair, when all she's doing is going up to London to see an obstetrician. She SORT of announces it at the end. and, yes, Miss Marple guessed! (grin)]


message 10: by Susan (new)

Susan | 9297 comments Mod
Quite a large gap between publishing most of the Miss Marple's. I wonder if she enjoyed writing the character more as she did not visit her so often? Presumably the publisher's wanted Poirot?


message 11: by Abbey (new)

Abbey (abbess) | 93 comments ohh, yes! Christie often wrote that the main thing she regretted about her writing career was that when she began it she had made her two lead characters so elderly, she felt it didn't allow her to "grow" the characters at all. See, in 1920 Poirot was retired from being a policeman, at presumably at least 50-55, and in the late 1920s Marple was at least 75! You can factor in about 10-15 years plus to those numbers to get the equivalent modern physical/mental ages!

and by the mid-1940s she'd had QUITE enough of Poirot and killed him off in CURTAIN in 1946 but her publishers wouldn't publish it, the stories were a cash cow for them! And she wrote what she always considered to be the last Marple story around then too ENDLESS NIGHT, but that wouldn't be published then either! Contract constraints and marketing meant that she had to continue with both series until her death. She wasn't a happy camper by all accounts, and attempted to enjoy herself by writing some non-series thrillers too in the late 40s and the 1950s.

she *did* use the unusual strategem of not aging Poirot or Marple at all throughout the series, and re-writing their histories so the dates of things sort of connected (i.e. see BERTRAM'S HOTEL 1962, where she makes Marple ~70, part of the story takes place in Edwardian era with Miss Jane of ~18 then thus birthdate ~1890; but in 1928 she's shown as 75 or so meaning she was born ~1860!) And Poirot doesn't age either. She does age Tommy & Tuppence tho, and I enjoyed that.


message 12: by Susan (new)

Susan | 9297 comments Mod
Yes, I can see how she wrote herself into a corner - probably never guessing how popular she would be. Having read some books about her, I also feel she was quite disappointed about how much money she actually made from her writing, which was surprisingly low. She always seemed to struggle financially, which was a shame. If she had felt more relaxed financially she might have written differently. However, then we would have been deprived of more Poirot novels and that would be terrible. I am afraid I am the reader she probably hated, who loves Poirot best :)


message 13: by Abbey (new)

Abbey (abbess) | 93 comments whoops. I um, "misspoke..." (grin)

the last Marple novel was SLEEPING MURDER, not Endless Night altho I *think* the newest tv incarnation rewrote NIGHT to add Miss Marple into the plot be a vehicle for Ms Mackenzie, didn't they? so mebbe I can bame them??!!!


message 14: by Susan (new)

Susan | 9297 comments Mod
I think it got a little confusing as she wrote books to finish Marple and Poirot in WWII and then didn't release them. I got equally confused doing the order, don't worry, Abbey!


message 15: by Judy (new)

Judy (wwwgoodreadscomprofilejudyg) | 8313 comments Mod
The title of this one had me slightly worried that it might get bogged down in railway timetables, as with Five Red Herrings by Sayers, but fortunately that doesn't happen at all! I do think train journeys are a great setting for murder mysteries, just not the timetable element.


message 16: by Lady Clementina (new)

Lady Clementina ffinch-ffarowmore | 1104 comments LovesMysteries wrote: "We have a reference to Griselda Clement who appeared in the first Miss Marple novel, Murder At the Vicarage. Now we hear that she has a child. Interesting. Maybe she'll make another appearance in a..."

I enjoyed this bit- Griselda's son now all grown up and a map "expert" at that- always nice to meet characters from the previous books and see what's become of them.


message 17: by Lady Clementina (new)

Lady Clementina ffinch-ffarowmore | 1104 comments I also loved how much food there was in this book- it felt very much like an Enid Blyton in this respect.


message 18: by Jill (new)

Jill (dogbotsmum) | 1808 comments Lady Clementina wrote: "I also loved how much food there was in this book- it felt very much like an Enid Blyton in this respect."

I thought that,although without the "lashings of ginger beer"


message 19: by Lady Clementina (new)

Lady Clementina ffinch-ffarowmore | 1104 comments Jill wrote: "Lady Clementina wrote: "I also loved how much food there was in this book- it felt very much like an Enid Blyton in this respect."

I thought that,although without the "lashings of ginger beer""

Or cream buns :)


message 20: by Susan (new)

Susan | 9297 comments Mod
Rationing ended in 1954, and this was published in 1957, so I guess food was on everyone's minds. It plays an interesting part in many GA books, such as the wartime rationing in the DLS's novels we read.


message 21: by Judy (last edited Jun 01, 2017 11:21PM) (new)

Judy (wwwgoodreadscomprofilejudyg) | 8313 comments Mod
This reminds me that Evelyn Waugh's preface to reprints of Brideshead Revisited says something to the effect that he now feels there is too much food in the book, but it is because it was written during rationing.

I think the descriptions of food really contribute to the vivid nostalgia in that book, and maybe there is something of the same effect in many novels from the 40s and 50s.


message 22: by Lady Clementina (new)

Lady Clementina ffinch-ffarowmore | 1104 comments Judy wrote: "This reminds me that Evelyn Waugh's preface to reprints of Brideshead Revisited says something to the effect that he now feels there is too much food in the book, but it..."

I remember that preface too- and it makes sense. It creates a lovely homey atmosphere.


message 23: by Susan (new)

Susan | 9297 comments Mod
Yes, you do get the real sense of plenty and abundance in Brideshead. Such a beautiful novel - the first Waugh book I ever read and he remains one of my favourite authors as it made such a deep impression on me.


message 24: by Annabel (new)

Annabel Frazer | 301 comments They always say that about Enid Blyton books too. But can it explain the lavish descriptions of food in the James Bond books? I'm not sure, as he wrote most of them at Goldeneye, where presumably rationing wasn't a problem.

My favourite food writer is probably Hemingway. He can make a slice of cheddar dipped in cold spaghetti and shared with fellow soldiers and desperadoes sound delicious (not sure if that was For Whom The Bell Tolls or Farewell To Arms...)


message 25: by Annabel (new)

Annabel Frazer | 301 comments I've never really got one with any other Waugh novel but Brideshead I love so much that it's possibly my all-time favourite book. From reading his letters, you can tell that he felt differently about it when he was writing it to any of the others, eg calling it his magnum opus and saying that it was trying to turn itself into poetry as he wrote and he was having to keep a sharp eye on it. I think the latter remark was in a letter to Nancy Mitford.


message 26: by Lady Clementina (new)

Lady Clementina ffinch-ffarowmore | 1104 comments I came across a copy of the Waugh Diaries recently and am looking forward to reading those sometime. Not the letters yet. Nancy Mitford is another favourite author- enjoy her books so much. Am planning to read some of her bios now.


message 27: by Susan (new)

Susan | 9297 comments Mod
I love Nancy Mitford too. I like Waugh (his biography was also interesting, although he was obviously a difficult person!). I think I just like that whole era. W Somerset Maugham is another favourite - although he was somewhat before and Alec Waugh, Evelyn's brother, wrote some interesting books.


message 28: by Judy (last edited Jun 03, 2017 12:56AM) (new)

Judy (wwwgoodreadscomprofilejudyg) | 8313 comments Mod
This thread is making me want to read more Waugh - I think A Handful of Dust has a quite similar feel to Brideshead, except for the last couple of chapters or so.

To go back to Christie, I have just been thinking about her beginnings again and it strikes me she had quite a Gothic/cinematic imagination - the trains passing and the glimpse of the other passengers in the window is so vivid.

Some of her other novels have similarly striking openings, such as Sleeping Murder and A Murder Is Announced. I wonder if some of these beginnings have been imitated so much since that their originality doesn't always strike us enough?! It's odd that she is sometimes said to be a formulaic writer and then she comes up with these amazing, off-the-wall scenarios...


message 29: by Lady Clementina (new)

Lady Clementina ffinch-ffarowmore | 1104 comments Judy wrote: "This thread is making me want to read more Waugh - I think A Handful of Dust has a quite similar feel to Brideshead, except for the last couple of chapters or so.

To go back to Chri..."

Ha ha- I was just thinking the same thing. Have got A Handful of Dust on my TBR and Scoop.

I wonder why they did call her formulaic, when I find so much that is different and original in almost all her books, if not th eopening, then the setting, or characters, and almost always the plot twists.


message 30: by Abbey (new)

Abbey (abbess) | 93 comments When Christie was writing in her hey-day (20s, 30s, 40s) she was *renowned* as an extremely creative plotter! She was quite regularly in a good deal of trouble with her colleagues because many of her twists and turns were considered "not cricket!" by not only other current writers, but also publishers, reviewers, and many fans. But her publishers loved the publicity she generated, and over time her fans came to relish the fact that every new Christie was likely to have something very original and unusual and, um, "twisted" in it, (grin) and this became her lasting "hallmark".

as she aged her books became rather ordinary, as other authors began using her earlier plot development twists and techniques, over and over and over, and now most of what she wrote is terribly familiar to us. It's hard for modern readers to realize how entirely *shocking* many of her inovations were!

ROGER ACKROYD 1926 got her blackballed by clubs and readers groups, CARDS ON THE TABLE ~1936 was pretty much loved and abominated for its odd structure and the chances she took, THEN THERE WERE NONE (novel's ending) ~1939 actually horrified readers, not just disappointed them! And when she attempted to end the Poirot series her publishers took her to court and her fans, once they heard rumors, picketed her publisher's office! That's why she didn't have the last Poirot and the last Marple published until the late 1960s, over twenty years after she wrote them! Her publishers - and fans! - wouldn't allow it.

Yes, her later books (late 1950s, most of her 1960s books) *were* formulaic, but she had pretty much herself given up on the characters ten years earlier! And I think she simply just didn't care much about Marple and Poirot by then. Her current fans were delighted to have "a new Christie" each year and I guess the books were "good enough". So she wasn't innovative any more.

But she had a good long run! and IMO her books from the 1930s and 1940s were magnificent.


message 31: by Lady Clementina (new)

Lady Clementina ffinch-ffarowmore | 1104 comments Abbey wrote: "When Christie was writing in her hey-day (20s, 30s, 40s) she was *renowned* as an extremely creative plotter! She was quite regularly in a good deal of trouble with her colleagues because many of h..."

Perhaps by the later books, she might just have begun to get fed up of her detectives...


message 32: by Sandy (new)

Sandy | 2494 comments Mod
Just starting the book so a late comment that the I also found the opening with the view of the murder was fantastic!


message 33: by Susan (new)

Susan | 9297 comments Mod
I think she is regarded as formulaic now just because so many other authors/film makers have borrowed from her.


message 34: by LovesMysteries (last edited Jun 03, 2017 01:14PM) (new)

LovesMysteries  | 234 comments Judy wrote: "To go back to Christie, I have just been thinking about her beginnings again and it strikes me she had quite a Gothic/cinematic imagination - the trains passing and the glimpse of the other passengers in the window is so vivid.

Some of her other novels have similarly striking openings, such as Sleeping Murder and A Murder Is Announced."


No matter what stage of her career, whether it be the beginning, middle or the end, Agatha Christie always created such gripping, eye-catching hooks and premises. Many consider her latter period of her career to be her weakest and though that is true, she never lost that magic of writing an opening that makes the reader want to continue, whether (view spoiler). That's an ability that can't be taught in writing. You can teach other aspects of writing but the "imagination", you either got it or you don't. And Christie had it!


LovesMysteries  | 234 comments Abbey wrote: "ROGER ACKROYD 1926 got her blackballed by clubs and readers groups, CARDS ON THE TABLE ~1936 was pretty much loved and abominated for its odd structure and the chances she took, THEN THERE WERE NONE (novel's ending) ~1939 actually horrified readers, not just disappointed them!"

That's what I love about Christie. She didn't play it safe. She always took risks and wasn't afraid of the consequences. She wanted to tell a story, ones that she wanted to tell. She was fabulous at her craft and she grew. She wasn't afraid to take short stories and expand them into novels, and she wasn't afraid to make ANYONE the murderer. Many critics consider Christie's characters as one-dimensional and unrealistic but her characters were very much realistic. Though stereotypical they sometimes may be, Christie knew that those "stereotypes" were just a mask and the real person was underneath. Mystery writers may play it sound and not allow this innocent grandmother to be the murderer but Christie wasn't afraid to go there. And that speaks volumes for in the real world anyone is capable of anything no matter how innocent or kind they appear on the outside. That's why those three books you mentioned -- The Murder of Roger Ackroyd, The Ten Little Indians, and Cards on the Table -- are all masterpieces. If Christie didn't take risks, her books wouldn't be talked about as much as they are.


message 36: by Susan (new)

Susan | 9297 comments Mod
Great to see the discussion going so well. Can I just remind everyone to post any spoilers in the spoiler thread for the book we are currently reading. We will, hopefully, be reading more Christie books in the future so just bear in mind that some members may not have read some of the works being discussed and use spoiler tags if referencing a specific book. Not intending to slow the discussion down in any way, but just thought I should mention it. Thanks.


message 37: by Marcus (new)

Marcus Vinicius | 169 comments I think is difficult for an author so widely read such as Agatha Christie to don't generate all sorts of critics. I have a tendency to read this statements with a grain of salt.


message 38: by Judy (new)

Judy (wwwgoodreadscomprofilejudyg) | 8313 comments Mod
I watched the Joan Hickson version of this today and enjoyed it, but felt it wasn't as true to the book as the other Hickson adaptations I've seen so far - there were quite a lot of changes. I'll say more over in the spoiler thread.

I do love the music for the Hickson adaptations - every time I watch one I get it on the brain for days!


message 39: by Judy (new)

Judy (wwwgoodreadscomprofilejudyg) | 8313 comments Mod
Susan wrote: "Welcome to our June read - halfway through already!

Published in 1957 this novel changed titles several times. The novel had several changing times - from 4.15 to 4.30 then 4.54 before becoming 4...."


I've been meaning to say that I'm really puzzled as to why the time kept changing!


message 40: by Susan (new)

Susan | 9297 comments Mod
Perhaps she was trying to think which title/time scanned better? 4:54 to Paddington hardly slips off the tongue though, does it?


message 41: by Judy (new)

Judy (wwwgoodreadscomprofilejudyg) | 8313 comments Mod
Yes, but I think 4.15 or 4.30 would have been fine! :)


LovesMysteries  | 234 comments Sometimes the American titles of Christie's books are weaker than their British counterparts, but the U.S. title for 4:50 From Paddington, "What Mrs. McGillicuddy Saw!" is pretty strong and it's a title that draws you in. The main question a reader would ask is, "what did Mrs. McGillicuddy see?"


message 43: by Jan C (new)

Jan C (woeisme) | 1270 comments Formulaic? She created the formula.

The first time I read Roger Aykroyd I threw the book across the room.


message 44: by Susan (new)

Susan | 9297 comments Mod
That was my point earlier, Jan - everyone borrowed her ideas. She had the ideas originally and, as you say, she created the formulas that others have followed.

When I read Roger Aykroyd, I had heard of the 'plot twist' (which I won't reveal) so I was prepared. I can imagine that it was a shock for readers though at the time.


message 45: by Jan C (new)

Jan C (woeisme) | 1270 comments It was a similar problem with Murder on the Orient Express. Luckily I read these on paperback years ago.


message 46: by Susan (new)

Susan | 9297 comments Mod
Yes. Has anyone seen the promo for Murder on the Orient Express? I am not quite sure what is going on with Poirot's moustache, but I doubt he would approve!

https://media.bookbub.com/blog/2017/0...


message 47: by Judy (new)

Judy (wwwgoodreadscomprofilejudyg) | 8313 comments Mod
Yes, I have seen this and the moustache looks like a bit of a scene stealer! Can't wait for this as I love Branagh. I have read somewhere that he also wants to do more Poirot.


message 48: by Judy (new)

Judy (wwwgoodreadscomprofilejudyg) | 8313 comments Mod
LovesMysteries wrote: "Sometimes the American titles of Christie's books are weaker than their British counterparts, but the U.S. title for 4:50 From Paddington, "What Mrs. McGillicuddy Saw!" is pretty strong and it's a ..."

I agree this is a good title too, probably better for the US where Paddington wouldn't be so well known.

I like the actress who plays Mrs McG in the Hickson version.


message 49: by Mark Pghfan (new)

Mark Pghfan | 362 comments Though she was somewhat condemned for the solution to Ackroyd, she was also defended. Dorothy Sayers wrote "fair, and fooled you!" Also, I believe that Orient Express was reviewed as "a let-down by a writer we have come to appreciate." Funny how her most well-known ones were not appreciated initially.


message 50: by Susan (new)

Susan | 9297 comments Mod
Perhaps because, rather than play by the rules, she made her own. She was a unique writer.


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