Mission Marple Book Club discussion

The Mirror Crack'd from Side to Side (Miss Marple #8)
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Mara (bookslikewhoa) | 29 comments Mod
The movie of this featuring Queen Ang Lanz is the source of our group photo -- will the book hold up as well??? We shall see!


message 2: by Eamon (last edited May 05, 2019 03:23PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Eamon | 43 comments I suspect this may be a case of the cheese standing alone, but I did enjoy this reread quite a bit. I can see some of the issues, but I just loved being back in St Mary Mead - particularly the newer St Mary Mead, and reading about how time is moving on for the village and everyone in it. I enjoyed the tone of that too, which was tinged with sadness, but hasn't developed completely into "modern life is worthless". I loved so much Miss Marple's adventure into the Development and her conflicted feelings about it. Viewing it suspiciously and seeing it as degenerate, before her happiness at discovering human nature was still exactly the same. I loved her intervening in that young couple's life (and it was awesome to hear later on that Lily did in fact leave Harry - and with a kinda surprisingly modern attitude of why should a woman have to get married to a no good, just because she's pregnant), I just thought that was great.

Dolly Bantry is back, yay! The Vicar and Griselda have moved on, Miss Wetherby has died, but Miss Hartnell is clinging on still for dear life. Dr Haydock is still around. Before this entire Marple reread I had no idea how fond of St Mary Mead I was, but it's so nice being back in it! This book is a great bookend to The Murder at the Vicarage/The Body in the Library.

There are Christie tropes employed in this novel that I've always loved, like the witness who sees something but can't understand the significance of it, and what is nice in this book is that Miss Marple swoops in and saves Gladys from being murdered - this type of character can often end up as a victim.

Ooh, and Miss Knight is a wonderful character (incidentally, the actress who plays Dolly Bantry in the movie plays Miss Knight in the 1990s version, and is excellent in it). Actually, both her and Heather Badcock are really recognisable women, I could see them so clearly. I love how Miss Knight is written so you know exactly what she's like, you feel Miss Marple's frustrations, and it's satisfying when you know Miss Marple and Cherry have come up with a solution which will send her happily on her way. It cracked me up when Miss Marple says: "That old -- Miss Knight, I mean", haha. I'm sure she was going to say something less strong, but it makes me laugh to think of Miss Marple possibly saying: "That old bitch!" Hehehe.

I think to be honest, the discussion on St Mary Mead and the scenes set among the villagers old and new were my favourite parts of this book, more so than the mystery, which is still a good one. I think the plot is interesting enough that it makes sense it has been filmed so often and I do also think the adaptations make a really valid decision in focusing a lot on Hollywood and the characters in the Hall, in spite of how much I prefer to be in St Mary Mead (the Joan Hickson version gets the balance right the best, I feel). If you're used to the adaptations, you'd probably be surprised at how little the American characters are dealt with in the novel by comparison and there is a lot to mine there, to comment on Hollywood, actors, general bitchery, haha.

Problems? Well, I don't tend to worry too much about coincidences in these novels but I thought the bit with Arthur Badcock being Marina's first husband was unnecessary - I mean, it spurs Miss Marple to get up to Gossington Hall herself because she wants to clear him, but I don't love that plot point. Also, shades of (view spoiler).

Also, I would say I think there are too many murders in this, and Giuseppe wasn't really necessary either. On the other hand, I've always found Ella's death to be really chilling. Savage Christie strikes again!

I think most people will know this, but if not: the situation which inspired Marina to murder Heather is taken from a real life case where the actress Gene Tierney was approached at a function by a gushing fan who let slip she had snuck out of her sickbed years earlier to meet Tierney and Tierney realised this woman had infected her with rubella and was responsible for her daughter Daria's disability. Gene Tierney just walked away, but it inspired Christie to wonder what would happen if such strong emotions got the better of you.


Mara (bookslikewhoa) | 29 comments Mod
I'm kind of stunned by how melancholic so much of this book's tone seems to be. Not at all how I remembered it! I did enjoy seeing how St. Mary Mead is changing with the times... I think reading these in order has helped me see how much continuity there is to the setting/recurring characters for Marple books. Ultimately though, this just isn't one of the better Marples IMO. Too much coincidence, too much melodrama-- oddly enough, since as Eamon mentioned, this is based on an actual event in Gene Tierney's life, but it felt too wild to be real.


message 4: by Ian (new)

Ian Smith | 15 comments I love the first few chapters,though. Is it wrong that I feel a sense of slightly malicious satisfaction at Miss Marple's (in my opinion) painfully classist world finally disintegrating in front of her eyes? Her horror in discovering that the lower orders are not only turning away from careers in service;but actually getting jobs with decent prospects,and - shock horror - living in a new housing estate right alongside her! Although I love the old biddy dearly,Miss M's complacent (even occasionally vicious) snobbery was starting to make me irritated.


message 5: by L.A. (new) - added it

L.A. | 12 comments I always felt that the co incidence of Marina meeting the person who gave her german measles, etc, was a bit too big to swallow, and that coloured my view of the book. And now you tell me that part actually happened? To a film star? I think I'd better think this out again.


message 6: by Eamon (last edited May 07, 2019 04:08AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Eamon | 43 comments L.A. wrote: "I always felt that the co incidence of Marina meeting the person who gave her german measles, etc, was a bit too big to swallow, and that coloured my view of the book. And now you tell me that part actually happened? To a film star? I think I'd better think this out again."

Oh yeah, it's nuts, but it really happened! Without the subsequent murder, of course ;). And Gene Tierney didn't adopt and abandon other children or anything like that, the rest of Marina's life was invented by Christie.

From wiki: "In June 1943, while pregnant with her first child, Tierney came down with German measles, contracted during her only appearance at the Hollywood Canteen. Congenital rubella syndrome was passed on to the baby. Little Daria was born prematurely, weighing only 3 pounds, 2 ounces, and requiring a total blood transfusion. The infant was deaf, partially blind with cataracts, and severely developmentally disabled. The child ultimately was institutionalised in a psychiatric hospital. About two years after the child was born, Tierney was approached by a female fan for an autograph at a garden party. The fan revealed that during WWII she had sneaked out of quarantine while sick with German measles to visit the Hollywood Canteen and meet Tierney."


message 7: by Ian (new)

Ian Smith | 15 comments Overall,an enjoyable book - but not top tier Christie. The coincidences became too much to tolerate (the estranged adopted daughter was pushing it;but Arthur Badcock was completely unnecessary,and detracted from the poignant finale). Being only familiar with the Lansbury movie,I was surprised to find that the whole 'Baby Jane' vibe had been created for the film,and wasn't any part of the book. This wasn't to it's detriment - but it did feel that Christie had to play her mis-direction ploy a few too many times,in light of comparatively few suspects.
I loved the sub-plot of Mrs Knight;Marples musings on the changing times;and,especially,the wonderful call-backs to earlier books (especially Library and the Tuesday Night Club),which,when doing a chronological endeavour such as Mission Marple,really reward and repay the loyal reader.

I found it fascinating that,although only five years or so had elapsed between 4.50 from Paddington and Mirror,the world surrounding Miss Marple had changed so completely. 'Paddington' seemed securely set within the 50's (a world of large chuffing steam trains;privileged children and stately family homes);whereas Mirror has a remarkably up to date feel - with it's observations on glittering new supermarkets;rapidly constructed housing developments,with faux traditional road names;and hairdressing salons with names like "Jackies",Mirror could easily be describing the UK of today. Whereas the Britain of 'Paddington' felt like a period piece,'Mirror' (disregarding some of the dialogue) felt scarily up-to-date!


message 8: by Eamon (last edited May 11, 2019 08:24PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Eamon | 43 comments ^ This is so perfectly said - I agree! You put your finger on exactly what I felt during my reread but had trouble forming my thoughts on.


Lorraine | 18 comments I was a bit disappointed in this one because I felt the solution was too obvious, right from the minute Mrs Babcock told Miss Marple about meeting Marina and hearing about the disabled child.

I might be unusual though, I’m too used to emails at work saying someone has been in contact with chicken pox etc if you’re pregnant speak to your manager. Seems to be at least one a week!


Jemima Ravenclaw (jemimaravenclaw) | 16 comments Running a little behind with this, but I really enjoyed this one.
The Mirror Crack'd from Side to Side (Miss Marple, #9) The Mirror Crack'd from Side to Side by Agatha Christie

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


Miss Marple is living in the same house in St Mary Mead that she has always lived in, but in this post war era, significant changes are happening in her previously intimate, quiet and old fashioned little village. A new housing estate, just outside of the village, is quickly filling up with new young people, Gossington Hall has been bought and renovated by the famous actress Marina Gregg, her husband film director Jason Rudd and their entourage, while her old friend, the now widowed, Dolly Bantry is content to live retired in the small house at its gates. In the village, the personalised service of the little grocer shop has been aggrandised with a new 'supermarket' where items are taken from the shelves in packets, while carrying baskets and nobody knows everybody anymore. Saddest of all, Miss Marple has been unwell recently and the concern for her health and age has lead to her nephew and the local doctor to obtain a carer for her to look after her and run her household. The changes in the village Miss Marple regards with interest and acceptance, but the curtailing of her independence by a patronising woman (Mrs Knight) who treats her as if she is as infirm in her mind as she is in her body, when in truth Miss Jane Marple's mind is (as ever) as sharp as a steel trap.


" 'There wasn't,' Miss Marple reflected, 'anything wrong with the Miss Knights, other than the fact that they were madly irritating. They were full of kindness, ready to feel affection towards their charges, to humour them, tho be bright and cheerful with them; and in general to treat them as slightly mentally-afflicted children.'

'But I,' Miss Marple said to herself, 'although I may be old, am not a mentally retarded child!' "



Miss Marple is daily overcoming her malaise and is determined to assert her independence and to find a way out of an intolerable situation, which is now curtailing her freedom and contentment in her home environment to an unacceptable degree. Of curse, being Miss Marple she is concerned to find this solution without hurting the feelings of either her new nanny or her concerned nephew, but finds some relief in telling her old friend the doctor what she really thinks of all of them, including his clucking foolishness. In a bid for freedom, Miss Marple escapes the house and goes to investigate for herself what this new world of 'The Development' is like for herself - curiosity always having been her besetting sin. Though meeting an officiously kind woman called Heather Badcock and her husband, and through her association with the ever delightful Dolly Bantry, Miss Marple is soon drawn into all the excitement of another murder mystery that she is determined to solve in the face of Mrs Knight's genteel protestations.


“In my experience, bossy women seldom get themselves murdered. I can't think why not. When you come to think of it, it's rather a pity.”


The story line is appealing and amusing and although the menage described at Gossington Hall is interesting, I was most captivated by elderly Jane Marple's personal journey to regain her independence, in the face of all well-meaning nay sayers. It is an inspiring story of determination and inlaid with humour, both situational and self deprecating. The character of Miss Marple is so attractive in this story and her interactions with the various characters the highlight of the whole, within a well-written and imaginative plot.



View all my reviews


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