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And Then There Were None (1945) movie still

 

I did not succeed as an English major because another course of study called me away. It was a course of study with a purpose, with a goal. I was an English major because I liked it, not because I had any goals. This is no judgment on English majors. I would not mind going back now to study literature because I see those books introduced to you by teachers who love them become beloved by you, or me, as the case may be.

So I never read Agatha Christie. I loved Hamlet, Hemingway, Fitzgerald, Hurston, and Dickens. I know many women who love Anne of Green Gables, I met her once but did not love her. I wish I could have.

I think you need to read a variety of styles to become a good writer. And I do mean styles, not content. Content is important, but I do not think 50 Shades of Gray or LGBT lit will add to my skill. Read deep and read light, but always read well. The Handmaid’s Tale can stay on the library shelf. Give me Lord of the Flies. Give me Christie.

Sometimes we need Tolstoy and characters like Levin who represent the author’s ideas and characters like Madame Bovary who represent mine— my weaknesses, that is…not adultery, but vanity. I should clarify.

I last read White Fang, which made me more sympathetic to my cousin’s Doberman Pincher licking her paw to the bone when she saw her love masters’ suitcase. Before that, I revisited The Tenant of Wildfell Hall. I like a strong woman in a story and men of substance. On a roll, it was time to finally read Agatha Christie.

I watched And Then There were None (1945) on TCM late at night when I still lived at my parents’ house. It was too late for me to realize how boring the movie was though I understood halfway through a bootleg streamed copy that this was not something I could sit through. Still, I revered the original story having a morbid fascination for such clever darkness.

My daughter asked what my book was about. There was no good answer I could give her.

I did not know this was considered Christie’s best by some circles. Not knowing if my nerves can take another novel by her (though I will be drawn to it like a Netflix binge) I am glad to have read the best.

The novel is perfect. Is that right? Yes, I think it is perfect. It is not deep. It is not difficult. It is fitfully entertaining and grips you as you enter into the suspense the characters’ experience.

10 people on an island. Everyone is guilty of something. The murders begin. One of them is the killer.

You pass through the thoughts of ten characters, you hate only a small handful of them. Even having seen the movie, anticipating the twist, the movie is different enough from the book that I doubted who the murderer was.

Yet it was there. She dropped some clues: too calm, and that smile…

I wanted them to live as in the movie but you feel the supreme literary justice that movies do not often give.

The book was perfect. I do not know what other people read on the beach. I would read Agatha Christie. I would absolutely read And Then There Were None. If I dare, before I read that again, I will read Witness for the Prosecution. Because I love Marlene Dietrich.

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