Looking at Agatha Christie and Feminism

Claire Jarvis recently reviewed a biography of Virginia Woolf by Gillian Gill. In 1990, John Mortimer wrote for the Book Review about “Agatha Christie: The Woman and Her Mysteries,” Gill’s biography of Christie.

Crime stories have always been greatly undervalued by the literary establishment. And yet most of the finest works of fiction have been concerned with murder. Suspense, often thought of as the specialty of the thriller, is the essential tool of all storytellers. It could be said that the novelist’s business is much like that of the detective, searching eagerly for clues to provide some explanation of the chaotic and mysterious world we inhabit.

For these reasons serious critical appraisal of detective writers is to be welcomed, although Dame Agatha Christie, were she still alive in this centennial year of her birth, writing her annual novel, gardening and collecting recipes, might have been somewhat startled by the biographical study of her life and work undertaken by Gillian Gill, a British scholar who teaches at Harvard and is a specialist in modern fiction and feminist theory.

Ms. Gill argues not only that Christie’s novels are first-class detective stories, but that they strike some sort of blow for feminism in that they contain women characters who are as independent and ambitious as Christie herself.

The article was originally published by Newyorktimes


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