Book title: “Come, Tell Me How You Live”
Author: Agatha Christie Mallowan
Genre/Audience: Autobiography, mystery; adult or just anyone who can read French
Worth the read?: If you’re into Agatha, autobiography, or 1930s Syria, then yes!
I picked up a set of 5 hardback Agatha Christie novels a few weeks ago from my local Goodwill (all thanks to a friend who pointed them out to me). After a quick Google search (this one thanks to my curious mom), I learned that I had managed to get my hands on half of the set. It was published in 1985, and let me just say, not a single one of these books look a day over five!
Anyway, back to this book in particular: As I was heading out the door to spend an impromptu weekend at home, I threw “Come, Tell Me How You Live” in my bag. I figured a good murder mystery would help keep my morale up after a long week.
Well, imagine my shock when I sat down to read it and couldn’t find a single murder!
I mentioned to my parents just how odd this Agatha book was. It was written in first person present tense, to start, and after about 30 pages, I realized that she had yet to tell us the main character’s first name. And, on top of all of that, there was no death! No murder! No hidden detective! They were also speaking way too much French!
It wasn’t until about 75 pages in that it occurred to me why this book was so weird. This book isn’t meant to be a mystery; it’s an autobiography! It sure felt like a mystery, though, as I tried to sort through the French that was way above my year-and-a-half of high school French and kept looking for whodunit, and, well, what exactly whodunit had did.
All of my shameful inability to pick up on context clues aside, this was a really enjoyable, quick read.
The book covers a time of Agatha’s life when she and her husband Max Mallowan, an archeologist, were on a dig around Syria back in the 30s. It was hard for me to follow at times simply because present-tense writing is so exhausting to keep up with, but when all was said and done, I think I grasped most of the content.
Agatha is a gifted storyteller, and it was refreshing, once I knew what I was reading, to see her writing in a new context and genre.
She brilliantly weaves characters in and out of the true story, exposing the reader to many different cultures all at once in a really relatable way. There isn’t a plot; really, the book simply progresses day by day, week by week, month by month until it ends. I’m not really sure how much time the book covers, but I think it was several years.
By the time the book ended, I felt like I had learned something. And I had fun while doing it. Aside from that, there’s not much else I can say.