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Now that I’ve joined the Agatha Christie Reading Challenge I’m a lot more aware of all things Agatha. This challenge will take me several years to complete since it requires reading all of her work in publication order. I’m not moaning about that. I definitely am happy about it. No, what has me shaking my head is all the “knock-offs” of her novels. And I’m not sure “knock-off” is the right term.
This past week I clicked on the main site for Wikepedia and right there in their feature article of the day was this big picture and a big discussion about new video games (on the right) using the mysteries of Agatha Christie! The first one is “And Then There Were None”. They assured me the game “will retain the basic plot elements of the novel.” The main exception will be the playable character and a set of possible endings to the story. What? Different endings? If you want to read the full story, the link is here.
And then I discover there are graphic novels (on the left) of her books. Comic strips of Hercule Poirot and Miss Marple? Kerrie, our Challenge Leader read one in an hour and posted her review here.
In addition, you can go to Agatha Christie.com and shop for all sorts of things. [Just as a side note to my family: don't buy me a mug or a game or a deck chair that resembles Agatha Christie. A book bag might be nice though.]
I’m sure all of this stuff has been around for quite some time and I’m just now discovering it. I don’t like to think of myself as old-fashioned. I’m just behind the times. I could qualify as set in my ways, though, because I like my Agatha Christie’s to be novels. One that takes time to read and think about and mull over what the one true answer is.
Our Agatha Christie Reading Challenge has a once a month carnival that you should check out. This is where everyone who is involved in the challenge posts what they’ve read the past month. The link is here. If you are an Agatha fan you’ll want to join in.
A. B. Guthrie, Jr.
William Sloane Associates, 1949
This story about a wagon train to Oregon was not what I expected. First of all, let me explain that I read this for the Decades Challenge (1940’s). I’d added a western into the mix for variety sake. Even though it won a Pulitzer I thought it would be a cowboy and indian shoot-em-up type book. I’m happy to tell you it is not.
This is the story of people going on a wagon train to Oregon in 1845. I should say that at the beginning of the book it’s the story of the men going to Oregon. The story opens with the main character, Lije Evans, who is just playing in his head with the idea of joining the ever growing number of people coming to his hometown of Independence, Missouri, with the sole purpose of forming trains bound for the free land in Oregon.
There’s quite a cast of characters milling around, each with his own reason to go. In addition to Lije there is:
- Dick Summers who was a former mountain man. His wife has just died and he is talked into joining the train as it’s pilot.
- Tadlock who is the organizer/power-hungry, soon to be captain of the group. He never quite learns that people won’t follow someone blindly. Henry McBee is Tadlock’s sidekick. He’s basically just dirty and scummy.
- Curtis Mack is wealthier than most but whose lust hurts others. And there is Charles Fairman who is going west for the sake of his child who, at five, has always had “the fever”.
- Bryd with his “woman” and ten children can barely afford to go but it’s their only hope for a better life. And Reverend Weatherby who has even less but he feels called to preach in the west.
That is just a few of the male characters. For the first eight or nine chapters there is very little about the women on the train. But as the train moves mile after torturous mile, the story of the women begins to come alive. I want to share some of the passages I found meaningful. This one is of Lije Evans as he thinks of his wife Rebecca
“Evans had an uneasy feeling that he couldn’t realize, ever, what it was to a woman to give up her home. They were finer drawn than men, women were, mixed more in their thinking, so that you couldn’t tell what went on in their heads. A woman might hate moving because of leaving her marigolds.”
As the book develops we begin to know more about Rebecca and Judith and Mercy and the other women and men. The author lets us see what they are thinking and experiencing and what their hopes are. But overall, this trip was physically and emotionally exhausting for everyone. On rare occasions they stopped the train for a day.
“The question came and went, leaving the thought that today was a day of relaxation and play for all except the women. The men and boys climbed the rock, and children romped, and even the oxen . . . had a chance to rest their feet. . . . Only here were the little, draining businesses of rubbing and scuffing and wringing out and hanging on a line.”
Looking back at this from the 21st century it all seems so unfair and the trip pointless. But it isn’t my history; it’s the history of my ancestors. The author does a good job of trying to help us understand the motivation and thinking of these pioneers. The writing and the dialogue both sound as if they could have taken place in that time period. That helps add to the purpose of the story. A very good read that I can recommnd to those of you who like historical fiction and, especially of this time period of western American expansion.
Are they the sweetest? They are just so cute I want
to hug them. I need to go see them. Soon.
I recently discovered a magazine entitled Bookmarks. It’s all about, well, books. It’s a bimonthly with lists of new books (fiction and non-fiction), some reviews, some interviews and features. I find it well written and now that I’m more conscious of new words (thank you Kathy) I noticed a few I will share with you. These were all taken from an article by Jessica Teisch featuring the writer Tom Wolfe.
- glistering means sparkle or glitter as in: “In its depiction of simmering racial tensions amid a glistering, dissolute New York . . “
- zeitgeist means the defining spirit or mood of a particular period in history as shown by the ideas and beliefs of the time as in: ” . . . big important novels that captured the zeitgeist.”
- ziggurat comes from ancient Mesopotamia and refers to a rectangular tower, sometimes surrounded by a temple as in “. . . these men needed the right stuff – the capacity to triumph over “a seemingly infinite series of tests . . . a dizzy progression of steps and ledges,a ziggurat, a pyramid extraordinarily high and steep;”
If you enjoy learning new words or you have a few to share, go visit Kathy at Bermuda Onion.
1. O’Pioneers by Willa Cather. I’m reading this for the Decades ’09 Challenge. Years ago I read My Antonia by the same author and haven’t forgotten it. This one seems to have the same style of writing.
2. Strawberry Girl by Lois Lenski. This is one of my Childhood Favorites I’m re-reading. It’s still so sweet.
3. Travels With Charlie by John Steinbeck. This is an old classic that I first read about 30 years ago and I want to see if it still has that same old charm.
4. Secret Adversary by Agatha Christie. This is her second book to be published. I’m reading them in order of publication for the Agatha Christie Reading Challenge.
5. Home Another Way by Christa Parrish. I won this novel a couple months ago from 5 Minutes For Books. It’s the debut novel for this author and has had excellent reviews.
6. The 5 People You Meet in Heaven by Mitch Albom. I read about half of this book a year ago and then found a copy of the audiobook at the library. The audiobook was read by the author and it was superb. I decided I should go back and read the original again.
What’s on your list? For more What’s On Your Nightstand visit 5 Minutes For Books.
My husband, Jay, is also a book nut. Sometimes we read the same books – thrillers, for example. But generally our tastes don’t match. He loves the Civil War era and books about the American West/Frontier days. Recently he read a book that truly moved him and he just couldn’t get it out of his head. I suggested he write a review of the book to get his thoughts down on paper. I told him he could be a ‘guest blogger’ with his review. Here’s what he wrote:
Gods and Generals
Ballantine Books, 1996
My brother-in-law, Don, referred the book, Killer Angels by Michael Shaara.to me. It’s very good, a Pulitzer Prize winning novel. But, when I found out it was a trilogy I decided to read them in chronological order. One of my personal quirks is reading things in order wherever possible.
In my research I discovered that the father, Michael Shaara, wrote the middle book (Killer Angels) first and died before he was able complete a total review of the Civil War. His son, Jeffery Shaara, wrote the other two books.
Jeffery’s book, Gods and Generals. was from the period just prior to the Civil War forward to the battle of Gettysburg. Each chapter highlights a general. There is Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson, Winfield Scott Hancock, Joshua Chamberlain, Robert E. Lee and more. Because it’s a novel, the author could give his interpretation on their thoughts and feelings. He gives us the generals’ ideas about the war before it began and their inner turmoil moving forward.
“As Lee had expected in the new Confederate Army the clash of egos, the struggle of ambitious men with private agendas, had rendered quick actions and smooth organization impossible.”
The author of Gods and Generals turned out to be a strong recommendation for the balance of the three book series. The writing gave me a visual picture of this war from a general’s point of view both north and south. I enjoyed this book immensely and was moved emotionally by the conflicts these men had to encounter.
If you are going to read about the Civil War I would strongly suggest that you begin the journey reading Gods and Generals by Jeffery Shaara. I also viewed the movie/dvd on this book (same title), which also helped me visualize the characters, and helped turn them into real people.
The purpose of this weekly meme is to share some of the places we’ve been. They are places that stay with us for one reason or another. Join us. Post a picture on your blog, go to the comment section here and leave your link. Visit others who share their Favorite Places. Feel free to borrow the button.
And here is this week’s Favorite Place: Bennett Spring, Missouri
If we weren’t enjoying the winter out here in California this is where we would be this coming weekend – Bennett Spring State Park. March 1st is the traditional start of trout season at this park. My husband is a fisherman down to the inside of his waders. (To see his monster salmon go here.) Bennett Springs is where fly fishermen go for their first ‘fishing-fix’ of the season. Of course, this time of the year it’s not for your nice-weather type fisher-person. Most years it’s very cold, often with snow on the ground.
If you are looking for Bennett Spring on the map , look at the center of Missouri, a little to the south and west. It’s near the town of Lebanon. There’s a good campgrounds in the park plus plenty of motels, cabins and other RV parks near by. There are some very nice hiking trails plus a fish hatchery as well as the spring. It’s very beautiful in warmer weather when the trees are in bloom. Keep this in mind for those people you know who love to fish. This is on our lifetime list of Favorite Places.
*Note on this picture: All of our pictures of Bennett Spring are in storage so I found a vintage postcard to share with you. It still looks pretty much the same way it did when my husband first took me here in the 1960’s.