Our Summer of Agatha Christie: And Then There Were None

by Elizabeth



                               

christieI was going to title this: “In Which I Am Unusually Flakey, Even For Me,” but I thought Jennifer might not like that.

Remember Book Club Girl’s Summer Read-Along? We (me and several of you) were going to read the books and join in the discussions both here and over at her website, starting June 30th which was, oh, two weeks ago now. I dutifully (and delightedly) read And Then There Were None in plenty of time, but on June 30th I was in a car (with air-conditioning, yes, thank you for asking) headed south from Oregon to California on a day where it was 109 degrees on the Siskyou Pass, and if you don’t think that’s unusual for late June, or actually for any time, it’s obvious you’re not from around here.

We visited my in-laws, and yes it went fine, thanks, but what with one thing and another, I completely forgot to follow up. I believe that a little procrastination is a good thing, and that it’s not too late at all. It’s not too late for you to join in either. Seriously, you can read a Christie book in an afternoon should you happen to have one that doesn’t involve bosses with ridiculous standards about amount of work finished, or children expecting things, as they do. It also works best if you don’t have that disease wherein you can’t read or relax if your house is messy.

I’ve read And Then There Were None before, years ago, but happily had managed to completely forget almost all of the plot, so I had no idea who was doing it. I did remember that it is one of her creepiest novels, very disturbing.

Below are Book Club Girl’s questions and my answers. Please play along in comments or over at Book Club Girl. (If you do that, please let us know here. Thanks)

1-      When we first meet the “ten soldiers,” while they may not have been the best group of people, you don’t necessarily wish them ill will. As their pasts are revealed and their true personalities unmasked, did you feel any sympathy for them as a victim of the situation? Do you think that we, the readers, were predisposed to dislike certain characters more and feel sympathy for others?

Yes, I do. I think we’re predisposed to Vera initially, and to the married couple who serve the group. They seem innocuous. I think people tend to instinctively trust judges also. But we learn pretty early on that one of the characters is misrepresenting himself, and that seemed suspicious.

2-      Each soldier was initially defined by their stature or position in life, did that change for any of them as the story progressed, or did they rely more on their roles off the island for survival?

I think it varied from character to character. Several recognized that they needed to use whatever skills they had at the time, and that it didn’t matter who or what station they had off the island. Others relied more on their past.

3-      One of the themes present throughout And Then There Were None is guilt and the effect it can have on a person. How did each character deal with the guilt of their past crimes? Who handled it the best? And who was the most torn up from it?

This was the best part of the book for me. I thought Vera’s progression from denial to guilt-ridden was especially interesting. The judge, however, in many ways denied his guilt up to the end, justifying his original decision in his letter.

4-      What did you think of the use of “Ten Little Soldiers” throughout the book, both the poem posted in the bedrooms and the little disappearing figurines on the dining room table? How do they both figure into the story? Do you think the reminder of the “Ten Little Soldiers” poem was necessary throughout the story?

I thought this was brilliant. Yes, the reminders were necessary–in fact, I went several times to the poem at the beginning of the book to see how the latest murder fit. And the figurines and poem were just so very creepy! They did a lot to create a sense of dread and of being doomed for the characters.

5-      If you were trapped on Soldier Island, which character’s behavior would you most identify with and why? If not, what would you have done differently?

Oh please don’t ask me this! It’s going to give me nightmares. I suppose I most identified with Vera–certainly we see things most from her point of view, and she is most like me in class and situation, although I would like to stress that I have never caused the death of a child, although nannying was one of my college jobs. I don’t know what I would have done differently, and that’s distressing as I expect I would have died.

6-      From the very beginning certain characters are drawn to each other to form alliances in their strange situation—at first Vera and Emily, later Blore, Armstrong, and Lombard, Armstrong and Wargrave, and then Vera and Lombard. What do you think brought them together? How do these alliances affect events?

None of them know who they can trust, but they are (like all humans) drawn to the familiar, to someone who is like other people in their life up to that point. The alliances just make things creepier.

7-      Did you have your own theories about who Unknown was before getting to the “Manuscript Document” and if so, at what point?

Yes of course, but they weren’t correct.

8-      It’s widely commented that Christie “violated the standard rules of mystery writing” by making it nearly impossible for us to solve the mystery before she explains it to us. How did that make you feel as a reader?

I didn’t mind at all. I quite like watching plots unfold (this can be bothersome in real life), so I don’t mind waiting till the end to figure things out.

9-      As Agatha wrote in her author’s note, the plot was so simple, yet so baffling, that she herself was most pleased with the outcome for having done it. Are there any mysteries from recent years that you think come close to what she accomplished here?

It’s brilliantly done. I can’t think of any off the top of my head.

I can’t wait to read all of your answers, and please add any thoughts or observations I may not have covered here.

Join us for our discussion of Dead Man’s Folly on July 29th.  And be sure to watch the PBS premiere of Dead Man’s Folly on July 28th!  Don’t forget to tweet us using #monogrammurders!

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