Various

Faithful, if Lackluster, Adaptation

Title: Murder on the Nile
Author: Agatha Christie
Date of First Performance: 1945

Plot summary: Agatha Christie
Full Length, Mystery
Characters: 8 male, 5 female
Interior Set

Simon Mostyn has recently married Kay Ridgeway, a rich woman, having thrown over his former lover Jacqueline. The couple are on their honeymoon and are at present on a paddle steamer on the Nile. With them is Canon Pennefather, Kay’s guardian, and Jacqueline, who has been dogging their footsteps all through the honeymoon. Also on the boat are a rich, ill tempered old woman with her niece and companion, a rather direct young man, a German who nurses a grudge against Kay’s father and Kay’s maid. During the voyage Jacqueline works herself into a state of hysteria and shoots at Simon, wounding him in the knee. A few moments later Kay is found shot in her bunk. By the time the boat reaches its destination, Canon Pennefather has laid bare an audacious conspiracy and has made sure the criminals shall not go free.

Let me admit at the outset that I am not a play reader, although I do love to go to live theater, and it is a lifelong dream of mine to see The Mousetrap performed, preferably in London. It’s also important to note that Death on the Nile is one of my favorite of Christie’s mysteries – the setting is wonderful, the characters are well-drawn, and the solution is satisfying even if there are rather too many side-plots going on in the book.

I will talk further about all of those elements in a later review, because I plan to do a reread of this delightful mystery around the middle of May.

For now, though, I will confine my remarks to this play. My edition was published by Samuel French, and was ordered from Amazon. Along with the script, it contains a character list, a stage schematic, a Furniture and Property Plot and a Lighting Plot. The Furniture and Property Plot was actually fairly interesting, and the Lighting Plot went right over my head.

I have never seen this play performed, although when I was googling about, I found information that a local theater actually performed it a couple of years ago, which left me quite bitter. If I had known it was being staged, I absolutely would’ve gotten tickets for it.

However, reading the script did make one of the primary complaints that I’ve read about this play quite clear to me. There is absolutely no real connection to the setting here. Egypt is mentioned, the Nile is referenced, but this is a play that occurs primarily in a single room – the observation saloon on a paddle steamer nominally travelling down the Nile. It could, however, have happened anywhere, including on the Thames.

I honestly don’t know how to stage this play to take advantage of the Egyptian setting, but, then again, I’m not a playwright. It certainly seems, as well, that Agatha Christie – who was the playwright – also didn’t really know how to do this, as throwing in a couple of random beadsellers at the very beginning of the play, during what is meant to be the embarkation process, seems to be the extent of her efforts. Weak.

The stripped down nature of the play, as well, means that we don’t really get a lot of character development. Because I’ve had the advantage of reading the original text, and having seen the Poirot adaptation, I attributed much of the character depth from other sources to these characters. Someone just seeing the play, I’m afraid, wouldn’t have the benefit of that depth and would likely feel that the play itself left a lot to be desired in terms of character development. Kay, in particular, felt extremely thin. Perhaps actors who are also familiar with the source novel would be able to imbue the characters with the depth that they lack through their performances. I don’t know.

Canon Pennefather takes the place of Poirot, which was actually fine for me. Poirot might have overwhelmed the production with his fussiness and his mannerisms anyway.

Notes for the Agathytes: As I’ve previously mentioned, Canon Pennefather “reappears” with a slight name change (Canon Pennyfather) in At Bertram’s Hotel, approximately 20 years later. The characters are completely different in personality, however.

Kay is the name that Agatha Christie chose for Linnett Ridgeway in the play. I thought that was actually somewhat interesting, because Kay is also the name of the second wife, Kay Strange, in Towards Zero, a book that was published in 1944, which was also adapted as a play in 1956. The play was first performed that same year. There are some physical similarities between the two Kays. Agatha does like to recycle.

In terms of the endings, I’ll talk about this more when we reread Death on the Nile, but there were some crucial differences between the ending of the play and the ending of the book.

Various

Re-Joining the Classics Club!

I previously joined The Classics Club back in September of 2012, with a list of 50 books to read by December, 2017. I easily hit that goal, back on August 30, 2015. At that point, I was blogging on a different blog, which was self-hosted. I recently shut down that one after republishing everything onto a free blog. You can find my challenge list here, as well as my finish line post, which identifies all of the books, and a short recap of the project.

When I was considering projects for this blog, I decided to rejoin the Classics Club, with another 50 classics to read in 5 years. The project officially commences on 12/1/2018 and will finish on 11/30/2024. You can find the list of classics under the tab at the top of the blog, which you can also find here. In keeping with this blog theme, they were all written by women.

Various

Back to the Classics 2019

Karen @ Karen’s Books and Chocolate has decided to host the Back to the Classics Challenge again next year! You can find her announcement post, with the newest round of categories, here.

While I will likely make changes to this list, I thought I’d put together a first round of ideas for the categories. I am planning to read all women authors for this challenge, to fit into the theme of this blog:

1. 19th Century Classic. Any classic book originally published between 1800 and 1899. My initial impulse is to read something by Elizabeth Gaskell – possibly Cranford. The other possibility would be to reread Middlemarch by George Eliot.

2. 20th Century Classic. Any classic book originally published between 1900 and 1969: There are so many choices here! I think I’ll read something mid-century British for this one: Dorothy Whipple, Barbara Comyns, E.M. Delafield, etc.

3. Classic by a Female Author. Since everything I am reading will be by a female author, this category is totally open for me! I’ll decide how to fill it down the road a bit!

4. Classic in Translation. Any classic originally written in a novel other than your native language: I have been meaning to read Sigrid Undset’s Kristen Lavransdatter trilogy for several years. I think I will read the first installment for this category – The Wreath, which was published in 1920.

5. Classic Comedy. Any comedy or humorous work. Humor is very subjective, so if you think Crime and Punishment is hilarious, go ahead and use it, but if it’s a work that’s traditionally not considered humorous, please tell us why in your post. I don’t read very much comedy. I’m thinking of one of the Peter Wimsey mysteries, by Dorothy Sayers, for this category, since I find them frequently quite funny. Or maybe Angela Thirkell. Her Chronicles of Barsetshire are usually witty and satirical.

6. Classic Tragedy. Tragedies traditionally have a sad ending, but just like the comedies, this is up for the reader to interpret. I am definitely reading something by Edith Wharton for this category – possibly a reread of The House of Mirth.

7. Very Long Classic. Any classic single work 500 pages or longer, not including introductions or end notes: I love really long, doorstopper style books. I’m considering the Middlemarch reread for this one. Pretty much anything by Eliot would work, except for Silas Marner.

8. Classic Novella. Any work of narrative fiction shorter than 250 pages: I don’t read shorter works, so I’m going to have to look around for something for this one.

9. Classic From the Americas (includes the Caribbean). Includes classic set in either continent or the Caribbean, or by an author originally from one of those countries: The easy thing to do would be to pick an American classic, but that seems sort of cheaty, so I’m going to look for something from the Caribbean or South America.

10. Classic From Africa, Asia, or Oceania (includes Australia). Any classic set in one of those contents or islands, or by an author from these countries: I am planning to read one of Ngaio Marsh’s Roderick Alleyn mysteries for this category – Ms. Marsh was born in New Zealand. Alternatively, I may read Miles Franklin’s My Brilliant Career.

11. Classic From a Place You’ve Lived. Read locally! Any classic set in a city, county, state or country in which you’ve lived: I struggled with this one a little bit until I remembered Willa Cather. I was born in Nebraska, which is also the setting for her classic My Antonia. I’ve read it before, but not for many years, and I’ve long been considering a rereard.

12. Classic Play. Any play written or performed at least 50 years ago. Plays are eligible for this category only. This category is always a struggle for me because I don’t like reading plays. I’m going to try Agatha Christie’s The Mousetrap and see if I have any more success with a mystery!

Various

Welcome to All The Vintage Ladies

Back in 2012 or so I started a classics club project, which was focused on reading 50 classics in 5 years. I finished that project on August 1, 2015, and did a recap where I noted that 42% of the books read were women authors.

Around the same time, I started seeing posts and discussions and tweets and what not about reading women authors. I’ve always read women authors, but both of these things combined to make me more aware of my reading habits. At around the same time, again, I started seeing publishers taking long out of print books and getting them back into print, at least as e-books.

This is a place to keep track of my now lengthy reading “project” to read vintage women authors. This includes classics – Edith Wharton, Willa Cather, Elizabeth Gaskell – but it also includes authors of older popular fiction, suspense and romance – Mary Stewart, Helen Macinnes, Phyllis Whitney – as well as middlebrow, wartime (WWI and WWII) and interwar women writers – D.E. Stevenson, Angela Thirkell, Elizabeth Fair. And not to forget women who wrote YA and MG fiction, such as Madeleine L’Engle, Eleanor Estes and Edith Nesbit. Finally, women have written some of the best mystery fiction of their various times: Agatha Christie, Dorothy Sayers, Patricia Wentworth, Anna Katherine Green, and more recently, Ruth Rendell and P.D. James.

We think of the literary canon as including a disproportionate number of dead white guys. As a place to start, I’ve compiled a list of 101 classic (i.e., dead) women authors whom I intend to read over the next five years, which I’m calling the 101 Dead Women project. In addition, I’ve seen other bloggers doing “Century Project” where they read one book from each year of the twentieth century, which I will adapt by only reading women. In order to up the difficulty, I’m not going to overlap the two projects. Each book will only count for one project.

This is a work in progress. I have a lot of content on the blog I am abandoning that I will be migrating over here, so there may be posts that were published on a previous blog.

But, welcome to All The Vintage Ladies!