Monday, January 16, 2017

Agatha Christie = Mary Westmacott

I've always enjoyed Agatha Christie mysteries, so when I discovered that she also wrote non-mysteries under the name Mary Westmacott, I thought I would give one a try.

I found a copy of The Rose and the Yew Tree and it made perfect airplane reading just after Christmas.  It was a fun, interesting little novel, with shades of psychological drama that kept me engaged.  Overall, the premise is pretty implausible but the writing is solid and the structure of the story interesting.

The basic idea is that the narrator, Hugh Norreys is an invalid, paralyzed due to a traffic accident, and so is an observer.  He is convalescing during the close of WWII with his artist brother and political neophyte sister-in-law in Cornwall, where the local election brings a new man, John Gabriel, into the sphere of the resident fading gentry, a couple of elderly sisters and their young ward, Isabella.

The book is a study in class structure, prejudice, and opportunism as well as sexual freedom and limitations, free will, love, and sacrifice.  From a historical perspective, it was interesting to read about the 1945 election in Britain that gave the Labour party victory over Churchill's Conservative party.  Having just finishing watching The Crown, I appreciated the author's take on how that happened.

Sadly, none of the characters are particularly likable, and Isabella is more a symbol than a real person, but I enjoyed the story and didn't guess the way it worked until just before the author revealed all.  At her heart, Christie was a mystery storyteller and this was structured much as her mysteries were with the reader guessing at the outcome right to the end.


  1. I never knew she wrote under a pseudonym; her mysteries are all that I'm familiar with. But I do love those. :)

  2. I think that a lot of Agatha Christie fans have not read or do not even know about the Mary Westmacott books. My wife is a Christie fan, I will ask her if she has any interest in these.

    It is interesting that this novel was structured like a mystery.

  3. I never knew Christie wrote under a pseudonym! Might have to look into these...

  4. Romance novels are really not my thing, even if they are written by Agatha Christie. But I do have a bind up of some of her Westmacott books that I inherited from my mother that I have been meaning to try for years now.

    love your observation that she was a mystery writer at heart!

    1. I went into this one thinking it was a romance, which is not really my thing either, though I do like a few writers in the genre (Rosamund Pilcher, Mary Stewart), but this more like a Daphne DuMaurier story than a romance.

  5. I also didn't know about her pseudonym. I'm glad you enjoyed the story. We are watching The Crown as well and like it.