It was the work of a moment: On 4 December 1926, Agatha Christie became Teresa Neele, resident of the spa hotel, the Harrogate Hydro. With her wedding ring left behind, and her minimal belongings unpacked, the lost days begin.
Lying to her fellow guests about the death of a husband and child, Teresa settles in to the anonymity she so fiercely desires. Until Harry McKenna, bruised from the end of his own marriage, asks her to dance.
In this entrancing novel of creativity and grief, Kristel Thornell combines fact and fantasy to reconstruct Agatha Christie’s retreat from a life that had become too difficult. With verve and sensitivity, Thornell imagines what Christie could not write.
There are some books that tend to come with certain expectations, a promise of ‘a great read’ or ‘simply enthralling’. The idea that a story might shed some light on the mysterious time of Agatha Christie’s disappearance can’t help but ignite at least some guarantee of interest.
Unfortunately Thornell’s re-enactment left most of our group underwhelmed.
Generally there was a feeling that the book lacked intrigue and depth. Those who gave it an honest try were looking for the plot to thicken and gain momentum, but found it was in vain. The characters never really developed for them, so there was no real interest in their plight or their future.
There was appreciation for what the author was trying to achieve and in discussing the book our group explored other scenarios and ideas for the AWOL Ms Christie. This alone turned into a lively discussion with plenty of ideas thrown around the table.
Everyone was also interested in other books concerning Christie’s disappearance and her life in general. So it may have been a disappointing read in a fictional sense, but it did provoke a curiosity that was not there beforehand. And that can make the reading of any novel worthwhile.