2009: 128-130. Agatha Writing as Mary Westmacott

“Ann Prentice stood on the platform at Victoria, waiving.”

First lines of A Daughter’s A Daughter

A Daughter’s A Daughter,

Unfinished Portrait,

The Burden, Agatha Christie writing as Mary Westmacott

       These are three non-mystery novels that Christie wrote under a pseudonym (I’ve read one other, Absent in the Spring).  For lack of a better word, you might call them romance novels, though really they are just fiction.  They all deal with psychological portraits of women facing some crisis in their lives, and while none is a truly great book, each has aspects that are quite compelling. 

       A Daughter’s A Daughter is the most complete of the lot.  It tells the story of Ann, a youngish widow with an almost grown up daughter, Sarah.  Ann has lived to make Sarah happy, but when Sarah goes off on a skiing trip with friends, Ann falls in love.  However, Sarah, who has grown used to being the center of her mother’s life, doesn’t like this turn of events and sets out stop the wedding from happening.  I was pleasantly surprised by this novel - particularly with how grim it got in the middle, and how the ending wasn’t a traditionally happy one (though it has some uplifting aspects).  I was expecting a sort of romance novel bow, and got a harsher, but more realistic ending.  That having been said, parts of the novel do seem a bit over the top - some of the characters are very, very broad (and there is at least one boo hiss, mustache twirling villain that would be out of place in one of her own mystery novels, let alone a realistic novel about human emotions).

       An Unfinished Portrait starts out very strong.  It tells the life story of a young woman, starting with her earliest memories, through her young loves, her marriage, etc.  It is very good at the beginning - Christie captures a whole way of life that is gone, and makes you understand what it was like to be a young woman in the 1920’s & 30’s.  But the novel peters out at the end in a totally unsatisfying way.  She gives so much detail at the start, and then deals with the end so glancingly that the novel, though somewhat long, seems unfinished.

       Finally, The Burden is a strange little novel about a sister who devotes too much of herself to her sister, and the way that cripples both of their lives.  It’s dark and sort of twisted at the end (and the way it resolves, and what happens to the sister is totally unsatisfactory).  But I liked parts - the main character and the crusty old don who is her mentor had a believably sweet relationship.

       The thing is, if you really like Christie you might find these interesting, or if you’re interested in “women’s novels” of the 40’s and 50’s.  But as novels themselves, they are somewhat lacking. Enjoyable enough, I guess, but I couldn’t recommend them to a casual reader. 


Date/Place Completed: October 2009; D.C.

Categories:  Fiction, Agatha Christie Project

© Carrie Dunsmore 2017