Pop Culture Princess

Pop Culture Princess
especially welcome to extensive readers

Friday, June 22, 2018

My Great American Read: And Then There Were None

The Great American Read series on PBS,which offers readers the chance to vote for their favorite bit of fiction(so far, a million votes have been cast), has inspired me to tackle a few of the nominees for my personal TBR.

Out of that small selection, the first one that I've completed is Agatha Christie's And Then There Were None, a classic stand alone from her best known detective fare. It's gone through a few title changes(for good reason) and has been adapted for film,TV, the theater and even a video game!

What inspires so much interest in this sinister story? Well, the set-up is deceptively simple; a group of ten strangers all receive invitations to stay on a remote island off the English shore. Whether for work,play or hidden agenda, each one makes their way over and grows a bit acquainted with their new companions.

On first meeting, each person seems to be the average sort; a former governess, a retired general, a doctor, a judge, a glib rich boy. However, it's not long before you realized that all of them have one thing in common-they all have truly gotten away with murder. Nevertheless, everyone gets along rather well in the beginning:

The amiable mood shifts quickly once a phonograph record is played that announces all of their crimes and ends ominously with "Prisoners at the bar, what do you have to say in your defense?"

As each guest dies, one by one in accordance with an old nursery rhyme(my edition called it "ten little Indians" but I do believe later versions have it as "ten little soldiers.") that is posted in every bedroom and accented by a set of figurines upon the dining room table whose number grows smaller with each death, suspicions and accusations abound.

It's not too long before the remaining guests realize that the person behind all of this is in their very midst. Despite taking what precautions they can and making what alliances are available to them, the death count keeps ticking down and there is no outside help to rescue them:

Agatha Christie wrote in numerous formats but the stage was one of her great loves and that affect shows in the theatrical elements of the story.

From eating their meals together to locking themselves in their bedrooms at night, the closed room tension steadily builds for the dwindling set of characters performing for us on the page.

 One chapter begins by describing the few still there as various creatures in their state of fear; a nervous bird, a twitching tortoise, a wolf flashing his sharp teeth. It's not a question of rooting for someone to survive(all of them are terrible people,trust me) rather, it's more about who is doing this and for what reason? Not to mention how and is anyone else in on this death trap with the secret killer?

Christie really goes full dark on this story, something that for 1939 and a popular woman author was mostly unheard of. She relies on suspension and the careful layering of plot points/misleads to keep the reader following this deadly trail of bread crumbs to it's bitter end. You would think this sounds unbearably bleak yet it's coated with a good amount of intrigue that makes this a truly hard to put down book.

The influence of And Then There Were None can be seen across many genres, some of them satirical and others a light hearted homage. One thing is for certain-Christie certainly did pave the way for other mainstream artists to get as grim as they needed to be:

This is the first Agatha Christie that I've read that doesn't involve either Poirot or Miss Marple and it does inspire me to check out some of her plays as well. Her firm hand at the literary wheel is well established yet it takes being on such a finely tuned thrill ride as this for yourself to make you fully appreciate the art of her craft.

The next book on my GAR list to read is Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston, as part of the High Summer readathon that I'm joining in on this July. Looking forward to that and the rest of this particular TBR indeed, except for one that I've already seen the movie version of.

This has certainly been a scary start to my little literary adventure here but it's one that I, unlike the unlucky guests upon the island, made it through all the better for it(the following video is spoiler-ish for those who haven't read this book,you have been warned!):

No comments: