It's the Queen of Crime's birthday, and we've got two book suggestions (outside of her massive and brilliant canon of mysteries!) to help you celebrate. You love her books, but how much do you know about the life of the woman who has only been outsold by the Bible and Shakespeare? In An Autobiography, Christie reflects on a childhood spent dreaming up stories, a marriage that did not go as planned and surfing. Yes, Agatha Christie surfed. I wonder how her crown stayed on?
In her autobiography, Christie also explains the inspiration behind the Belgian detective Hercule Poirot. And just in time for Christie's birthday, a new Hercule Poirot mystery written by Sophie Hannah, The Monogram Murders, has been released! Authorized by the Christie estate, this new Poirot novel follows the beloved, quirky detective as he attempts to crack a string of bizarre murders in 1920s London. We had the chance to interview Hannah and Christie's great-grandson, Matthew Prichard, in the September issue, which you can find here.
Happy birthday to one of the greatest crime writers in history!
Up next in the long list of Austen re-imaginings is the HarperCollins' Austen Project, in which six beloved contemporary authors provide modern takes on Austen’s classic works. As with every reworking of a classic, we were skeptical. We all get a little protective of our favorite stories, even when in the hands of accomplished writers.
Kicking off the Austen Project is Joanna Trollope's Sense and Sensibility. It's a pretty straightforward re-imagining, as it transports the Dashwood family drama to modern times. If you're one of those readers groaning, "Not another one!" and judging the cover of Trollope's Sense and Sensibility (complete with earbuds), read what our reviewer had to say about it:
"Trollope does an exceptional job remaining true to the original characters. She accurately captures Austen's classic theme of 'head versus heart,' even as she updates the characters in believable ways (Elinor, for example, is studying architecture). Trollope’s version of Sense and Sensibility reminds the reader that the world may be changing too quickly around us, but matters of the heart remain constant."
Next in the Austen Project is Northanger Abbey by internationally best-selling crime writer Val McDermid, coming in May. Sheltered minister’s daughter Cat Morland loves losing herself in Gothic novels—maybe a bit too much. So when she attends Edinburgh’s Fringe Festival and meets Henry Tilney and his sister, Eleanor, she starts getting suspicious of their perfect little lives.
As with Trollope's book, it sounds like we can expect the story to play out like the original, but it will be interesting to see McDermid, "the acknowledged queen of the psychological thriller," take on Austen's famous Gothic parody. Especially after reading this interview, where McDermid says, "I think Jane Austen builds suspense well in a couple of places, but she squanders it, and she gets to the endgame too quickly."
Hmm. What do you think? Does Northanger Abbey have room for improvement?
Anyway, happy birthday, Jane Austen!
I wrote stories from the time I was a little girl, but I didn't want to be a writer. I wanted to be an actress. I didn't realize then that it's the same impulse. It's make-believe. It's performance.
• Joan Didion •
Do you have a favorite Joan Didion book?
Live your questions now, and perhaps even without knowing it, you will live along some distant day into your answers.
• Rainer Maria Rilke •
Do you have a favorite Rilke poem?
Words, as is well known, are the great foes of reality.
• Joseph Conrad •
Do you have a favorite Joseph Conrad book?
But then, that's the beauty of writing stories—each one is an exploratory journey in search of a reason and a shape. And when you find that reason and that shape, there'??s no feeling like it.
• T.C. Boyle •
Do you have a favorite T.C. Boyle book?
Good books, like good friends, are few and chosen; the more select, the more enjoyable.
• Louisa May Alcott •
Do you have a favorite Louisa May Alcott novel?
To see the world in a grain of sand, and to see heaven in a wild flower, hold infinity in the palm of your hands, and eternity in an hour.
• William Blake •
I grew up in a house that didn’t have very many children’s books, but going to the library was very important to my mother, and we went to the library the same way you’d go to the grocery store or to school. So it was part of life. And I grew up loving books.
• Kevin Henkes •
Do you have a favorite Kevin Henkes book?
No story is the same to us after a lapse of time; or rather we who read it are no longer the same interpreters.
• George Eliot (Mary Anne Evans) •
Do you have a favorite George Eliot novel?