Is she convincing? Up to a point. These ways of thinking about Christie are not entirely new or unfamiliar, and although Worsley has evidently done due diligence among her subject’s correspondence and personal records, there are no major revelations. It’s more, perhaps, that she brings a clear-eyed empathy that allows her to acknowledge Christie’s limitations and prejudices without consigning her to the silos of mass-market populist and absentee mother ... Sometimes, this is a stretch. Worsley is correct to argue that dismissing the books as formulaic – algebraic, indeed – is a way of diminishing Christie’s power to graft an apparently impenetrable mystery on to an evocatively imagined and interestingly peopled setting, and to repeat the trick over and over again; such reductive ways of characterising the work of popular writers are still very much in evidence. Her gift for dialogue and for manipulating social stereotypes, as Worsley demonstrates, was formidable, keenly attuned to the proliferating class anxieties of the 20th century...This doesn’t quite amount to the claims made in one eyebrow-raising passage in the biography, in which Worsley appears to argue that Christie has common ground with the modernists whose defining moment came as her first novels were published ... does, however, paint an intriguing picture of Christie as an upper-middle-class Victorian and Edwardian child whose life, then and later, encompassed significant losses and reversals of fortune, emotionally and materially. Perhaps counterintuitively, Worsley’s plummy-chummy tone bolsters rather than detracts from the seriousness with which she has evidently taken her task, as if she’s attempting to translate the sensibilities of a bygone era and mindset to contemporary life ... Where Worsley excels is in her descriptions of Christie’s day-to-day life; we hear virtually nothing of her political opinions as she lives through two world wars, for example, but we do glean a sense of her exceptionalism in the news that she consistently ignored air-raid sirens and simply turned over in bed. And she reports Christie’s almost compulsive buying of properties, her quiet, near-clandestine funding of her second husband’s archeological career and her love of rich food in a way that allows us to understand the version of home, love and stability she was trying to recreate. This may be the first biography I’ve read where my attention was genuinely piqued by the discussion of the subject’s tax affairs. Has Lucy Worsley tracked down Agatha Christie? Not quite, but her nose for diverting byways may suffice.
... kind and lucid ... As in all her best work, Worsley proves adept at synthesizing current scholarship while always being careful to name her sources ... Worsley deals unflinchingly with the changing quality in Christie’s work as she approached old age.
There have been at least a dozen books devoted to Christie in the past two decades, and Lucy Worsley’s Agatha Christie: An Elusive Woman is a pleasant but inessential addition to the stack. Fans will admire Worsley’s identification of real-life people, places and phrases that Christie upcycled into her fiction. They will delight in seeing photographs of the author surfing in Hawaii, or learning that her favorite drink was a glass of neat cream ... But the book also contains a great deal of padding — perhaps because the terrain has been so thoroughly mapped before — and an unsubtle dose of moralizing. A line in the preface sets an ominous tone, warning that Christie’s work 'contains views on race and class that are unacceptable today'— a common refrain in recent biographies but totally unnecessary for readers whose knowledge of history extends more than five minutes ... In a biographer you want someone who finds her subject immensely but not indiscriminately fascinating, and Worsley doesn’t quite clear that bar. The second half of the book is padded with tedious information. Do we need quotations from a letter written by Christie’s second husband to his mother as a teenager, years before he met the subject of this biography? Or a dispatch from Christie about buying furniture on sale? ... Meanwhile, the author’s craft is only glancingly studied. We learn what Christie did but not how she did it. In Worsley’s telling, best sellers emerge as suddenly and effortlessly as sneezes. The book makes a bubbly supplement for a reader with prior interest in Agatha Christie, but it doesn’t explain how she became, by some accounts, the most widely read novelist who ever lived. Another unsolved mystery for the ages.
Worsley provides a welcome and objective addition to the Christie record; her conscientious examination of previous Christie studies, especially regarding the events of 1926, reveals much of the earlier reporting to have been inaccurate and unfair ... Worsley’s thoughtful and generous contribution to the Christie biographical canon will be welcomed and enjoyed by Agatha Christie fans.
... throughout, there is a feminist gloss. With a distinctly 21st-century outlook, Worsley smoothly condenses the events of Christie’s autobiography and earlier, more detailed biographies, into a simple narrative – making this not the definitive life, but perhaps the most accessible. Her style is breezy and knowing.
... [a] fond and occasionally foolish work of woke devotion. Even so, every fan should read it ... What makes this biography so fascinating is the way Worsley demonstrates how 'everything Agatha experienced became copy'. An irreverent historian, she sets in context the events of her subject’s life with great skill, then shows how Christie reflected them in her work ... if she remains elusive, it is not the fault of the effusive Worsley ... Christie lovers should read this biography for the same reason they read her novels: they 'address dark, uncomfortable feelings. They address the darkness that can lurk within even normal, respectable people. People like your own spouse.' Worsley not only makes you want to reread them all over again, she actually makes you love the talented yet tormented woman who wrote them.