February 3, 2013

(Book Review) The Grand Tour: Around the World with the Queen of Mystery

In 1922, Agatha Christie, then the author of two mysteries, and her husband, Archibald, set out on the tour of a lifetime. She kept up a weekly correspondence with her "darling Mummy" as they explored the African continent, then continued to Australia, New Zealand, Honolulu and Canada. These letters, collected in The Grand Tour, are full of details about the places they stayed, the excursions they took and the people they met.

The Christies surfed in South Africa and Honolulu, visited the Australian outback and soaked in Banff's sulfur springs. Archie became violently ill in Toronto, and they had to put up with the irascible leader of the mission, Major Belcher, whom Agatha nicknamed "the Wild Man" because he was so prone to rage when his consequence wasn't properly acknowledged. (Those who have read The Man in the Brown Suit may recognize many characteristics of Sir Eustace Pedler in Major Belcher.)

What makes The Grand Tour particularly engrossing are the hundreds of photos taken by Christie herself--of everything from the African seashore to New Zealand's mountains to the Tasmanian jungle. The pictures are extraordinary, depicting British colonial life in fascinating detail. There are also images of Agatha's actual letters to her mother and newspaper clippings that refer to Agatha and Archie's public appearances along the tour.

Mystery fans and travel addicts alike will love The Grand Tour. Agatha's vivid voice brings the tour to life, making readers feel like they're traveling alongside this witty, erudite woman.

I seriously loved this book. I read it slowly, savoring the pictures and news-clippings. And I hope to reread some Agatha Christie books this year as a result. 

The part that was funny to me was that Agatha really talked in that over-the-top way that I always thought people only did in novels. ("Darling Mummy, you won't believe the absolutely dreadful woman I was seated next to at the...")

I could just picture old movie scenes with women with dangling earrings and long cigarette holders and men with slick hair and dinner jackets when I read some of her descriptions. It makes her books seem so much more realistic; to think about Christie living that life.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5
Should I recommend this to my grandma? Absolutely! Especially if she reads Christie.
I originally wrote this review for Shelf Awareness. The image is an Amazon affiliate link.

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