Thursday, September 19, 2013

Come, Tell Me How You Live by Agatha Christie Mallowan



I am so glad I discovered Come, Tell Me How You Live (1946) by Agatha Christie. It gave me a look at quite a different side the famed mystery writer. It is billed as an archaeological memoir but it is not in the least bit as dusty as the places she writes about.

I thought it would be a somewhat dry retelling of days spent digging in the dirt and cleaning bits and bobs of found broken pottery.

Not so.

Instead, it is her delightful perspective of the people, customs and culture of Syria in the 1930s, the time she and husband Max Mallowan, archaeologist, were there. 

Her stories of the eccentricities of the servants, the tribal conflicts among the workers, the personalities of the house dogs and cats, her hopes for a good meal, the hospitality (and a bit of greed) of the sheikhs, the fussy rules and regulations of the French government officials, changing weather, flooded wadis, temperamental automobiles, fashion faux pas, language barrier mishaps, the handling of medical emergencies, and encounters with giggling veiled women and dirty children with runny noses, are all quite amusing.

It is more of a travel journal than a treatise on the exploration of archaeological sites. And it is quite funny which for some reason I didn't expect. Ms. Christie has quite a sharp eye for the amusing detail.

In the epilogue, written in the spring of 1944, she states that the book is a result of the rough notes and diaries that she kept during their seasons in Syria. It wasn't until after the war that she gathered her notes together as a way of looking again at experiences she "not only had but still has."

For it seems to me that it is good to remember that there were such days and such places, and that at this very minute my little hill of marigolds is in bloom, and old men with white beards trudging behind their donkeys may not even know there is a war. 

Inshallah, I shall go there again, and the things that I love shall not have perished from this earth...

4 comments:

  1. Sounds like a very fun and interesting read. I like well-written travel memoirs. Thanks for the post.

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    1. It really is quite fascinating, Lark. I little bit of insight into that part of the world that is always in the news!

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  2. I read this a long time ago and remember thinking that it cast an entirely new perspective on her crime books set in archaeologically interesting places -- it totally explained the sense of love of place in these books.

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    1. Vicki, I can't tell you how surprised I was at how chatty and amusing I found this book. I recently watched "Appointment with Death" which takes place at an archaeological site in Syria. It gives one an idea of how hot and dusty all that digging can be. Not my cup of tea.

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