Thursday, July 15, 2010

Vintage Novels {Death on the Nile}

So, have we all seen the gorgeous adaptation by now? The one with David Suchet that is, not the 1978 movie with Peter Ustinov's ridiculous French accent. Beautiful photography and wonderful late-Thirties costumes, wouldn't you agree?
How about the original 1937 book? Well, it took me ages to actually get through it. At one point I got to the middle and Linnet was still alive and I had to put it aside and read several other books before I went back and finished the blasted thing in one go. I've mentioned before that even though I've read a lot of her books, I really can't stand reading Agatha Christie. This book best illustrates why I don't like her. Death on the Nile is really two different books in one. First, there is the melodramatic love triangles between Linnet, Jacqueline and Simon and Cornelia, the Doctor and Ferguson and Cornelia's aunt, who does actually approve of Cornelia's marriage at the end of the book.
The second book is of the murder itself and the subsequent investigation by Poirot and Col. Race. The crime was added in almost as an afterthought, as if Mrs. Christie suddenly remembered that was why people read her books. The crime is ingenious and so very clever. Especially the bit about the nail polish and the sound of a cork popping. What would have happened if no one had heard the popping? And the nail polish is just brilliant. The major reason why I don't like reading Agatha Christie is because she clearly hates Poirot (as anyone who has read Curtain would know). As her popularity rose and she had to write the Poirot series, she increasingly made Poirot unlikeable and more and more like a vain, old, foolish egomaniac. Poirot keeps drifting in an out of the narrative until the murder is commited and when he does appear, Mrs. Christie tells us of what the other characters think of him, which isn't favourable. But it does make you really appreciate what David Suchet has been doing for the past twenty years and I hear that he is determined to finish off the canon. If he does, then he would be the first actor to have filmed every story of a literary detective. Although Jeremy Brett did get close, but that's a post for another day.
The other reason why I don't like reading Agatha Christie is that she's not a very good writer. Her crimes are ingenious and The Murder of Roger Ackroyd is fantastic for it's uniqueness. But her writing style is much more suited for the melodramatic romances she kept clogging up her books with. But she's not much of a detective writer because she lets the reader's suspense go and when she realizes that she's wandered off then she adds another dead body. For great mystery writing, I much prefer Dorothy Sayers.
The adaptation did change a few minor points, but it is largely faithful to the novel, except for the relationship between Tim and his mother. ITV changed it into something weird to get better ratings or for controversy, but in the novel he asks Rosalie to marry him, which is the much better outcome.
But if you only two Agatha Christie books in your life, or you want to see how to adapt a novel into a television show, then read this one and The Murder of Roger Ackroyd.

1 comment:

Andi B. Goode said...

I actually haven't read this book, yet...I find once I know the solution they're not so much fun to read. =\ But I love the adaptation. I actually think she's a very good writer. I find that I'm interested and involved for the entire time I read her books and I find that the romance, unlike other books I've read, doesn't seem to intrude on the rest of the story for me. *shrug* Someone called her work trashy and I completely disagree because, despite whatever anyone may think about the mystery itself, etc., I think she does a very good job of writing people.
-Andi x