30 August 2013

Review: THE MIRROR CRACK'D FROM SIDE TO SIDE, Agatha Christie

  • published in 1962
  • #8 in the Miss Marple series
  • this edition published by Fontana 1990
  • 224 pages
  • ISBN 0-00-616930-9

Synopsis (Agatha Christie site)

Out flew the web and floated wide;
The mirror crack’d from side to side:
“The curse is come upon me,” cried
The Lady of Shalott
Alfred Lord Tennyson

Marina Gregg, the famous film star, has brought some much needed glamour to St. Mary Mead.  But when a local fan is poisoned, the actress finds herself centre stage in a real-life mystery. Which other characters from the Mary Mead cast will perish before the credits roll? And will Miss Marple produce yet another stellar performance to steal the show?

In 1980 Hollywood adapted the novel into a film starring Angela Lansbury as Miss Marple alongside Elizabeth Taylor as the beautiful Marina Gregg. They shortened the title to The Mirror Crack’d. It was later adapted by the BBC starring Joan Hickson in 1992, under the full title and again in 2009 with Julia McKenzie as Miss Marple.

In the March of the year this book came out, 1962, UNESCO issued a report stating that Agatha Christie was the most widely read British author, with Shakespeare coming a poor second! This was also the year The Mousetrap celebrated its tenth anniversary.

My Take

THE MIRROR CRACK'D is an interesting novel from a number of points of view. It is of course probably one of Agatha Christie's better known stories, not the least because it has been filmed at least twice.

First of all, a couple of decades have passed since THE BODY IN THE LIBRARY which occurred in palatial home, Gossington Hall, of Colonel and Dolly Bantry, friends of a much younger Jane Marple. Miss Marple is now quite elderly, a bit down in the dumps, and a bit house bound.
Colonel Bantry has been long dead, Dolly has been tripping around the world visiting her grown up children and grandchildren, and her former home has been sold several times. Now it has become the home of stage and TV star Marina Gregg.

St. Mary Mead has changed too. The original village has expanded, and pressure for cheaper housing for the post war generation has led to new housing estates like the Development. The first few pages of the novel show Agatha Christie as a keen observer of social and economic trends as she describes how life has changed in the village. At the beginning of the novel Miss Marple escapes her minder (she now has to have a live-in carer) and takes herself for a walk at the Development. She trips and falls on the footpath and is kindly taken in for a cup of tea by Heather Badcock.

And then Marina Gregg throws a meeting at Gossington Hall for locals who will be involved in the arrangements for the fete in aid of the St. John Ambulance in the grounds. Dolly Bantry is not part of the committee but has been asked to afternoon tea before the meeting, which gives her a good chance to see what changes have been made since she was the owner. Miss Marple is not one of the guests and so Dolly is our eyes and ears. The attendees are rather like a who's who of St Mary Mead.

In the following chapter the fete gives all the locals including those who live in " the Development" the chance to view the opulence at Gossington Hall  and so it is well attended. Marina Gregg comes face to face with Heather Badcock, whom she doesn't remember at all, until Heather supplies some details that bring the past flooding back to Marina. Once again, in Miss Marple's absence, we see things from Dolly Bantry's POV. Heather Badcock is taken ill and dies.

Enter Miss Marple. Dolly goes to visit her friend the very next day but Miss Marple already has the news from her daily help Cherry.

This is really a beautifully plotted novel, with threads and characters that not only link it to other Miss Marple stories, but extend right through the novel. Miss Marple does her sleuthing through the eyes of others and sits at home doing what her doctor calls "unravelling." In fact there are a further four novels in the series to come so Miss Marple is far from finished, despite her lack of mobility in this novel.

My rating: 4.7

I've now read 54 novels and 12 collections of short stories for the Agatha Christie Reading Challenge.
My calculation is that there are 87 titles, 67 of them are novels.

Interesting internet links
Films & TV

7 comments:

vicki (skiourophile) said...

I remember thinking this one remarkably clever and also quite sad. I've enjoyed revisiting it here!

Margot Kinberg said...

Kerrie - An excellent choice! I've always loved the way Christie blended social commentary with of course, the very well-plotted story in this one.

Adrienne Reiter said...

I haven't read this one. Thanks for the review. I will now revisit Miss Marple mysteries. You reminded me how comforting these are.

Irene said...

I really loved this one, it was a very sad situation, and I believe justifiable homicide.

Yvette said...

I read somewhere that this idea was sparked (for Christie) by an incident in film actress Gene Tierney's past. Intriguing and sad, if true.

At any rate, I enjoyed reading your review Kerrie even if this is not one of my favorite Christie books - the terrible movies only cemented by discontent.

But I've still read the book several times. Go figure. :)

Ryan said...

First time I read this I was in the 5th grade, and I loved it. I haven't read it in years, but can't wait to get to it during my reading challenge.

The Rush Blog said...

There have been three screen versions of this novel - the 1980 version with Angela Landsbury, the 1992 version with Joan Hickson, and the 2010 version with Julia McKenzie.

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