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Agatha Christie's First Marriage: Background information when reading The Mystery of Mrs. Christie

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The Mystery of Mrs. Christie

by Marie Benedict

The Mystery of Mrs. Christie by Marie Benedict X
The Mystery of Mrs. Christie by Marie Benedict
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    Dec 2020, 288 pages

    Oct 2021, 336 pages


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Agatha Christie's First Marriage

This article relates to The Mystery of Mrs. Christie

Print Review

Article about Agatha's reunion with Archie after her disappearance In The Mystery of Mrs. Christie, Marie Benedict explores mystery writer Agatha Christie's marriage to Archibald Christie through the lens of Agatha's mysterious temporary disappearance in 1926. Many different theories have been proposed as to the exact details regarding how and why the famous author went missing, but no one account of what happened has ever been confirmed. In her novel, Benedict includes her own fictionalized idea of what may have occurred.

What we do know of Agatha and Archie's life together is that they met at a dance in 1912, when they were both in their early 20s. A romance developed quickly between them, but the First World War separated them temporarily in 1914 — Archie went to fight in France and Agatha worked as a volunteer nurse in her hometown of Torquay in England. The couple was married on Christmas Eve in 1914 while Archie was on leave. It was during this general time period that Agatha began to write crime stories; she wrote her first novel, The Mysterious Affair at Styles, in 1916.

Archie was able to return to his wife in 1918 after obtaining a position in London. In 1919, the couple had a child, Rosalind. In 1922, the year that Agatha's second novel was published, she accompanied her husband during his work promoting the British Empire Exhibition, traveling through South Africa, Australia, New Zealand and Hawaii. On this trip, the couple learned to surf and may have been some of the first people from Britain to surf standing up. Four years later, Agatha mysteriously disappeared for reasons that it seems likely were connected to Archie's affair with another woman, Nancy Neele. Agatha was found 11 days later at a hotel in the resort town of Harrogate, and appeared to be suffering from memory loss. Agatha and Archie separated, and their divorce was finalized in 1928.

The couple's marriage had been a troubled one. Despite Agatha's early success in writing, she tended to be frugal with her money, and some have speculated that Archie reacted badly to her insistence on keeping firm control of her finances and that this was a factor in him beginning an affair with Neele, his secretary. Agatha had found out her husband was seeing Neele earlier in the year. This discovery came about when she was already distressed due to the recent death of her mother. Archie had requested a divorce and the couple had an argument on December 3, 1926, after which Agatha exited her home, leaving Rosalind in the care of the maid, and went missing.

In the year 2000, Judith Gardner, daughter of Agatha's friend and sister-in-law Nan Watts, claimed that the writer had vanished deliberately as an act of revenge against her husband for being unfaithful. Gardner said that she knew this because Agatha had turned to Watts for help in dealing with her failing marriage. Gardner was sympathetic to Agatha in her account, stating that Agatha had been "distraught" at the time and denying that she would have staged the event of her disappearance for publicity, which some people believed she had.

Later in life, Agatha married Max Mallowan, an archaeologist who she met while traveling in Iraq. They are thought to have lived happily together until her death in 1976. Agatha kept her first husband's name throughout her marriage to Mallowan; by the time she married him "Christie" had already been established as her author name. At the time of Agatha's death, her wedding ring from her first marriage as well as some letters from Archie were found to still be in her possession.

by Elisabeth Cook

An article about Agatha Christie's reunion with her husband at Harrogate following her disappearance.
Source: Daily Herald (London), December 15, 1926

Filed under People, Eras & Events

This "beyond the book article" relates to The Mystery of Mrs. Christie. It originally ran in January 2021 and has been updated for the October 2021 paperback edition. Go to magazine.

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