Perhaps it comes as no surprise that this book is a wonderful window into an era past.  Like Agatha Christie’s autobiography, the book is comprised of her life in her own words. Her grandson Mathew Prichard has painstakingly gathered her letters and postcards from her trip to a countries in the Dominion.  She and her (first) husband were invited to accompany a Mr. Bates, Major Blecher and the Hiam family as part of a special envoy.  They were acting as part of what was called the Dominion Mission of the British Empire Exhibition.

The exhibition itself was held in 1924-25 at Wembeley, which at the time, was the largest exhibition ever held.  This merry party set out ahead of the exhibition to visit the various countries that would be presenting.  Their stops included South Africa, Australia, New Zealand, Honolulu and Canada.   And a young, adventurous Agatha relished every moment of it.

She took a number of photographs (many of which have been printed in this book) as well as sending home letters and notes about her travels.  She also kept a diary of her exploits abroad.  These writings were well before those that would make her famous, but her sharp sense of humor is well in evidence.

Belcher is becoming very irritable.  I don’t wonder really for his leg and foot are quite bad, bursting out in new places.  The doctor says he must lie up and rest it, and he says he can’t afford the time.  Bates had forgotten to get him more carbolic, and he’d had a tight boot on all day, the food in the hotel was atrocious, and the doctor has cut hum down to one whiskey and soda a meal, so matters nearly reached a climax last night!  Also, he is getting very fed up with Major Featherston, who attaches himself to Belcher like a faithful dog, and comes up at all house of the day and night.   ~Pg. 64

And later, Agatha assists in a funny and harmless prank.

She also takes up surfing, something that isn’t the first thing you might think of in association with the writer of Miss Marple and Hercule Poirot.

Agatha and Ashby take up surfing.

Interspersed in all of this fun and adventure, there are insights into her personal life.  She left her young son at home in the capable hands of her nanny and her mother.  There are also glimpses of a certain level of discontent with her husband Archie.

Bates, Belcher, Archie & Agatha at a hot springs pool in Banff, Canada, near the end of the tour.

In addition to being of interest to literary fans, it is also an important record of the Golden Age of Travel and the reach of the British Empire between the wars.  The idea that one could leave home for more than a year, and spend a month or two in one place is a level of luxury that is rarely available any more, but was somewhat common then.  I’m not sure I will ever cease being fascinated with such a lifestyle.

In short, this book is a wonderful glimpse into the past, at one of the most prolific writer’s private life, and into the wit of a seemingly lovely lady.

Many thanks to the folks at HarperCollins for the review copy, and for sending images for inclusion in this post.
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ISBN: 9780062191225
ISBN10: 0062191225
Imprint: Harper
On Sale: 11/20/2012
Format: Hardcover
Trimsize: 7 x 9 1/8
Pages: 384; $29.99
Ages: 18 and Up

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