Wednesday, August 01, 2012

Agatha Christie at Greenway

For as long as I can remember, my mother has been an avid reader of mystery novels. At my childhood home, the bookshelves were filled with books by P.D. James, Rex Stout, and, of course, Agatha Christie. In fact, it's the Christie novels that I remember most vividly. The dust jackets of The Mirror Crack'd, Three Blind Mice, and Murder on the Orient Express are all etched in my memory.

Although I'm not a mystery reader, I've been on an Agatha Christie tear lately. My father recently bought the DVD set of the Hercule Poirot series, and I've had such fun watching the episodes which, I'm embarrassed to say, I had never seen before. Not only are the episodes entertaining, but they only run around 45 minutes each- and that's about as long as I can devote to a DVD these days anyway.

Watching the series prompted me to borrow my mother's copy of
Agatha Christie at Home by Hilary Macaskill. The book is an intriguing look at Agatha Christie's passion for houses, specifically her holiday home in Devon called Greenway. Purchased by Christie in 1938, Greenway was where the mystery writer and her family spent many a holiday. By all accounts, Christie was attuned to the finer points of running a house, from painting fireplaces (see below) to hosting house parties and even making homemade mayonnaise. And while I don't think one could call Greenway's interiors grand, there is an unassuming charm about the house, something that makes me admire Christie that much more.

Greenway is now owned by the
National Trust and open for tours. The National Trust has also produced a short video about Greenway which features audio of Christie reminiscing about the purchase of her house. And if you're looking for something entertaining to watch, you should consider those Poirot DVDs. They're a welcome relief from network television.

A view of Greenway

The Morning Room at Greenway

Christie painting her bedroom's fireplace.

Christie's bedroom at Greenway.

The Drawing Room held Christie's Steinway piano. The mystery writer had trained as a concert pianist.

Greenway's kitchen with a blue Aga.

The dining room.

During World War II, Greenway was requisitioned by the Admiralty; during that time, Lieutenant Marshall Lee of the U.S. Navy painted the library's frieze, seen here.

The drawing room at Greenway.

Shelves filled with first editions of Christie's novels.

All photos from Agatha Christie at Home by Hilary Macaskill


  1. A quintessentially English house, and a perfect place for Agatha Christie. I am not a big fan of those murals, but I can just imagine the body turning up in that drawing room or dining room--behind locked doors, of course.

  2. I agree with Parnassus, the murals should have been painted over after the war! But the rest of the house is charming, I can just smell the beeswax furniture polish and the slightly musty smell of the furniture. Wondeful. I love the Poirot series for the Art Deco period design and sets.

  3. I'm intrigued with the elements that she included. The fantastic antique Syrian chest in her bedroom with the large mirror resting on the floor--these would be current today. The tufted leather rocking chair--I think that piece would be at home anywhere, Joel Chen's shop? That gorgeous Chippendale chair with the exaggerated ears is amazing. She really was quite a lady!! Thanks. Mary

  4. Thank goodness the murals HAVE been preserved------ why would anyone with a love of history and respect for those involved in WWII want to destroy this?

  5. Well, I guess not all artists in the war had the talents of a Rex Whistler, but still, keeping the murals in place was right, since, even if they are out of character with the overall genteel tone of the place, Christie herself kept them.

    As for Golden Age mystery novels--especially early editions with rough paper & faded, chipped dust jackets--I think they're the perfect books for hot weather when your brain's too sluggish to follow anything heavier. Or maybe it's just that those were the only kind of books there were up at my grandparents' summer cabin in Nestor Falls, Ontario, where time seemed to have stopped right about the time I was born: every summer, clear up to high school, my family & I spent a week in 1950.

    In 1966 a week of beastly hot weather put an end to all fishing as far as I was concerned, and while the rest of my heat-crazed family went out to invite sunstroke in an open boat, I spent the endless Canadian days in our dark creosote-smelling cabin reading a shelf full of forty-year old Mary Roberts Rinehart books. That fall, I did my first book repoert of the year on Roberts' "The Swimming Pool", for which I got a D because the book wasn't on the teacher's approved list--it wasn't Literature.

  6. So many pretty things! It might seem a bit 'granny' to a modern eye but I love the whole thing, a pretty house full of pretty things