Agatha Christie’s Pale Horse

Reading Christie’s The Pale Horse and struck again by a couple things in Christie.

  • We think of Christie as chronicling the 30s, and that’s what most of the horrible TV remakes have focussed on. But for Christie it wasn’t nostalgia, it was a real desire to engage and dissect a contemporary world. The Pale Horse continues that tradition, a 1961 novel that goes out of its way to show beat coffee houses, young girls dressed in black wool at the height of summer, and Cockney boys adopting Italian airs. True, it’s all shown through the slightly derisive eyes of older characters, but underneath it all is a real curiousity to what the heck makes this new generation tick.
  • The novel is very META. Characters talk about what makes murderers of people, why Shakespearean plots are ruined by overacting, and even what makes a pleasing solution in a mystery. They also spend extensive time going over their own life’s story arc — dissecting reasons why it isn’t more like a novel or film.
  • In other words, we don’t think of Christie this way, but there’s more than a little Nick Hornby and Whit Stillman in her — it’s kind of a shame she never gets seen that way…
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