Thursday, 29 August 2013

Five Little Pigs by Agatha Christie

Published 1941 Book 1 chapter 5 & chapter 7







Mr Crale had been painting in a small enclosed garden, known as the battery garden, from the fact that it overlooked the sea, and had some miniature cannon placed in embattlements. It was situated at about four minutes’ walk from the house. Mr Crale had not come up to the house for lunch as he wanted to get certain effects of light on the stone – and the sun would have been wrong for this later. He had, therefore, remained alone in the battery garden, painting…

The Battery was an artificially cleared plateau with battlements set with cannon. It gave one the impression of overhanging the sea…

A girl, a girl in a canary-yellow shirt and dark-blue slacks, sitting on a grey wall in full sunlight …


observations: If you’re a big fan of Agatha Christie, and you’re ever lucky enough to go to Greenway, her Devon holiday home, and you go walking in the grounds – then you might have a moment when you come along a path and go ‘Woa! No way!’ because you realize you are standing in the exact spot where Amyas Crale died. The Battery Garden is instantly recognizable to fans of this book.

And as an extra joy, the village across the water from the house (roughly where Handcross Manor would be) is called Dittisham: Elsa Greer in the book, 14 years on, is Lady Dittisham.

And if the book is as much a part of your family life as it is in ours, you can call ‘I’ll see to her packing’ to each other, to be overheard and misunderstood by others. (Though we do that all the time, not only in the Battery Garden.)

Elsa in the book is having an affair with Amyas, and wants him to leave his wife and marry her. She says ‘if [his wife] loved him, she’d put his happiness first, and at any rate she wouldn’t want to keep him if he wanted to be free.’ This is a common trope in Christie books, a whiney claim that love might mean allowing a divorce – but it’s not an idea you come across much in real life. Did people really think that, or is it just for the convenience of her plots?

In an
earlier entry on the book, I enthused about the TV adaptation of Five Little Pigs – the only thing that could have improved it would have been shooting it in the right place, ie at Greenway. This is where the TV film shows the murder taking place - nice enough in its way: 






Christie said Greenway was the most beautiful place in the world, and it must be high up there. There is a lot to recognize, from the boathouse where Marlene dies in Dead Man’s Folly – soon to feature in a new TV production of the story apparently - to the foxglove leaves from the Marple short story, the Herb of Death.


The top photo was taken at the exact spot where Elsa Greer must have sat on the grey stone wall posing for Amyas. With thanks to TKR and BNS.

16 comments:

  1. Moira - What a great post on a terrific Christie! That 'photo really shows off that shirt and you've made me more than ever want to visit Greenway. Such a great story all around. I do love the way the characters are revealed in it.

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    1. I always say my top 5 Christies move around a bit, but this one is always in it, I love it. And yes, you absolutely have to visit Greenway. When it was first opened to the public I dragged my family off on a trip, and others were saying 'where is it? Is it nice?' and my answer was 'no idea, I just want to see AC's house.' But having been there many times now, I can say it really is one of the most beautiful places in the world.

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  2. "If you love him, you'll set him free." I've heard that before, more than once.

    One of her best.

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    1. Yes indeed. This one has real people with real emotions, not always the case with Christie, and they stick in the mind.

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  3. I am reading the Christie books in order, or at least all the Marple, Poirot, and Tommy and Tuppence in order, so I won't get to this one in a while. This makes me want to jump ahead.

    I have avoided all Christie adaptations except for The Murder on the Orient Express (with Albert Finney), but recently decided I would try to watch some of the Poirot adaptations with David Suchet.

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    1. It is one of her very best - I envy you reading it for the first time! I like the Poirot adaptations generally, but there have been some very different styles over the years, David Suchet is the only constant. The early versions couldn't be more different from the later ones.

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    2. Thanks for that info on the adaptations, Moira. If I first run into one I don't care for I will know to try again.

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    3. Yes I would say that's exactly right. I've never seen much comment on this, but it is very striking to me - there is a very different level of seriousness, thoughtfulness in the adaptations.

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    4. The David Suchet 5 Little Pigs is particularly good. But my fave is Ustinov in Death on the Nile. (Nice clothes too!)

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    5. It's a long time since I saw that one... Death on the Nile is one of my favourites of her books, I should watch it again.

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  4. The Poirot adaptations are better than ITV Marples which are preposterous tripe. Many not even in Miss M's cannon.Plots are screwed,endings changed,Lesbian characters where no lesbian characters existed.The Christie estate which cut up rusty about the accuracy of TV Poirot featuring Hastings and Lemon when they did not feature in the corresponding story clearly changed their tune about authenticity. No doubt Chorions filthy lucre was balm to the soul

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    1. I think there's not much doubt that the Christie estate doesn't mind what the film-makers do - it does seem a shame to change them so much, they are such good plots already.

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  5. I've just come across your post and read it with much interest. Good job! Some time ago I made the very scene you're writing about into a cinemagraph and I thought I'd share: http://zs2konkursy.wordpress.com/2013/09/27/agatha-christie-2013/ Keep up the great job!

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    1. That is fantastic, thank you for posting the link. It looks beautiful. I guess we share a great love for this film and book....

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    2. Definitely, this is one of Agatha Christie's finest stories and fortunately it was made into the best film in the whole Poirot series. The tense atmosphere and extraordinary characters with all their passion, sense of hopelesness, misjudgements, disappointed hopes, jelousy and loyalty wrongly understood - all mixed up and quite surprisingly leading to the feeling of redemption (Caroline Crale's) even if it's just her illusion... The emotional entanglement makes all the people involved lose. There is no actual "winner" in the story.
      I've got the film on DVD and have watched it many times. There is also "Behind the Scenes" program with Margaret Mitchel (the producer) talking about how they were making this episode. When you see her passion and devotion to this film, you suddenly understand why it is so good and true.

      I'm glad you like the cinemagraph. I've got 2 more from the film:
      http://zs2konkursy.files.wordpress.com/2013/09/5littlepigs-title.gif
      http://integra.files.wordpress.com/2013/09/5littlepigs-philip.gif

      Hope you like these too :)

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    3. I absolutely agree with you - that was such a good film and I said in an earlier entry that if it had been a cinema film (and not a Christie story) I think it would have won Oscars. It has real emotional depth, as well as being so beautiful to look at. And thanks, I really like your little clips. Thanks for sharing them.

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