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More Connie Willis nerd-ery

This is spoiler-free, unless you really don't want to know anything about Blackout/All Clear.

A few days ago I read a rather scathing review of Blackout/All Clear, and once I got over fuming (every reader is entitled to his/her own opinion, yadda yadda, but how do you call these books ill-plotted???) and one of the things mentioned as a negative is how many characters are "inexplicably crazy about Agatha Christie mysteries."

I don't find it inexplicable at all (Christie was incredibly popular at that time, and who doesn't want a little light reading during the Blitz to take their mind off endless nights in the shelter?) but in rereading it for the fourth time, I realized something ... I'm pretty sure Willis chose to draw attention to Christie's mysteries for a specific reason.

"Book, dear?" the ginger-haired librarian asked her. "this one's very good." She handed Polly Agatha Christie's Murder in Three Acts. "You'll never guess who did it. I never do with her novels. I always think I have the mystery solved, and then, too late, I realize I've been looking at it the wrong way round, and something else entirely is happening."

And this is what I love so much about Connie Willis: both the reader and the characters think they know where this story is going ... only to find everything turned on its head in the end, when you realize you were looking at everything all wrong. And yet, the clues there all along, all laid out for you to see ... only you were so sure that the butler did it that you never noticed the daughter of the house slip poison in the wine.



( 5 comments — Leave a comment )
May. 9th, 2013 01:23 am (UTC)
I love Willis, normally, but I had trouble with Blackout, which I think I've mentioned. I am going to have to get a non-audio copy and see if I can't enjoy it that way.
May. 15th, 2013 12:48 pm (UTC)
I can see how it would be REALLY hard to follow in audio. On the first read (and honestly, even on the second, third, and fourth) I kept having to flip back and forth to compare dates/names to work things out.
May. 9th, 2013 04:29 am (UTC)
I'm not a murder mystery fan at all, but I felt the cultural context and popularity of Christie as presented in Blackout/All Clear was clear and appropriate. I liked that it expressed well why so many enjoyed her work. And yes, the bit you shared demonstrates Willis' craft of weaving it into the relevance of the characters' own situation.

I do have to say that I found Willis' tactic of thinly veiling some characters a bit distracting and even a little annoying. It felt obvious and a little controlling on the part of the author, rather than artfully done. I felt like I had an idea of the artistry and timing of revelation she intended, but it didn't quite come off well for me. I'm glad you were able to appreciate it for what I'm sure she intended.

I did really enjoy the books overall. Thanks for recommending them.
May. 9th, 2013 02:53 pm (UTC)
This makes me want to read these books even more and also read more Agatha Christie. I first read Agatha Christie in seventh grade when I read And Then There Were None, which is exactly how you described. It was spectacular, especially for that age. The next year, all my friends had to read the book for class. (I was incredibly ill-fated. All of my friends were in the same reading group and I was in another). My best friend read the book and thought it was absolutely terrible and she hated it. I was dismayed! Then we talked about it.

Heather hated it because of how it ended. She didn't even find out who did it. I was shocked. The ending is the best part! And you do find out who did it! And then we realized.. her teacher RIPPED OUT the epilogue so that students wouldn't read ahead and spoil it because she had prediction activities planned. HAHA.

Eventually my friend got her hands on the ending and properly loved it as she should have.

But that was some really funny, amusing and confusing conversations we had up until that point.
May. 15th, 2013 12:50 pm (UTC)
Re: Books.
I don't think I ever figured out a Christie ending, even though I read them all and they do get a wee bit formulaic after, oh, the 50th one. ;)

And WHOA, that is an extreme measure to keep them from skipping to the end. No wonder you (and she) were so confused!

Edited at 2013-05-15 04:51 pm (UTC)
( 5 comments — Leave a comment )