The Christie Affair by Nina de Gramont is a compelling fictional take on Agatha Christie’s disappearance.
I’ve seen The Christie Affair receive lots of positive buzz for months now. This was even before Reese selected it for her February book club pick. But I had read another fictional take on Agatha Christie’s real-life 11-day disappearance last year—The Mystery of Mrs. Christie by Marie Benedict.
I really liked that story overall but I have to say, Agatha’s first husband Archie, was pretty awful and I was not in the mood to read about him again. But I kept seeing people talk about The Christie Affair and I also like to read most of Reese’s Book Club picks as well so I thought I should finally give it a try. And what a story!!
First of all, yes, Archie is in it but he not a huge focus overall, thankfully. Nina de Gramont did a fascinating approach to this subject matter. For one, it’s pretty much straight fiction, other than the fact Agatha Christie did disappear. Since we never got the real story about what happened, this is where fictional writers come in.
Nina de Gramont takes the truth and spins it into this engaging suspenseful story about one woman’s quest to regain what she lost. And I’m not talking about Agatha Christie because she is not the protagonist in this story about her disappearance.
What’s the Story About
This is a story about a real-life mistress who helped to break up a marriage. Usually this is not a storyline most people go after, unless it’s a psychological thriller. Nan O’Dea is based on the real-life Nancy Neele, the woman whom Archie had an affair with and eventually married. But that’s where the similarities end as the author created a whole different backstory for Nan’s motivations.
Yes, she’s having an affair with Archie. And nothing will stop her from winning him over. Not even Agatha’s disappearance.
But Nan isn’t exactly who she appears and the story goes back and forth between 1925 and decades before when Nan was in Ireland and young in love. The Great War and a pandemic separate them, and then unimaginable cruelty alters their love story for good.
There’s murder. Questionable acts in the name of love. And much more.
I have to say, going into the story, I expected to dislike Nan quite a bit. I mean, I already dislike Archie. But the author really gives her an interesting backstory and a reason for all her actions. You might not agree with the drastic measures she takes but there is context there.
While the story is very much focused on Agatha’s disappearance, and we find out just where she is all this time, it also spends plenty of time on Nan’s tragic past. Most specifically on Magdalene Laundries in Ireland. This is where for more than two decades, women in Ireland were sent to these nightmare institutions as punishment for having sex outside of marriage. Under the supervision of nuns, they were forced to do hard labor and sometimes for life, according to this article on History.com. I did not know anything about this prior to reading the novel—absolutely horrifying.
de Gramont said in this interview with The Orange County Register, when composing her story, she wanted to write a novel about these institutions and eventually decided to combined it with one about Christie’s disappearance.
The focus on the institution was very unexpected and it added so much depth and layer to Nan’s story. I can’t empathize enough how much the tone changes when Nan is forced to go there. Everything changes in the novel both in the past and present. While Agatha is always present, this is very much Nan’s story.
It’s so fascinating that it was never revealed what actually happened during those 11 days when Agatha Christie went missing. She simply said that she didn’t remember. Some thought it was a nervous breakdown when Archie revealed his affair. Others thought it was a publicity stunt. Either way, the famous mystery writer’s greatest mystery is her own disappearance.
Imagine if that would happen today. Well, actually, someone would probably post a TikTok or Insta story of where Christie was—probably before even alerting the police. So we probably would know exactly she was.
Anyway, in The Christie Affair, we know what happened to Agatha and why she went missing. But it still takes unexpected turns. There are some stories you can tell how it’s being mapped out but in this case, there truly are some interesting twists.
The Christie Affair is an intriguing story about secrets, lost love, betrayal and more. There’s something for everyone in this story and is especially suited for historical and mystery fans. I highly recommend it! For book clubs, check out my discussion questions here.