Themis-Athena's Garden of Books
1 year ago
I'm glad you enjoyed this one so much! :)
Miss Marple's attitude to society (polite and otherwise) certainly makes her unique. I'm not sure whether I'd go so far as to call her an outsider -- her best friend is the squire's wife, after all, she's a regular participant at the vicar's (or his wife's) weekly afternoon tea circle, and she's also really close with her village's other leading figures (the doctor and the solicitor). But you're right in that at least mentally she always keeps enough of a distance to be an impartial observer; and if it weren't for her brains (which I think all of them admire and fear in equal measure), she might easily be accorded the role of the "poor relation", as there are things -- such as the stay at the fashionable hotel in this novel, as well as other vacations in other novels -- that she can't afford by herself but which others have to pay for her (most often, her nephew Raymond West, a successful novelist). This, too, is something sh rather successfully exploits when around strangers, incidentally -- lines like "of course *I* couldn't afford it on my own, but my nephew is so *very* kind" are part of her unfailing stock in trade -- because who'll pay attention to a nosy old lady who, but for her nephew's generosity, might never find herself in this particular place to begin with, right?
Btw, are you planning to read the Miss Marple books in order?
1 year ago
I agree that she's neither an outcast nor a recluse but she doesn't really JOIN things. People who join want to fit in, to become part of something bigger and are willing to change their behaviour to do that. Jane Marple observes and even takes part but she is always herself. Her friendships are based on her evaluation of the people as individuals, regardless of their position. I see the 'poor little old lady, dependent on the generosity of others' ploy that she uses but I'm sure that, as well as using it to manipulate people, she uses it to mask the fact that she doesn't lust after the things that she doesn't have - although she sees that lust clearly in others.
Yes, I'm planning on taking them in order. They cover such a long time period - 12 books over 46 years. I think it will be fun compressing that development, like watching time-lapse photography. I am wondering just how old Jane Marple is in the final book.
Themis-Athena's Garden of Books
1 year ago
She doesn't age in real time, that much is for sure ... (neither does Poirot) -- Christie repeatedly commented on the "inconvenience" of having created a middle-aged or even elderly protagonist when you still have your entire career as an author ahead of you. But even Miss Marple *is* noticeably older and frailer in the final books.
If you're planning to read the books in order, you may want to go back to "The Thirteen Problems", a 1932 collection of short stories that is actually #2 in the Miss Marple series. (In all there are 14 books, though #14 -- "Miss Marple's Final Cases" -- is a posthumous collection bringing together a number of stories originally published in other collections.) I recommend going back to "The Thirteen Problems" before you're going forward not least because there you will meet -- and see Miss Marple interact with -- all of the people that she herself considers "her circle": The Bantrys, her nephew Raymond and his fiancée Joyce (later, as his wife, she'll be called Joan), as well as the local solicitor and the village doctor. The format is not that of a collection of (internally unconnected) stories; rather, the framework is the "Tuesday Club": regular meetings of the aforementioned people where one of them tells a story involving a mysterious event (generally, but not always a murder or mysterious death) and the others are called upon to puzzle out what really happened. ("The Tuesday Club" is actually the collection's alternative title.)
Even outside of "The Thirteen Problems", it's definitely a good idea to read the Miss Marple books in sequence, though. There's a certain continuity to the books -- it's not very pronounced (apart from "A Caribbean Mystery" and "Nemesis", which really *should* be read in that order to make sense), but it's there, and if (like me) you haven't read the books in publication order, there are a lot of little things you'll only pick up on upon a reread. -- It's also important to bear in mind, however, that like the final Poirot novel ("Curtain"), Miss Marple's final outing ("Sleeping Murder") was not actually *written* last. She wrote both of these books during WWII, when she was contemplating finishing both series (she was sick and tired of Poirot in particular by then) and ultimately decided to reserve them for posthumous publication.
And yes, it's absolutely true that Miss Marple is perfectly content with her own life (including its limitations). In fact, she considers greed a very dangerous thing -- poisonous to human relations as well as a frequent motive for murder. In the Joan Hickson screen adaptation of one particular novel, it's brilliantly used almost as a throwaway line: "And the motive?" "Oh, it was greed -- one knows that of course ...")
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