She is said to be the most read author in the world, all genres combined. Therefore, many of you must be among the admirers of the one who created detectives Hercule Poirot and Miss Marple. Did you know that Agatha Christie fed a strong passion for houses?
At one point in her life, she was at the head of eight residences. She bought dilapidated houses in London, renovated them and sold them furnished. Sometimes she would rent them or live in them with her second husband.
On more than one occasion she built homes in her head if she saw an ideal site during her many voyages.
As a child, she enjoyed “building houses with bath towels draped over chairs and tables to make houses that you come out of on all fours,” she wrote in her autobiography.
Little Agatha loved her dollhouse. She bought so much furniture that she wanted a second house. Her mother offered her a cupboard as an expansion room. Agatha placed the first house under the cupboard, which gave the residence six storeys. Once a week, the people living in the house had to move. Agatha loved moving.
She lived in an apartment with her first husband. She experienced the scourges of the housing shortage and overly high rents. She spent hours pouring over the classified ads in the newspapers.
She experienced living in the suburbs, then purchased her first home. She had to shop. A burden you say? Not at all, Searching for a house was one of her favourite hobbies.
Agatha went through strong emotions with her houses. She lived the pain of returning to an apartment after her first husband abandoned her, and then had one of her homes requisitioned by US marines in the Second World War.
The bombardment of London was an intense period for her. She raced to find a place to shelter her furniture. And herself. One of her houses was hit by a bomb. Another one was loaned to refugees.
Purchased just before the war, Greenway House is still her most well-known residence. It is a Georgian style house—some say Tudor—dating from 1790, which she got for a pittance. Agatha renovated almost the entire house.
Of all the houses she lived in, her childhood home was her favourite. It no longer stands today. “Looking back, I feel that our house was really a happy home,” she wrote. It was in the Devon countryside, at Torquay near the sea.
It was never at Greenway House that the novelist dreamed in her old age, but at her childhood home. One day when the family wanted to sell the house to overcome financial problems, Agatha and her sister so categorically refused that their mother changed her mind.
Agatha had the last word: “I’ve lived in countless houses. I bought some, I traded, i furnished and decorated apartments, I made major changes in various homes. God bless houses!”
You have to read her autobiography to learn more about Agatha’s passion for real estate. And you will learn many things about the creation of her heroes and stories, the English countryside, the daily life of the British, the Victorian age, archeology, life under the bombs, the early days of a writer, her conjugal problems.
Agatha Christie, Autobiography, éditions Libre expression, 1981, 536 pages
Wikipedia English article on Agatha Christie
Photos: iStockphoto and Wikipedia Creative Commons Attribution Share-Alike by MilborneOne for Agatha Christie’s Greenway House