When I was shopping for Christmas books, I picked up what looked like an interesting book on the sale table. I just finished reading The Grand Tour by Agatha Christie. In February 1922 Christie, her husband, Archie, and others left on what we would call a trade mission. They went to South Africa, Australia, New Zealand, and Canada with a vacation stop in Hawaii. They got back to England on December 1st. Christie wrote letters home as a kind of diary. Her grandson, Mathew Prichard, put them together with photographs (largely taken by Christie) interspersed with excerpts from her autobiography.
The Grand Tour provides the reader with a glimpse of the British empire in the days when change was just starting in the colonies. People are judged by how “British” they are; natives are treated as exotic. There are tensions between the members of the mission. There are injuries and illnesses. I found her descriptions of the landscapes the most interesting. For example her description of Wellington harbor:
Great mountains all around coming down to the water’s edge – the far off ones with snow on them. Blue sky and deep blue water and Wellington itself nestling on the side of the mountain.
But the best part was learning about Agatha Christie as a young woman. I don’t know about you, but I think of her as either Miss Marple or the older woman in many of her pictures, a little stout and stern.
But on the trip she thinks nothing of going off on an 11 mile hike, she golfs, and, most surprising, she learns to surf. My image of her will never be the same.
If you have ever read any Christie mysteries and you like travel stories, you would enjoy reading The Grand Tour.
Photograph from Prezi.com