Sunday, 14 January 2018

Come, Tell Me How You Live by Agatha Christie

Come, Tell Me How You Live: An Archaeological Memoir by Agatha Christie
First published in the UK by William Collins and Sons in November 1946.

C for my 2018 Alphabet Soup Challenge

Where to buy this book:

How I got this book:
Swapped for at a campsite book exchange

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Think you know Agatha Christie? Think again!

To the world she was Agatha Christie, legendary author of bestselling whodunits. But in the 1930s she wore a different hat, travelling with her husband, renowned archaeologist Max Mallowan, as he investigated the buried ruins and ancient wonders of Syria and Iraq. When friends asked what this strange ‘other life’ was like, she decided to answer their questions by writing down her adventures in this eye-opening book.

Described by the author as a ‘meandering chronicle of life on an archaeological dig’, Come, Tell Me How You Live is Agatha Christie's very personal memoir of her time spent in this breathtaking corner of the globe, living among the working men in tents in the desert where recorded human history began. Acclaimed as ‘a pure pleasure to read’, it is an altogether remarkable and increasingly poignant narrative, a fascinating, vibrant and vivid portrait of everyday life in a world now long since vanished.

I have previously read Agatha Christie's crime mysteries but had no idea she had written this memoir until I saw it in a campsite book exchange. Although published in 1946, the archaeological expeditions described actually took place during the 1930s so there is a pronounced inter-war years feel to the book. Christie herself accompanied her husband ostensibly simply in the role of 'wife' but actually took a greater part in the job at hand - cataloguing finds and developing photographs in a tiny excuse for a dark room. As memoirs go, this is a light read and archaeology students will either be disappointed at the lack of detail or horrified at the standards of 1930s digs. I am fascinated to visit Roman ruins on our European travels. In contrast, Mallowan orders his men to dig straight through any Roman or earlier levels, dismissing such 'modernity' in his quest for far older civilisations.

Much of the humour is a little awkward to read now focussing as it does on not-very-successful attempts to make the British expedition's Syrian servants behave as their country house counterparts would back in England. There is, of course, no question of the British contingent attempting to integrate into Arabic, Kurdish or Armenian communities! I did enjoy Come Tell Me How You Live. It is certainly of its time, but does have a certain charm despite that. I just wish Christie had written a more detailed and descriptive book of the actual archaeology. Perhaps Mallowan did?

Search Lit Flits for more:
Books by Agatha Christie / Biography and memoir / Books from England


  1. I've recently been obsessed with Agatha Christie (hence all those review roundups featuring her books) and this sounds like a very interesting departure from her typical genre. I think I'd be interested in reading it just for sheer curiosity, even though you felt it was a little halting and shallow. There are some books you feel like you just have to read and this one is one of those! Lovely review, Stephanie!

    Laura @BlueEyeBooks

    1. It was partly your posts of Christie's books that persuaded me to pick up this one! To be fair, she does admit herself that it was really written as just a side project for friends. I'd be interested to know what you think of the memoir

  2. Hmm... I see what you mean about the humor being awkward now that we are a bit more aware of imperialism, colonisation and what it means for those being subjected to it. I have only read one Christie novel. I intend to read more of her crime fiction but I don't think I am all that intrigued in reading this one. Might give it a pass. Good review though!