I’m laid up with a bad cold, and had to cancel my Monday classes, which has left me with plenty of time to read. . .another book, another post!
ELEPHANTS CAN REMEMBER is apparently the last Hercule Poirot novel Christie ever wrote. I’ve only read a handful of other Poirot books, but I found this one quite a bit less satisfying than the others. The story concerns mystery writer Ariadne Olivier recruiting her old friend Poirot to help her find out the truth behind an apparent double-suicide twenty years before (or twelve years before–there’s a couple timeline issues here).
Most of the book’s 212 pages are devoted to long, rambling conversations with people who might remember relevant facts. These conversations are written more like actual conversations than fictional ones, in that they’re crammed with filler words and indefinite nouns. I lost count of the number of times a character says something like “She was sent to a sort of mental institution, something like that.” It’s true that some people would talk like that, but it’s frustrating to read.
There are timeline problems: the time when the murder and/or suicide happened isn’t consistent, nor are the ages of the husband and wife involved. There’s also a scene where Ariadne Olivier reports something said in a conversation that. . .actually wasn’t included in that conversation. I had to flip back and check.
It’s also a little disappointing that I was able to figure this one out at about the same time Poirot did–high praise to Christie, because I’m used to much more elaborate and surprising resolutions from her.
On the positive side, the focus placed on memory and oral testimony, and how the passage of time scatters the details of memory and introduces contradictions. The Wikipedia article on ELEPHANTS CAN REMEMBER actually suggests that Christie (who died four years after this books publication) may have been suffering from Alzheimer’s, and that this may have been an exploration of problems she was beginning to suffer with her own memory.
Dame Christie may be making further appearances here. . .there’s a bookshop in the city center with an entire shelf of her books in English for about $3 each.