My thoughts on ‘And Then There Were None’

And Then There Were None written by Agatha Christie is the first mystery novel I’d read this year or possibly for almost half a decade. An online pal recommended this book and I reserved it for collection in the local library. I’d usually spend a few weeks to complete reading a novel but for this one, I started it last weekend and finished it last night!

10 characters are lured to Soldier Island by a fella named U.N. Owen. Note that these 10 characters are strangers to each other; they’re from various backgrounds and they’re lured into the island with different reasons.

1. Justice Wargrave, a retired judge.*

2. Vera Claythorne, governess.
During the summer vacation, she received a letter from Owen via the agency that he’d hire her as a secretary for a temporary period.

3. Emily Brent, an old religious woman.
She received a letter from… I wouldn’t call the sender an old friend but someone who claimed that they’d rubbed shoulders with one another on last vacation. The message is along the lines of “Let’s catch up with one another“. The letter was then signed off with the initials, U.N.O.

4. General McCarthur.
Along the same lines of reminiscing old times.

5. Blore, ex-police inspector.
Hired by Owen to “protect” Mrs. Owen’s jewellery.

6. Phillip Lombard, ex-soldier in Africa.
His reason for coming to Soldier Island wasn’t clearly stated – I assumed it as a mission he was there for.

7. Mr. Rogers, butler of the mansion.
The Rogers were already in the island itself, preparing for the visit of the other guests. The couple was hired by Mr. Owen to host these guests.

8. Mrs. Rogers, wife of the butler.
She’s described by the other guests as someone who appears to be “scared by her own shadow”.

9. Dr. Armstrong, physician.
Called in professionally by Mr. Owen to treat his wife.

10. Anthony Marston, they just labelled him as “charming” and “young”.*

*I can’t remember the reason that they were called to go to the island

For some reason (I couldn’t remember, again), the island remains deserted, possibly due to a tragic accident that’d happened in the past, but somehow these characters seem to regard it as a desirable destination spot. When they reached the island, they’re then settled down in a modernly-furnished white mansion. In every room, the“Ten Little Soldier Boys” nursery rhyme was printed on a frame hung on their walls.

Now that the rhyme has been provided; this, being a mystery novel, the rest of the plot should be very much self-explanatory for those who haven’t read it.

Personal thoughts:
I remember watching a number of horror movies with plots like these – people get stranded in an island and nobody leaves and lives! I’ve never read something like that. How is it different from reading this and why should you, someone who has yet to read something like that, second-experience this (by reading it) when you know that such plots are typical (although nevertheless, it is still interesting to get to know how the murderer craft his art)?

“Many homicidal maniacs are very quiet, unassuming people”                                                                                                                                     ~Agatha Christie

Human imagination is a wonderful thing – it’s one of the very few things that I can actually see that every one of us possessing a different one, no one ever have it the same as another. Reading (storybooks, of course!) always makes you feel like a fly on the wall. A fly recreating your surroundings from scratch with the author’s words. I know I’m just reiterating what I think about reading as an interest, not on the book itself.

Sidetrack… They’ve got a movie for this novel as well, which I haven’t watch it yet. The last time I finished a book (The Wild Things written by Dave Eggar – not the original but inspired by its original children picture book) and then watched the film for it (Where The Wild Things Are) afterwards, I find both sort of experiences startlingly different. I don’t mean one is better than another. You tend to judge the characters differently. The work of the film depicts the director/producer team’s interpretation, of how they see the characters of the story. For instance, monsters were portrayed as doe-eyed, so much friendlier creatures than how I’d have imagined them when I read the book. I play a different sort of film in my head when I first read the tale.

I’ve had my fair share of (lousy) guesses, even extended to supernatural forces (!), whilst following closely to the author’s descriptions in the novel. This is written in the point of view of a worm in every head of the 10 characters. This means nobody knows about the true intentions of another except myself and the particular character that was being narrated in the novel. This then leaves out any doubt about the bias or influence of the character’s thoughts.

At first, it was rather convoluting to read. There were ten over people I have to familiarize myself with – their names, backgrounds, etc. I have to constantly return to prior pages and read twice/thrice more to get a clearer idea. Characters masking themselves with another identity, e.g. Blore introducing himself to the others as “Davis” at the beginning. A strange name pops up in let’s-say Chapter 5… Who is this again? *flips back to Chapter 1*. Very thankfully, Christie still made this story easy to read. I’ve always assumed mystery novels to have plenty of twist and turns – mysteries within a mystery. She was straightforward yet, still sustaining the elements of suspense. I can’t think of any instances right now to describe how she did that. She doesn’t use very elaborated word expressions to describe a scene of blood and gore, very simply written and that makes it easy to understand.

Christie calls this novel the most difficult book she’d written. I don’t know how typical this plot is like during the time when it was published in 1940. It may be a rather common plot now in the film industry but having to come up with the details of the plot is brain-wrecking on its own. Are you constantly haunted by the fear that any of your readers ever point out a detail you missed out in closing up the mystery? 

I had wanted to experiment with reading different categories of fiction, beyond the usual ones that I usually read like diaries of lonely people, relationships (family, friends) and travels. Sidetrack… Ever since I started internship, life revolves around an even deadlier sort of routine. I mean, I still enjoy being an intern here, wouldn’t have made a different decision to do something else this summer. I had learn much about social service from the people here than I’d have done doing my own online research. It has also made me question whether I’m bent on becoming a social worker or… being part of social service? Beside a couple of occasions when I self-indulged in those negative thoughts, I did alright this time as compared to the other times! 🙂

What time for films and television shows when you’re turning in as early as 10PM on every other day (except tonight while I’m writing this)? But you always have time to indulge in a good story – on train rides, during lunch breaks when you just wanna stay in or anywhere else, like in a family gathering where you don’t want to talk to anyone at all. I cast aside my thoughts about fatigue and how hopeless life can feel like… when a good story gets stuck in your head long after you put the book down.

NY Resolution:
☑ Read one mystery/horror/crime fiction – checked!


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