The Life and Times of Miss Jane Marple
by ANNE HART
"There is no detective in England equal to a spinster lady
of uncertain age with plenty of time on her hands."
Rev. Leonard Clement, Murder at the Vicarage
I think it was Miranda Mills from Yorkshire, UK, who recommended this charming book a few weeks ago on her lovely vlog. My interest was piqued and I ordered a copy. Such a familiar, cozy read it's been over these past few wintery days. As one reviewer puts it, 'a great treat for Agatha Christie addicts'. And yes, it has been a treat.
Author Anne Hart shares how she enjoyed working on this short biography of the beloved fictional female sleuth, Miss Jane Marple. (She's also written a biography for Hercule Poirot). The Marple book was first published in 1985—with the 'kind' approval of Agatha Christie's daughter, Rosalind Hicks. The revised edition, with the charming book cover you see above, was released in 2019.
In this slender volume, Anne Hart describes Miss Marple, where she came to live, who were her friends, hints of her family and upbringing, and how her crime detection path began. Ms. Hart gathers all the clues and descriptions found in the twelve Miss Marple books and twenty short stories. And in weaving together these bits and pieces, she gives the reader a fuller picture of the bright, elderly woman behind the fluffy yarn and knitting needles. A bibliography at the end of the book includes not only a list of all the Marple novels and short stories but the various Marple stage, film, TV, and radio productions (and who played in them), as well as the audiobooks and who read them. This biography is a lovely companion to tuck alongside all your favourite Christie novels.
If you are a fan, you've probably heard the tale of how years before actress Joan Hickson ever played the role of Miss Marple, she played other roles in several Agatha Christie productions. When Agatha saw Joan Hickson in one of these productions, she told Joan, 'I hope one day you will play my dear Miss Marple'. Of all the actresses who have played Miss Marple, Joan Hickson is my absolute favourite. In my view, she seems to have best captured the old world feeling I get when I read the books. All three women—Agatha, Joan, and Jane Marple—seem to have similar backgrounds, being brought up in the late Victorian to early Edwardian eras.
For interest's sake, Agatha Christie was born in 1890 and died in 1976; Joan Hickson was born in 1906 and died in 1998; and from the novels and stories, as Miss Marple reminisces about her childhood and youth, we get the idea that Jane Marple was created to have a similar upbringing, very late Victorian to early Edwardian. Joan Hickson would certainly have understood the times the old spinster was thought to have known and experienced. Maybe that's why Joan felt so authentic.
I hope you've enjoyed this little book chat, and I do hope your weekend is unwinding in pleasant ways.