The Christie Affair
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The Christie Affair, by Nina de Gramont, is a historical novel published in 2022. The novel takes place in the early part of the 20th century, focusing on mystery author Agatha Christie’s real-life disappearance in 1926. De Gramont draws from historical sources and highlights iconic events of the time, such as World War I and the influenza pandemic of 1918, while creating her own fictional world and characters.
The novel explores themes of motherhood, family, and independence. Some moments may be difficult for sensitive readers, such as graphic depictions of sexual assault. While the story is inspired by real-life events, it is a work of fiction and not intended to be a historical reference. This guide is based on the 2022 hardcover edition published by Pan Macmillan.
Archie Christie is planning to leave his wife Agatha for his mistress Nan O’Dea. Archie and Agatha share one last night before Archie asks for a divorce and drives off. Nan recalls her life before meeting Archie when she spent summers in Ireland with her aunt and uncle. There she meets Finbarr, the man she will grow to love.
Back in the present, Agatha reels from her husband’s desertion. She and her maid walk with her daughter, Teddy. Nan and Archie leave for a weekend away, but Archie receives word that Agatha has gone missing, and he is escorted home by the police. Nan packs for an upcoming week in Harrogate and mulls over the last time she saw Finbarr. Her memories reach back to the night she and Finbarr first made love.
Agatha is being searched for all over England, and a police inspector, Frank Chilton, has been sent to Harrogate. Archie, meanwhile, is being interrogated as a suspect in the disappearance. A maid tells the police about Archie’s affair, and Nan and Chilton arrive at the same hotel in Harrogate. Nan meets other guests and comes face to face with Finbarr. Shifting back to Ireland in the past, Nan discovers that she is pregnant and Finbarr is sick with fever. Back at the hotel, two of the guests—Mr. and Mrs. Marston, a newly married couple—have died.
Chilton finds Agatha staying in an abandoned house, which she is sharing with Finbarr. The two are working together to separate Archie and Nan. In the Ireland of her past, Nan has been sent to a convent for pregnant women. She becomes friends with another girl, Bess, who is being regularly assaulted by a priest, Father Joseph. They find comfort with a nun, Sister Mary Clare, who is kinder than the others. The priest sexually assaults Bess just before she goes into labor, giving birth to a stillborn child. Bess leaves the convent for America.
At the hotel in the present, Chilton questions Nan about her relationship with another one of the guests, an American woman named Lizzie. He also returns to the house where he found Agatha but finds it abandoned. A coroner learns that the deaths at the hotel were not heart attacks, as previously thought, but murders. Chilton follows Nan and Finbarr to the new house where Finbarr and Agatha are staying, later christened “The Timeless Manor.” Chilton confronts Agatha, and they talk before sharing a kiss. Meanwhile, Finbarr tries to convince Nan to come away with him. Nan and Agatha begin a tenuous friendship.
Chilton and Agatha grow closer, venturing out and attracting attention. Later, she reveals what Finbarr has already told her: Nan has orchestrated her affair with Archie because she believes that his daughter Teddy is the child that she lost. Revisiting the past, Nan gives birth to a daughter at the convent, but the infant is given away for adoption without her consent. She understands that it was the nun Mary Clare who gave the baby away and, in a rage, Nan tries to strangle her. At the last moment, she stops and runs away, finding her way home to England. She begins to search for her child.
At the hotel, Finbarr pleads with Agatha to deny Nan’s parentage, and Chilton continues investigating the Marstons’ deaths. He learns that they used to be a nun and a priest. Nan reflects on how she came to the hotel in search of vengeance with the American girl Lizzie, who is really Bess. Together they killed the Marstons, who are in fact Mary Clare and Father Joseph. Finbarr and Agatha agree that the crime was justified, but Chilton struggles with his morals.
The four friends enjoy a last night at The Timeless Manor. The search for Agatha closes in, and the police arrive at the hotel. She returns home with Archie, although they are together only for a month before she leaves him for good; Archie marries Nan, and Finbarr returns home to Ireland. Agatha and Nan continue to be part of Teddy’s life.