The Tuesday Study Club met at the Willow Springs Senior Center on Nov. 21, 2023, for a regular business meeting. Pauline Cape and Kathleen Carel were the hostesses, and it was Pauline’s 80th birthday.
Shortly after the meeting began, Angel Alessi of Club 60 in Mtn. Grove arrived with one of her sons, Jordan, and with an amazing, elaborate birthday cake for Pauline’s 80th birthday. It was a four-layer chocolate cake with a buttercream frosting. It was decorated with a giant “80" on top, and chocolate drizzle over the top layer extending downward over the upper sides. On the lower front of the cake in chocolate was, “Study Club Ladies.” To the right was a chocolate cat with “Lovey” in its center, the name of Pauline’s cat, and to the left was a chocolate cross, a sign of Pauline’s faith. There was an unusual “flower” on top of the cake, and when Angel touched something, it opened with several lit candles, and it played “Happy Birthday.” (It continued playing “Happy Birthday” until Friday, three days later!)
After considerable compliments on the cake and well-wishing for Pauline’s 80th birthday, the business portion of the meeting continued, then it was turned over to Pauline, who was the program leader. She gave a great presentation on Agatha Christie.
Agatha Mary Clarissa Miller (better known as Agatha Christie) was born on Sept. 15, 1890, into a wealthy upper-middle-class family in Torquay, Devon, England. She was largely homeschooled. Agatha was a voracious reader from an early age. Her father died when she was 11. She later said that her father’s death marked the end of her childhood. Her mother sent her to Paris, where she was educated in a series of boarding schools, focusing on voice training and piano playing. She gave up her goal of performing professionally as a concert pianist or an opera singer. She decided she didn’t have the temperament or talent.
After completing her education, Agatha returned to England to find her mother ailing. They decided to spend the winter 1907-1908 in the warm climate of Egypt, which was then a regular tourist destination for wealthy Britons.
At 18, Agatha wrote her first short story, “The House of Beauty,” while recovering in bed from an illness. All her early submissions, made under pseudonyms, were rejected. Around the same time, Agatha began work on her first novel, “Snow Upon the Desert.” Six publishers declined the work. Around the same time, she enjoyed a very active social life. At one such social event, she met Archibald “Archie” Christie. They quickly fell in love and got married.
Agatha had long been a fan of detective novels. She wrote her first detective novel, “The Mysterious Affair at Styles,” in 1916. It featured Hercule Poirot. Her inspiration for him came from Belgian refugees living in Torquay. After several months, her manuscript was accepted.
Agatha settled into married life, giving birth to her only child, Rosalind. After three novels and short stories, she had no difficulty selling her work.
In August 1926, Archie asked Agatha for a divorce. The pair quarreled in December after Archie announced he was going to spend the weekend with friends. Later that evening, Agatha disappeared from their home. The following morning, her car was discovered in Surrey, parked above a chalk quarry. It was feared that she might have drowned herself. After an extensive manhunt, she was not found for another 10 days. She was located at the “Swan Hotel” in Harrogate, Yorkshire, under the surname of her husband’s lover. In her autobiography, she made no reference to the disappearance. Public reaction at the time was largely negative, supposing a publicity stunt or an attempt to frame her husband for murder. The mystery was never solved.
After her divorce, Agatha married again to archeologist Max Mallowan. Agatha accompanied Max on his archeological expeditions that contributed background to several of her novels.
Agatha’s stage play, “The Mousetrap,” holds the world record for the longest initial run. It opened at the Ambassadors Theatre in London’s west end in 1952. More than 30 feature films are based on her work.
Agatha’s health began to fail, but she continued to write. Her last novel was “Postern of Fate” in 1973. She died in January 1975 at the age of 85.
Following Pauline’s presentation, refreshments included abundant slices of the birthday cake, and when the ladies left, each carried a large, amply-filled take-home box.