The 8:55 to Baghdad: From London to Iraq on the Trail of Agatha Christie by Andrew Eames
Description: In 1928, Agatha Christie, the world's most widely read author, was a thirty-something single mother. With her marriage to her first husband, Archie Christie, over, she decided to take a much needed holiday; the Caribbean had been her intended destination, but a conversation at a dinner party with a couple who had just returned from Iraq changed her mind. Five days later she was off a completely different trajectory. Merging literary biography with travel adventure, and ancient history with contemporary world events, Andrew Eames tells a riveting tale and reveals fascinating and little-known details en route in this exotic chapter in the life of Agatha Christie. His own trip from London to Baghdad - a journey much more difficult to make in 2002 with the political unrest in the Middle East and the war in Iraq, then it was in 1928 - become ineluctably intertwined with Agatha's, and the people he meets could have stepped out of a mystery novel. Fans of Agatha Christie will delight in Eames' description of the places and events that appeared in and influnced her fiction - and armchair travelers will thrill in the exotica of the journey itself. (From Goodreads)
Why I Picked This Book: I love travel books and I love books about Agatha Christie so this was just too tempting.
My Impression: Oh I wanted to love this one. It combines travel writing with Agatha Christie which are two of my favorite things so I was just so sure I would love it. I was so sure I would love it that I even selected it for my first book of the year.
On New Year's Day after dinner had been cooked, eaten and cleaned up after and the Tornado was tucked up in bed I drew myself a nice hot bed with some of my favorite bath salts and got ready to to be swept away into the exotic travels of Agatha Christie. I knew there was going to be trouble from about page 5. Eams offers up a nutshell biography of Christie's early life and while the facts are accurate I felt like he left a lot of information out and didn't apply historical context the facts of her life especially regarding her education. He paints Christie as this miserable and isolated child who later becomes a golf widow to a dashing former fighter pilot which leads to her divorce. While she was far from perfect this image didn't line up with anything else I've read about her and felt condescending and dismissive.
But I kept going. While mentally I know putting down a book I'm not enjoying is not only okay but probably a smart idea, psychologically I just can't give up. With the Christie's biography out of the way Eames starts his journey. There are a lot of directions this story could go and Eames chooses to go in all of them at once. We talk about how the train came to be, what it's like now, the passengers on the train both then and now, the history of each country and area the train route goes through plus what it's like now and what other writers have said about each place. And for added measure Eames throws in an occasional Agatha fact. To put it mildly, it got a bit confusing. But still I trudged on. The 4th chapter was 33 pages and discussed the train's passage through the former Yugoslavia. In those 33 pages Eames stays in 2 hotels, interviews a reporter who interviewed Christie on her visit here in the 1960s, figures out that Max is in fact Christie's 2nd husband and not a dog like he originally thought, finds a Christie website and tries to meet with the creator of the site but gets turned down, and discusses 600 years of the region's social, political and religious history, as well as discussing the condition of the train and the trip itself and Eames' observations about his fellow travelers. It was a lot of information and felt a bit disjointed while at the same time not explaining things thoroughly enough for me to really connect with the journey. It was one of those books that my eyes kept skimming over paragraphs and I had to force myself to go back and actually read them. But still I was going to continue. That is until my husband made the mistake of asking if I was enjoying my book and I ranted at him for about 20 minutes. Mid rant I realized that it was silly to keep going and I have to many books in my groaning bookshelves (including several other nonfiction books about Christie) to keep going with a book that I'm finding neither enjoyable or educational. So DNF'd at page 111.
Would I Read More of this Series/Author?: Nope.
Would I Recommend this Book?: I wouldn't but the majority of reviews on Amazon and Goodreads are quite good so I might be missing something.