by Agatha Christie
The book cover picture comes from my one of my Agatha Christie reference books,
which has this to say:
Agatha uses the speech in her epigraph:
There is a tide in the affairs of men,
Which, taken at the flood, leads on to fortune;
Omitted, all the voyage of their life
Is bound in shallows and in miseries.
On such a full sea are we now afloat,
And we must take the current when it serves,
Or lose our ventures.
It has been ages since I've read an Agatha book, and the old familiar feeling came back as soon as I began; that feeling of ah, I can completely sit back and relax because my reading is in the hands of a master. She really can tell a tale better than almost anyone. As they say, even her worst writing is better than most people's good writing. Her intelligence, her good sense when it comes to characters, her settings all combine to make a great reading experience.
Another of my reference books
says that the bombing in the book comes from the bombing of her own house in London during the war. The houses right around hers were "completely flattened," while hers suffered only external damage. Most of the contents were fine. Just this kind of randomness happens in Taken at the Flood. The twenty-four year old Rosaleen married the sixty-two year old Gordon Cloade and two weeks later a blast
blew the basement in and ripped off the roof. First floor practically wasn't touched. Six people in the house. Three servants: married couple and a housemaid, Gordon Cloade, his wife and the wife's brother. They were all down in the basement except the wife's brother...The only survivors were the wife and her brother who come to the family estate in Warmsley Vale. Gordon did not make a new will in those two weeks of married life, so his family who were to be the beneficiaries now receive nothing because his old will is 'revoked by his marriage.' I was amazed at this law - that the wife automatically got the money. What hardships this placed on the family.
The rich, childless man had taken all his relatives completely under his wing. ... Yes, they had all depended on Gordon Cloade. Not that any of the family had been spongers or idlers. Jeremy Cloade was senior partner in a firm of solicitors, Lionel Cloade was in practice as a doctor. But behind the workaday life was the comforting assurance of money in the background. There was never any need to stint or to save. The future was assured.A stranger comes to town saying that perhaps the first husband is still alive, which would of course make Rosaleen's second marriage invalid, and the money would all go to the family. Or if she died, the same thing would occur.
I read this for the
and I took special note of life in the third year after the end of the war. The young Wren who had done overseas service is thrilled to come home again ... for about three days.
And already a curious dissatisfied restlessness was creeping over her. It was all the same - almost too much all the same - the house and Mums and Rowley and the farm and the family. The thing that was different was herself....And her mother's life
Except for a rather unreliable woman who came four mornings a week, Mrs. Marchmont was alone in the house, struggling with cooking and cleaning. ... The small but adequate fixed income which had kept them going comfortably before the war was now almost halved by taxation. Rates, expenses, wages had all gone up.A farmer says
"I'm only just keeping my head above water as it is. And what with not knowing what this damned Government is going to do next - hampered at every turn - snowed under with forms, up to midnight trying to fill them in sometimes - it's too much for one man."There is mention of an 'ill will' and 'ill feeling' that is everywhere.
On railways and buses and in shops and amongst workers and clerks and even agricultural laborers.The book offers such a strong sense of English life in 1948. The atmosphere is almost a character in the story. The characters' actions and reactions are in response to the social, monetary, and political situation of the post-war years. I really enjoyed the book and learned so much.