Saturday, 13 February 2010

While The Light Lasts (1997)

Plot: Random love stories with a bit of Poirot.

While The Light Lasts is a curious collection. It's almost a merging of the supernatural and the romantic magic of Mary Westmacott with a very, very occasional crime thrown in.

The Edge is the most curious story - if you're a fan of reading autobiography into fiction. It's about a dowdy lover cast aside by a shallow man for a young beauty. Published just after Christie found out about her husband's affair and ran away, it's easy to assume that this is a little act of revenge.

There's also a lot to love about Manx Gold. The story itself is pulp Christie, but the idea of hiding the clues to a real treasure hunt throughout the narrative is extremely innovative, even if you actually have to be standing on the Isle of Mann to stand a chance of solving any of them.

The Actress is a story about a plucky actress thwarting a blackmailer - and it's easy to see in this the prototype for all of Christie's quick-witted and frequently villainous actresses.

There's also The Lonely God, a surprisingly kind story about love winning out in the end, thanks to a sweet-natured idol.

But that's about it for upbeat. Ignoring the Poirot reprints of early versions, the rest of the collection is about the thwarting of love. Painters and paintings abound - Within A Wall features a painter who only realises the true nature of the woman he loves and the woman he hates when it is too late. The House of Dreams is about a vision and madness, and While The Light Lasts features the shock of a returning husband and a last glimpse of happiness - an idea which turns up in Taken At The Flood.

Is it a great collection? Maybe not. But it is refreshingly different after a diet of pluck, twists and endless impostors.

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