On the Blue Train

On the Blue Train

On the Blue Train

What did happen to Agatha Christie during her mysterious eleven-day disappearance just as she was on the cusp of fame? Mixing fact and fantasy On the Blue Train is an entrancing novel of creativity and grief from a winner of the Vogel Literary Award.

Yes, she said, finally. Breaks are important. There are times when it's wiser to get away. From it all.

It was the work of a moment, on 4 December 1926, Agatha Christie became Teresa Neele, resident of the spa hotel, the Harrogate Hydro. With her wedding ring left behind her, and her minimal belongings unpacked, Agatha's lost days begin.

Lying to her fellow guests about the death of a husband and child, Teresa settles in to the anonymity she so fiercely desires. Until Harry McKenna, bruised from the end of his own marriage, asks her to dance.

Thornell says, 'We are drawn to the iconic aura of Agatha Christie, as well as to a sense of her tireless imagination and drive. We continue to find her blend of cozy comforting order and hidden dark forces tantalizing and highly addictive. Her "disappearance" - a brief escape from her public identity - seems such a unique act, unusually creative and psychologically fascinating."

With verve and sensitivity, Thornell imagines what Christie could not write.

Kristel Thornell's debut work of fiction, Night Street, was the co-winner of the Vogel's award in 2009 and was much acclaimed when published in 2010. On the Blue Train is her second novel.

On the Blue Train
Allen & Unwin
Author: Kristel Thornell
RRP: $29.99


Interview with Kristel Thornell

Question: How did you come up with the idea of On The Blue Train?

Kristel Thornell: I found the story of Agatha Christie's 'disappearance" in 1926 – eleven days she spent in a Yorkshire hotel under the pseudonym Teresa Neele – enthralling. When I began to read about her life, I was struck by the fact that she'd been grieving at the time (having recently lost her mother and discovered that her husband wanted to leave her for another woman). She had also been suffering from writer's block. This combination of grief, disillusioned love, creative blockage and extreme behaviour was resonant for me. I could vividly see and empathize with a fictional Teresa / Agatha, a young writer who suddenly needed to escape from a life turned overwhelmingly claustrophobic. And who did so in an unusually creative way. I wanted to write a sort of psychological mystery – centered on a secretive, resourceful mind – which would pay tribute to the fluidity and the atmospheres of Christie's early novels.


Question: How much of your inspiration comes from real life and real people?

Kristel Thornell: A good deal. Though, writing fiction, I am always aware that reality, fantasy and invention flow into one another in complex ways. Both of my novels have been triggered by historical figures: the artist Clarice Beckett sparked Night Street, and Agatha Christie On the Blue Train. I was intrigued by the haunting gaps in their official biographies, and what I imagined to be their powerful, solitary, layered personalities.


Question: What advice do you have for aspiring writers or artists?

Kristel Thornell: Try to be both disciplined and patient with yourself. It may take a very long time and much trial and error before you produce work that satisfies you (and/or others), so do your best to find the process interesting and enjoyable. Create a feasible routine (possibly aiming to do some work on most days of the week), one that gives you a sense of maintaining a rhythm. Remember that even quite short – but consistent – periods of work can be immensely useful. If you are sitting down a lot, see if you can vary this with breaks for standing and movement. Keep yourself exposed to books and other forms of art that stimulate and delight you.


Question: The best thing about books is...

Kristel Thornell: They can feel like a wonderfully soothing blend of privacy and company. They give you the intimate sensation of inhabiting minds other than your own, while often seeming to reflect back to you the workings of your own mind. They provide a vital space for musing, dreaming, and time out. All of which can leave you with a renewed appetite for living fully and consciously.

 

On the Blue Train
Allen & Unwin
Author: Kristel Thornell
RRP: $29.99

 

Interview by Brooke Hunter




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