A Life in Numbers: 1890 - 1976

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To celebrate Agatha Christie's birthday month we take a closer look at her writing achievements, her life experience, and her legacy. Click the button below the image to zoom in and discover her extraordinary life in numbers.

Agatha Christie's A Life in Numbers, created by Lera Balashova

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3 days: It took Agatha Christie just three days to write her third Mary Westmacott novel, Absent in the Spring. A powerful story about a woman who finds herself alone on a journey back from Iraq, it's hard to believe this was written in less than a week!

2 weeks: Agatha Christie had been working on her first novel during her time at the hospital dispensary. Her mother encouraged her to finish the novel by taking a fortnight without distractions. As a result Christie arranged a two week break at the Moorland Hotel in Dartmoor where she completed The Mysterious Affair at Styles.

6 weeks: Endless Night, a masterfully creepy novel revolving around an unlucky couple, was written by Christie in just six weeks, whilst the author was in her 70s. The narrative style, plus the shocking twists and turns, make this book an extraordinary one, even more so when you bear in mind how quickly she wrote it.

3-4 months: Agatha Christie's output was prolific, and her enviable writing speed undoubtedly contributed to that. Christie herself noted in her Autobiography that, on average, it took her between three to four months to write a book.

2 years: Her play The Mousetrap is renowned around the world, but Christie wrote plenty more successful stories for the stage. In fact, if you were to watch a Christie play every month it would take you two years to see them all!

3 years: It's hard to believe Agatha Christie only spent three years of her life working in a pharmacy during the First World War, because her knowledge of poisons underpins so many of her best works. Who would have guessed that this contribution to the war effort would provide such fruitful inspiration for the author? She also spent further time working in the dispensary at University College Hospital in London during World War II.

4 years: A fact for all budding writers. Despite Christie becoming the undisputed Queen of Crime, it took her four years, and plenty of rejections to get her first novel, starring Hercule Poirot, published.

5 years: Agatha Christie was home-schooled, and her mother didn't want to encourage her to learn to read until she was eight. Christie took matters into her own hands however, and taught herself by the age of five.

6 years: If you were to read an Agatha Christie novel every single month it would take you six years to complete her canon. You can expect plenty of shocks, surprises, thrills and adventures along the way too.

11 years: Despite admitting in her Autobiography that it wasn't a childhood dream of hers to become an author, Agatha Christie's name first appeared in print when she was just 11 years old. It was a poem she had written about trams, which was published in a local London newspaper.

15 years: Although a fast writer, it took Agatha Christie 15 years to write her Autobiography. The book was published posthumously, and contains so many intriguing insights into her upbringing, her travels, her relationships and her works.

18 years: Christie's second husband Max Mallowan was to provide her with plenty of happiness, as well as incredible experiences on the site of archaeological digs. In total they spent about 18 years together on digs, with Agatha Christie making time to write, and also to assist on the dig sites, cleaning artefacts that had been discovered.

19 years: Agatha Christie loved the freedom that writing under a pseudonym gave her, and Mary Westmacott would go on to write 4 novels before it was revealed, after 19 years, that this was in fact the Queen of Crime writing under a pen-name.

42 years: As well as writing speedily, Christie also wrote consistently for decades. There are 42 years between publishing her first and last play, Black Coffee and Fiddlers Three respectively.

56 years: Even more impressive perhaps is the 56 year career she had as a novelist, beginning with the release of The Mysterious Affair at Styles in 1920, and ending with the posthumous publication of Sleeping Murder in 1976.

69 years: Her play The Mousetrap opened on stage in November 1952, and she described the fact that it had been onstage for 13 years as incredible, humbly stating "miracles happen" in her Autobiography. The play returned to London's West End in May 2021 following pandemic closures, and is due to celebrate its 70th year shortly.

85 years: Agatha Christie lived for 85 years, and in that time she wrote 66 crime novels, 6 Mary Westmacott novels, over 150 short stories, 24+ plays and 2 autobiographical works. Her output was packed full of variety, skills, plots and characters which we can still enjoy today, on what would have been her 131st birthday month.

Some figures have been rounded up/down to the nearest number for ease.

How sad it will be when I can't write any more, though I should not be greedy. After all, to be able to continue writing at the age of seventy-five is very fortunate. One ought to be content and prepared to retire by then. In fact, I played with the idea that perhaps I would retire this year, but I was lured on by the fact that my last book had sold more than any of the previous ones: it seemed rather a foolish moment to stop writing. Perhaps now I had better make a deadline of eighty?
An Autobiography, Agatha Christie

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