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Unfinished Portrait
Unfinished Portrait | Agatha Christie, writing as Mary Westmacott
13 posts | 9 read | 6 to read
A newly reissued edition of Agatha Christies Mary Westmacott novel, a Crime of the Heart novel about a woman on the verge of suicide.
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review
quietjenn
Unfinished Portrait | Agatha Christie, writing as Mary Westmacott
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Pickpick

I am very behind, but! I think I enjoyed this more than other #westmakittens because I read AC's biography fairly recently, so was able to identify the (many) bits (presumably) taken from life. In some ways I suspect it may have been a more truthful portrait of some things (Archie) than her actual autobiography is. Which, incidentally, I very much want to read soon! Anyway - pretty middling as a novel, but excellent as a portrait of the artist.

Ruthiella Interesting perspective! I found it hard to believe that the energetic woman who managed her second husband‘s excavations and traveled with such enthusiasm was so wishy-washy as a young woman… But I‘ve not read her bio yet. (edited) 8mo
CSeydel Great review! I really enjoyed this one too. I could relate to Celia‘s intensity of feeling coupled with a difficulty communicating and fear of being misunderstood. I am looking forward to reading her biography! 8mo
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quietjenn @Ruthiella I do think Agatha was stronger and more dynamic than Celia is here, but I'm not sure that she always felt it or recognized it. Although that may be me playing amateur psychologist at a distance a bit too much 😆 8mo
willaful It's possible that she blossomed a lot more later in life, in a happier marriage. 8mo
Ruthiella @willaful You are right. And also the novel is fictionalized, not an autobiography. 8mo
53 likes6 comments
review
BarbaraJean
Unfinished Portrait | Agatha Christie, writing as Mary Westmacott
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Mehso-so

It‘s fascinating reading these Mary Westmacott novels—thank you to @CSeydel for the #MaryWestmacottBuddyRead! #LMWBR

Although this was fascinating, it was also frustrating. The book wholly lives up to its title, and as such, the ending is unsatisfying. The narrative is set up in such a way that so many things feel inevitable, including the “unfinished” nature of the ending. But, as a character study, I thought it was fantastic. ⤵️

BarbaraJean I was frustrated by the main character‘s indecision and naiveté, and kept wanting to shake some common sense into her! But Christie draws her inner life so well that I also understood why she was the way she was and felt a lot of sympathy for her. And given what I‘ve read about the semi-autobiographical nature of the book, now I‘m really interested in reading a biography of Christie‘s life. (edited) 9mo
Ruthiella Great review! I didn‘t love this one either. I‘m hoping I enjoy the next Westmacott title more. 😀🤞 9mo
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quote
CSeydel
Unfinished Portrait | Agatha Christie, writing as Mary Westmacott
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“He wanted that is, to do what he wanted, and at the same time to feel comfortable about it.” #LMWBR

rubyslippersreads Dermot is a jerk. 😡 9mo
33 likes1 comment
blurb
CSeydel
Unfinished Portrait | Agatha Christie, writing as Mary Westmacott
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Finally, how about that ending? Thoughts?

Anything else you want to discuss?

#LMWBR #MaryWestmacottBuddyRead

BarbaraJean The ending was so frustrating! Like so much else in the story, it makes sense it ends the way it does--Christie has set up the narrative in such a way that so many things are inevitable, including the “unfinished“ nature of the ending. But I still didn't enjoy it. As far as what Celia decides to do, I think that depends somewhat on who she encounters next. So much of her life has been determined by her being led by others. 9mo
Ruthiella I guess the ending fits the title, but it was a bit underwhelming. But I found the whole novel kinda meh, so it wasn‘t surprising. 9mo
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CSeydel @BarbaraJean @Ruthiella I agree! The ending felt very unsatisfying to me. Naturally we are meant to wonder which path Celia chooses but otherwise I wasn‘t sure what to make of it. I suppose Larraby represented a life beyond rock bottom - after the worst happens, you can still make a satisfying life for yourself. Maybe? 9mo
Roary47 Sorry everyone! I haven‘t been able to find copies of these. I‘ll start getting paid again in two weeks. Hopefully, I can start participating shortly after. 💛 9mo
rubyslippersreads Whatever Celia decides to do next, I don‘t think she‘ll ever get over being betrayed by the person she loved and trusted most. She‘s so fragile, it‘s hard to imagine she could have a happy life. On the other hand, since this is autobiographical, we know that Christie herself went on to find happiness, so who knows? 9mo
CSeydel @rubyslippersreads Thanks for joining in! 9mo
CSeydel @Roary47 I hope it works out! 9mo
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blurb
CSeydel
Unfinished Portrait | Agatha Christie, writing as Mary Westmacott
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Those of you who read Giant‘s Bread may have, as I did, seen parallels between the Gun Man and Vernon‘s Beast. I‘m still mulling over the significance of the Gun Man and how Larraby was able to be just the right person at the right time. I can‘t quite form a cohesive idea of what it all means. What about you?
#LMWBR #MaryWestmacottBuddyRead

BarbaraJean I agree with the parallels between the Gun Man & the Beast, though I hadn't thought about it until you raised the comparison here! It's such an interesting parallel between the two; I wonder if Christie experienced something similar: a childhood sense of dread based on a sinister figure. The significance of the Gun Man, and Larraby's role in the narrative, are SO fascinating to me, but like you, I haven't come to clear conclusions about it yet. 9mo
Ruthiella I see the parallels to the Beast, though only now that you pointed it out. 😂 That is a good point @BarbaraJean . Maybe she is pulling this concept of a recurring nightmare representing one‘s greatest fears from her own life. 9mo
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CSeydel @Ruthiella @BarbaraJean Yes, the fact that both novels feature a similar personification of dread suggests to me that Christie experienced something like that anxiety. I didn‘t quite understand the terror that the Gun Man represented but maybe I‘m overthinking it — maybe it just represented the terror of being emotionally isolated 9mo
CSeydel Ok I went back and looked up the description. “There was no special reason why the Gun Man should be so frightening. It wasn‘t that he might shoot you. … No, it was something about his face, his hard, intensely blue eyes, the sheer malignity of the look he gave you.” 9mo
rubyslippersreads I haven‘t read the other book (though I‘m going to), but Dermot turned out to be Celia‘s worst nightmare. It wasn‘t the stumps, because Larraby‘s didn‘t repulse her. But Dermot and the Gun Man were both monsters. 9mo
18 likes7 comments
blurb
CSeydel
Unfinished Portrait | Agatha Christie, writing as Mary Westmacott
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It‘s week 2 of our #LMWBR discussion of Unfinished Portrait. I was intrigued by the various characters‘ remarks on marriage. Grannie is practical almost to the point of being adversarial in regard to men. Miriam married for love, but perhaps regrets not having more financial security. Celia expects a husband to be a kindred spirit and winds up terribly lonely. What is your take on these ideas?
#MaryWestmacottBuddyRead

BarbaraJean I thought each view of marriage seemed to reflect its own generation. Grannie's practicality and Miriam's wishes for financial security felt characteristic of the kinds of advice about marriage that a parent and grandparent would offer! I resonate most strongly with Celia's views, and was surprised by how well her early years of marriage went. I expected things to go south much sooner--they seemed so ill-matched. 9mo
BarbaraJean I was also so frustrated at how indecisive and unsure of herself Celia was--in combination with her naivete, she was just wide open to be talked into a relationship that was a terrible choice for her. All that had gone before had set up exactly why she was the way she was--and Dermot talking her into their relationship felt inevitable. But I still hated how it played out. 9mo
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Ruthiella @BarbaraJean Celia‘s passivity drove me nuts too! 😂 I agree that each woman represented common attitudes towards marriage for their generation, though people do still marry for practical reasons and not only for love. 9mo
CSeydel @rubyslippersreads I‘m so sorry, I forgot to add you to the tag list! I posted some discussion questions for Unfinished Portrait. 9mo
CSeydel @Ruthiella @BarbaraJean Absolutely. What struck me was that I couldn‘t quite grasp what it was about Dermot that Celia had fallen in love with! She had no trouble turning down previous suitors. She must have felt some kind of connection with Dermot, but I didn‘t really get that from the description of their courtship. (edited) 9mo
CSeydel I thought it was so poignant when Celia points out that Miriam married for love, and she responds, “I did, yes – but even then – it isn‘t always wise to care too much. It‘s a thorn in your side always. To be cared for – it‘s better.” 9mo
CSeydel Meanwhile, Grannie: “Remember, dear, men are not to be trusted. Gentlemen can be very agreeable, but you can‘t trust one of them—unless he‘s such a namby-pamby fellow that he‘s no good at all.” And her son was Celia‘s father! Did anyone else picture Maggie Smith as Grannie? 😄 9mo
Ruthiella @CSeydel I pictured Grannie as someone physically more formidable than Maggie Smith. But she could play any role! 9mo
16 likes9 comments
review
CSeydel
Unfinished Portrait | Agatha Christie, writing as Mary Westmacott
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Pickpick

I remember loving this the first time I read it, but this time it felt a little slow and plotless. Still I enjoyed the life story of Celia, a sensitive and imaginative girl, who enters into a marriage with an emotionally distant man. The value of this story is in the vivid characterizations, particularly the interactions between the female characters: Grannie, Miriam, Judy, and side characters like Poor Miss Bennett, Rouncy, Denman and so on.

Ruthiella I particularly loved Celia‘s grandmother. That is also a great cover. Very fitting. 9mo
rubyslippersreads I loved Grannie but I loathed Dermot. 9mo
40 likes2 comments
blurb
CSeydel
Unfinished Portrait | Agatha Christie, writing as Mary Westmacott
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Ruthiella She emphasized the imagination Cecilia had and her ability to entertain herself in her own little world. Reminded me of Vernon‘s childhood from Giant‘s Bread. So her story telling and writing career made sense later. But that‘s really it. Otherwise it seemed to me to be your run of the mill late Victorian/Edwardian upper middle class childhood. (edited) 9mo
CSeydel @Ruthiella Yes! I was thinking how much Celia‘s character echoed Vernon‘s in that way. The constant angst of not being understood by the adults in their lives. Celia‘s mother at least seemed to be extraordinarily sensitive to her inner life. I wonder if that was just a bit of wish-fulfillment or if Christie had an adult like that in her life. 9mo
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CSeydel I was struck by how upset Celia was about not being able to understand the friend with the missing teeth but not wanting to hurt her feelings by saying so. She was extremely sensitive and aware of other people‘s feelings. She reminds me of my middle daughter in that way. 9mo
Ruthiella I do know that Christie had a very close relationship with her mother, so maybe that sensitivity was taken from her real life? In both books she does a good job showing how children have their own logic which sometimes puts them at odds with adults and adult expectations. (edited) 9mo
CSeydel @Ruthiella nice! I agree, she does capture that well. 9mo
BarbaraJean @Ruthiella The elements you both mentioned stood out to me, too: her imagination and her sensitivity. @CSeydel That scene with not understanding her friend but not wanting to say was so poignant to me! I saw myself in that a bit. I thought Christie did SUCH a great job of showing how Celia's childhood shaped her personality, and subsequently the choices she makes as an adult. The picture she draws of Celia's inner life is so well done. 9mo
BarbaraJean I thought that as a character study, this was fantastic. I did keep wanting to shake some common sense into Celia! But at the same time, I understood why she was the way she was, and I think that's one of the reasons Celia's story starts with her childhood. It really made me want to read a biography of Christie's life! 9mo
Ruthiella @BarbaraJean @CSeydel Maybe we could all read a biography of Christie when we finish these books? 🤔 9mo
BarbaraJean @Ruthiella I‘d be interested in that! 9mo
rubyslippersreads @Ruthiella @BarbaraJean @CSeydel I recognized the “birthday spider” story from Christie‘s autobiography. I‘d be interested in re-reading it. 9mo
Ruthiella @rubyslippersreads Fantastic! I‘d like to read a good bio and her autobiography. 9mo
CSeydel @rubyslippersreads @Ruthiella @BarbaraJean I‘ve been eyeing the Lucy Worsley bio and I‘d also be up for reading Agatha‘s autobiography! (edited) 9mo
rubyslippersreads @CSeydel @Ruthie @BarbaraJean I‘d also be interested in reading the Worsley biography. 9mo
19 likes14 comments
blurb
CSeydel
Unfinished Portrait | Agatha Christie, writing as Mary Westmacott
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Happy Saturday, #westmakittens! Hope everyone is getting into the current read. I‘ll start posting some discussion questions today.

I have read this one before and I remember really enjoying it, but for some reason I‘m having a hard time getting into it this time.

Ruthiella Well, it does…but I think you have to get to the end to appreciate it. 9mo
BarbaraJean I agree with @Ruthiella, it does add something to the story, but not until the end. The title and the ending pull in Larraby as the narrator, but I don't know if it really added enough. The story might have benefited more from a different narrative device. I didn't dislike it, but it was unsatisfying, largely because it really is an “unfinished portrait.“ In that sense, I think the framing narrative works against the book overall. 9mo
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CSeydel @BarbaraJean I agree! There was too much of Celia‘s inner life - and even some scenes from Miriam‘s point of view - that it broke the construct that this was a story written by a third party who had just met Celia. 9mo
BarbaraJean @CSeydel Yes! I kept forgetting about the narrative frame, because the story doesn't match up with it. I'm willing to forego a bit of disbelief about Celia's inner life; I can excuse that as Celia being very detailed and specific in her memories. But Miriam's perspective broke the construct completely. When Larraby comes back at the end, it felt forced to me. And I don't know why Christie felt she needed Larraby as a narrator. 9mo
rubyslippersreads I was more interested in the story once Larraby sort of faded into the background and we were immersed in Celia‘s story. 9mo
21 likes6 comments
review
Ruthiella
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Mehso-so

This cover is awesome, but so misleading! The book is certainly not gothic or even particularly romantic. Basically it‘s a narrative of one woman‘s middle class life in early 20th century England. When the book opens, she is poised to jump from a cliff. Then the story goes back to show how she got to this moment on the brink of self destruction. Honestly, I found her so incredibly bland, I wasn‘t invested in the outcome. #MaryWestmacottBuddyRead

LeahBergen But I‘m liking her dress and hairdo. 😆 9mo
Ruthiella @LeahBergen Me too! It‘s so fabulously 1960s. 😅 and yet the protagonist was born ca. 1890! 9mo
LeahBergen Oh dear. 🤣 9mo
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CSeydel I‘m so sorry this one didn‘t work for you! 9mo
Ruthiella @CSeydel It wasn‘t all that bad, I just found Celia to be kind of a drip! 😅 Apparently this was based somewhat on Christie‘s own life, and she was (seemingly) a much more vivacious personality. 9mo
56 likes6 comments
blurb
CSeydel
Unfinished Portrait | Agatha Christie, writing as Mary Westmacott
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Hey #westmakittens just an update on our Unfinished Portrait discussion schedule. I got my calendar mixed up and I think I posted the wrong dates - discussion starts on the 3rd Saturday (next week) and we will spread it over 2 weekends

As always, don‘t feel you have to wait for me to post - tag me in your reviews whenever you finish! #MaryWestmacottBuddyRead #LMWBR

CSeydel Yes my book says “A Daughter‘s a Daughter” but it does include Unfinished Portrait 😉 9mo
Librarybelle 👍 9mo
32 likes2 comments
blurb
CSeydel
Unfinished Portrait | Agatha Christie, writing as Mary Westmacott
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That wraps up our discussion of Giant‘s Bread! Start looking for a copy of our next selection, Unfinished Portrait. And … get your tissues handy. This one is a semi-autobiographical character study of a sensitive, thoughtful young woman who is struggling with the direction her life should take. Looking forward to discussing it with you! #LMWBR #MaryWestmacottBuddyRead #westmakittens

CSeydel This is my first time trying to host a buddy read, so please give me feedback ☺️ Would you rather I post all the questions at the same time, or do you like splitting it up between two weekends? 10mo
willaful Well rats. I somehow don't own this one and none of the libraries have it. :-( Guess I'm out. 10mo
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CSeydel @willaful oh darn! It is available free at internet archive https://archive.org/details/unfinishedportra0000west 10mo
Librarybelle Yay! I‘ll contribute to the discussion as soon as I finish the book, and I am looking forward to next month‘s read! 10mo
Ruthiella I prefer splitting up the questions. It gives a bit of a nudge to read on! 10mo
CSeydel @Librarybelle That‘s the beauty of internet discussions - it‘ll be here whenever you‘re ready! You know where to find me 😁 (edited) 10mo
quietjenn Ditto what @Librarybelle and @Ruthiella said! Hoping to finish this weekend. Thank you for leading us. 10mo
BarbaraJean I‘m happy with either a one- or -two weekend discussion! If the questions are split up over two weekends, would the plan be to read half the book for the first weekend and the other half for the second? Or just at our own pace? 10mo
CSeydel @BarbaraJean That‘s a great question. I personally find it hard to plan my reading schedule that tightly, so I would say, just read at our own pace, but I‘ll try to limit any major spoilery questions to the second week. 10mo
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