Title: Unfinished Portrait
Author: Agatha Christie
Page Count: 346
And so the great Agatha Christie project comes to an end. This is the last of her Mary Westmacott novels, at least in the order that I read them in, and it was a pretty fitting end because it’s basically the quintessential Westmacott novel, with everything that that entails.
Christie’s Westmacott books leave the murder mystery stuff behind and focus instead on the relationships between people. How that actually works in practice can vary quite a lot and some of them are much better than others. This one was towards the better end, although I’m not particularly convinced about the overall setup to the book, the gimmick in which it’s presented as an unfinished portrait of a person’s life, a bit like an unfinished painting.
There’s not too much to say about this one because all of the goodness comes from the subtleties of the interactions between the different characters. It’s not a fast-paced novel, although it does feel like one if you’re able to get the Agatha Christie signature edition, which is a beautiful artefact in its own right.
I can understand why people don’t read the Westmacott books, but I do think that they’re worth giving a try, especially if you’re a fan of more introspective fiction that holds up a mirror to the reader and sees if they’re found wanting. It’s like literary fiction, except easier to read. And yes, there’s a little romance there. It’s just not the overriding premise, with it factoring in instead in the same way that love generally plays a part in life.
So would I recommend this one? Well, it depends. To a general reader, probably not. To an Agatha Christie fan, though, it’s definitely worth giving at least one of her Westmacott novels a go, and this is as good a book to pick up as any of them. It’s also just the right length, lasting for just long enough to stop it from getting dull. So yeah.