Monday, May 3, 2021

Nemesis (1971)


In my ongoing quest to read books I didn't think I needed to read: Agatha Christie's Nemesis (1971). Partly because of the author's reputation as a literary writer; also because the word is in high-rotation these days and I wanted to know how Christie uses it.

Turns out "nemesis" is the code word for an assignment Christie's Miss Marpole chose to accept, despite receiving neither instruction nor context. Making matters even more complicated: the person who commissioned the assignment is no longer among the living.

Some things I've learned from reading Nemesis: the word "gaga" (used to describe those who have lost their marbles) is at least as old as this book. Also, the term "old pussy", which I had never heard before, and which Miss Marpole uses to describe gals her age. And an occupation: "companion-gardener", which I might as well be to the cat who shows up when I am on my hands and knees pulling dandelions (something about the popping sound broken roots make).

Knitting and food consumption recur throughout Nemesis. On the topic of food -- and the rather large assignment fee she is offered -- Miss Marpole dismisses the solicitor's suggestion that she could spend some of her earnings on a luxury cruise and imagines instead something "more moderate":

"'Partridges,' she said thoughtfully, 'it is very difficult to get partridges nowadays, and they are very expensive. I should enjoy a partridge -- a whole partridge -- to myself, very much.'"

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