09 June 2021

The Hollow

My Agatha Christie binge has extended into the small screen (of my 11-inch MacBook). Thanks to the good YouTubers of the world, I can now enjoy the British drama series Agatha Christie's Poirot. Naturally (for me, that is), I started with the episodes based on novels I've already read, thrilled to see how they are reimagined for TV.

The title I enjoyed most from my small Christie collection is The Hollow. I talked about the main character, Henrietta Savernake on the podcast, and here I'd like to discuss what really makes the novel great. To put it simply, it's how the characters are profiled.

Christie, Agatha. The Hollow. Berkley, 1963

Henrietta, for example, is introduced to the reader right smack in the middle of her work, while sculpting with a model. We are inside her mind, following her artistic process. We understand that she doesn't need the model to copy from but rather to inform her art. What she draws from the model — a stranger whom she convinced to sit for her — is something a casual observer would fail to appreciate.
None of the features were clearly defined. It was Nausicaa remembered, not seen... (p 12)
In that chapter, we can see Henrietta's dedication to creating art, as well as her detachment to the human being in front of her.

Then there's the chapter on Gerda, over-thinking whether to send the mutton back to the kitchen to be kept warm or to leave it on the table because her husband John might arrive any moment now.

The whole world had shrunk to a leg of mutton getting cold on a dish. (p 25)
Here we understand why people regard her as a slow-witted woman deeply devoted to her man.

There is also Lucy Angkatell and her tireless but never tiresome chatter. She's painted as someone who could do something completely bizarre (she has), and say something completely illogical (she does), yet you'll forgive her, at best ignore her.

The Hollow is a big house, and for a weekend where it's filled with colorful people, it remains that: hollow. Because somehow each of the guests has an emptiness in them. I'd been wondering, The Hollow is an odd name for a property. Suitable in our story, though.

A brief note on art. Henrietta sculpts. And I know that there's a reason why she is a sculptress. Later on, one of her pieces becomes a hiding place for an evidence. More than that, the crime scene itself is another one of her creations, however far from a masterpiece. She showed her hand, and Poirot catches this. As the saying goes, the best art conceals itself.

These character sketches and intimate scenes are absent in the TV adaptation. What I get in exchange is a stunning visual. The 1989 series is a breather from the ultra-slick productions of the present. Quite a pleasure to see the houses, locations, dresses and hairstyles of the time.

Ah, Miss Lemon (Pauline Moran) is the bomb! Which is also to say the acting is top-notch. It's hard to read the next Poirot mystery now and not see David Suchet in my head.

I recently unsubscried to Netflix, because it's forcing me to consume poor-quality shows, and shows I'm barely interested in. Thanks to the good YouTubers of the world, I think I'll be fine.

Top Shelf