A seeming chronology mistake in Crooked House

edited March 2015 in Ask an expert
Hi there, I'm new to this board, and I joined it mainly because of what seems to be a chronological error in Crooked House. I'm hoping someone can shed some light on this, and thanks in advance for any responses.

The story begins with the information that "towards the end of the war" (which turns out to be the Second World War), Sophia Leonides was 22 years old. If "towards the end of the war" is taken to be 1944 or 1945, that would put Sophia's year of birth early in the 1920s. 

Halfway through chapter 3, we learn that Sophia's grandmother, the first wife of Aristide Leonides, died in 1905. Then, towards the end of chapter 4, when Sophia and Charles are having their initial private conversation while seated on the "rustic wooden seat of great discomfort" in the neglected rock garden at Three Gables on Charles' first visit there, Sophia is talking about her family and says: "... and then there was my grandmother. I only just remember her, but I've heard a good deal about her."

Clearly Sophia couldn't have remembered her grandmother at all, if she was born in the early 1920s and her grandmother died in 1905. What I'm wondering is, was the year of the grandmother's death as it stands in my copy of the book a typographical error, or was this an oversight of Agatha Christie's?


  • GKCfanGKCfan Wisconsin, United States
    It's probably one or the other.  I'm not sure which...
  • edited March 2015
    Well thanks, GKCfan, for your tremendously enlightening response. I guess what you're saying is that my inquiry is an irrelevant or nit-picking one, and maybe you're right. Still, I'd be interested to know. I thought perhaps a few contributors there might have picked up their much-thumbed copies of Crooked House and checked that date, at least. 

    I mean, if this is a mistake made by Agatha, it raises the question, how many other mistakes of the kind has she made in her writing? Potentially we could start quite an extended discussion of that. But I perceive that this forum is rather a slow one.
  • GKCfanGKCfan Wisconsin, United States
    That is not what I meant at all.  I meant no disrespect whatsoever, and I apologize if I came across as rude.  If you knew about some of the essays I've written for the website, you'd realize that I LOVE finding discrepancies like this, and I spend a lot of time discussing them:

    As you can see, I don't think that finding discrepancies in Christie's work is irrelevant or nit-picking at all.  I commented as I did because I thought you made a great observation and I was trying to think of a solution!

    Frankly, I thought you made a very good, observant catch, and you're right– the forum is far slower than it used to be.  Perhaps Sophia could have been talking about her grandmother on her mother's side?  Or does the text make it clear that can't be so?  Or could Aristide have been married three times and Sophia's referring to her first step-grandmother, or is that contradicted by the text?

  • edited March 2015
    Thanks GKCfan, really appreciate all that, my apologies that I misunderstood you. I appreciate your suggestions of alternative grandmothers and so on. As far as I can see from a close reading of the book, it does go the way I put it. I guess many authors make the odd slip-up with slotting all the times and dates together. With Agatha's prodigious output, it would be tricky to hold everything together all the time, I imagine. It seems you've also found numerous discrepancies, and I shall go through your links with interest.
  • edubeltranedubeltran Catalonia, Spain
    Agatha Christie was prone to make some mistakes regarding chronology and people's names. This is excusable for her, however it is not for her correctors or reviewers at the editorial. That said, in this particular case (I haven't got the book here) she may well have been refering to her another grandmother
  • Yes, good point about the editors being remiss. It's definitely not another grandmother, though (maternal as opposed to paternal, or step-grandmother as opposed to natural). I've checked all that, and the text is clear and explicit about exactly who is being referred to. 
  • GKCfanGKCfan Wisconsin, United States
    There are so many examples of editing mistakes in Christie's works.  There's Raymond West's wife being referred to as both Joyce and Joan, and Major (later Colonel) Despard is named John in Cards on the Table and Hugh in The Pale Horse.  

    It seems to me that the easiest correction would be to assume that the date of the grandmother was wrong in Chapter 3.  If it's changed to 1925 instead of 1905, that would be perfect– Sophia would have been quite small and would just barely have remembered her...
  • Yes, I had also thought that 1925 would be more like what was intended - just the substitution of a "2" for a zero. Thanks for that.
  • GKCfanGKCfan Wisconsin, United States
    You're welcome!
  • AnubisAnubis Ontario, Canada
    So glad to find this discussion, since I too notice these things. Would it be off topic to mention that in MORA, Roger Ackroyd's age is given in one place as, "nearly fifty", and yet if you follow the chronology in the next paragraph he must be 42 or 43. In ATTWN, in chapter 1, subchapter 5, I think "Armstrong" should be "Armitage". 
  • Tommy_A_JonesTommy_A_Jones Gloucestershire, United Kingdom
    I shall look for that in MORA, It must be Armitae should be Armstrong as he is Armstrong
  • I suspect that the reason AC might have made a mistake with Sophia's grandmother's age, is that, she may have begun to scheme out certain novels in her head at an earlier date, and then returned to them to write them up properly when she had time - or maybe confidence, when more experienced to go back to a plot idea and make it work as a novel -even if she struggled before. I say this because I have written children's plays to be performed at school, and sometimes you have an idea, and then get round to using it again ten years later, and then use some of the old dates and facts. Sometimes the facts you go to use are anachronistic by then.  Maybe if AC conceived the plot in the twenties, she may have had  fixed in her mind a picture of a fin de siecle old lady and reverted to the date which first occurred to her when she scoped up the story, because, after all, in term sof plot, this is an insignificant fact within the context of the play, and she maybe wasn't thinking hard about it when she did all her own checks. 

    I like the idea of novelists scheming out plots in their heads, and 'living' with them over the years, their subconscious mulling over the details and germinating the fresh ideas which will make the story hang together as an organic whole. 'Tis said that JK  Rowling wrote all of the Harry Potter novels on a train journey, in her head, and knew exactly what would happen in each, by the end of the journey, and fleshed out the detail, and did the writing over subsequent years.
  • AnubisAnubis Ontario, Canada
    GKCfan, you have noticed so many things. And Tommy, you may well be right. But (this is not a SPOILER), throughout ATTWN, the general is always fretting that "Armitage," presumably a comrade in arms, has been talking behind his back. I'm not surprised that the books have errors — the plots are complicated, and all first printings have errors, no matter how skilled and conscientious the proofreaders might be. (Once there was a printed bible that said, "Thou shall commit adultery".) There are a million things that can go wrong. But I am surprised that AC's publishers don't correct errors once they are found. 
  • GKCfanGKCfan Wisconsin, United States
    In the past, books were typeset, so it was often not cost-effective to make corrections, but today, with digital printing and ebooks, it's a lot easier to make changes...
  • That's interesting. The mistakes indicate where AC was directing her attention as she checked and edited. I expect her concern was making sure that the plot was feasible.
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