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Come, Tell Me How You Live: An Archaeological Memoir    by Agatha Christie Mallowan order for
Come, Tell Me How You Live
by Agatha Christie Mallowan
Order:  USA  Can
William Morrow, 2012 (2012)

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* * *   Reviewed by Mary Ann Smyth

The name Agatha Christie is known around the world as the Queen of the mystery. The number of books to her credit is almost beyond counting. Here, though, is an unexpected one - Come, Tell Me How You Live.

It's a memoir of Christie's first archaeological dig with her husband, Sir Maxwell Mallowan. She and Max traveled in the 1930s by any conveyance handy to Syria and Iraq, researching Tells (mounds in the desert that indicate past communities). Not interested in Roman sites, they dug deeper to pre-historic times. This delightful account of that first dig records the ups and downs of such an endeavor.

Christie writes of her interaction with their native helpers with a light air, hoping, I think, that the reader will enjoy this as much as she did. The account was written as a diary that she put aside during World War I. After the war, she realized it was worth finishing. She was already a credited author and felt it could be published.

Her equanimity over the pitfalls of living in tents or mud huts in isolated desert settings tells us more of her as a woman than do her mysteries. She braved mice and cockroaches crawling over her at night. Ate food that was not always recognizable. Had compassion for Max's workers. Marveled at the beauty of her surroundings. Endured the constant wind that blew sand and dirt into her eyes, nose and food.

Christie took photos of the finds, developed and printed them, as well as washing and labeling the artifacts. She seemed to find joy in all that she did. Except maybe when the workers rebelled. Resilient Max quelled the insurrection and work went on as before. Come, Tell Me How You Live is a truly delightful book. The reader need not be a closet archaeologist to enjoy this unexpected treasure.

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