Title: Elephants Can Remember
Author: Agatha Christie
“Elephants can remember, but we are human beings and mercifully human beings can forget.”
This is the second Christie book I’ve read (after An Ordeal By Innocence) and while that wasn’t my favourite book, I enjoyed the whodunnit aspect, and it reminded me why I love murder mysteries, so I thought I’d read some more of her novels. Elephants Can Remember is a novel which features the Belgian detective Hercule Poirot (who appears in over 50 of hers works). Having seen the film Murder on the Orient Express, I was intrigued to see how it was to read him compared to watching him. The plot focuses on the death of a couple – Margaret and General Alistair Ravenscroft – whose apparent joint suicide is pulled back into scrutiny ten years after their deaths. When Poirot begins investigating, it seems that the police did all they could to get to the bottom of it, and the ruling of suicide was accurate. However, as he digs further into the past, he meets various “elephants” (elderly people who were connected somehow to the couple before they died) and while their memories may seem unreliable, will some new, and damning evidence come to light?
I liked Poirot as a character, he was funny and witty and he definitely made some of the more laborious parts of the novel more interesting. I also liked the way they referred to the other characters as “elephants” and the elephant theme which ran throughout the book. As a reader, it definitely made me think about how crimes, and the justice system, really can hinge on who remembers what, and how reliable their memory actually is. I also liked how it made me realise that sometimes we remember things which we think are insignificant, but turn out to be very significant indeed.
It was a little hard to keep up with the amount of characters, and I do think that even though it was only a short book, there was a lot of passages where not much really happened other than gossip and speculation between the characters. Although I was turning the page very quickly because I wanted to know what happened at the end, I did find myself thinking that the plot just needed to get on with it, or at least have some more exciting plot points in the middle to keep things interesting.
Also, whether it was just the time it was written, or whether it was what Christie intended, I couldn’t help but feel that Mrs Oliver (the other main character other than Poirot) could have had more of a significant role. She kind of felt like a spare part, and that Poirot did all the work, which being the detective, I understand, but it would have been nice to see her have a more pertinent part to play in solving the mystery.
As with the last Christie novel I read, it’s fair to say I thought this one was good, but not amazing. I felt there was a lot of unnecessary chatter and dialogue (which is saying something for a book which is only 200 pages), and overall I was eager for the plot to reach its climax so I could work out what had happened. I definitely did enjoy it, but I think it just needed to be a bit more thrilling.