Many residents and holidaymakers are well aware of the recuperative properties of the Canary Islands, yet few know of the strong links between the popular novelist, Agatha Christie, and these islands.
Agatha Christie visited the Canary Islands in search of a tranquil and recuperative environment to help her calm a troubled mind. In February 1927, at the age of 36, she visited the Canary Islands to recover from a number of events that had taken place in her life and were having a serious impact upon her mental health. She mysteriously disappeared for eleven days in a ‘fugue state’, a rare psychiatric disorder characterised by amnesia of identity, memories and personality. The state is usually short-lived - sometimes a few hours, but others may suffer for a few days or even longer.
When her first marriage failed, Agatha Christie disappeared from her home and stayed at the Swan Hydro Hotel in Harrogate, under the name of the woman with whom her husband was having an affair. A young journalist, who had used some of the story patterns in her books to deduce her likely moves, finally found her.
Agatha Christie’s mother had recently died after a serious illness, her husband was in love with another woman and Agatha was having serious financial difficulties. Each of these problems, particularly when combined, could be a recipe for, what most of us would call, a mental breakdown. It is this series of events in her personal life that led Agatha Christie to the Canary Islands.
Agatha and her daughter, Rosalind, together with her secretary, Charlotte Fisher, arrived in Tenerife on 4 February 1927. They stayed at the Gran Hotel Taoro in Puerto de la Cruz, which was the best hotel in Tenerife and the centre of the British community. It is believed that in Puerto de la Cruz, Agatha Christie completed one of her novels, ‘The Mystery of the Blue Train’, which sold well and put an end to her financial worries. There is now a bronze bust of Agatha Christie and a street named after her in Puerto de la Cruz.
Having completed her novel, she decided to stay one more week in the Canary Islands to relax. Agatha longed for white sandy beaches rather than a sloping volcanic beach, and on 27 February decided to leave Tenerife and complete the remainder of her holiday in Gran Canaria, before returning to England by steamship on 4 March 1927.
Agatha Christie stayed at the Metropole Hotel in Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, which is opposite the beautiful Santa Catalina beach. Agatha described Las Palmas as the ideal place to go in the winter. Sadly, the Metropole Hotel is no more and is now part of Las Palmas Town Hall, and is where I recently paid my fine for illegal parking! The British Club and their tennis courts were nearby and Agatha Christie began to write ‘The Companion’, included in her collection of short stories, 'The Thirteen Problems', which has strong links to Gran Canaria.
The Canary Islands made a clear impression upon the mind of this prolific author, and feature in a number of her stories such as ‘The Man from the Sea’ in the book,‘ The Mysterious Mr. Quin’, which also takes place on an island.
Agatha Christie was a much-travelled woman who visited Europe, South Africa, Australia, North America and the Middle East. It is a compliment to the Canary Islands that it was in these islands that she found the peace and tranquillity that she was looking for. The last word, and recommendation, must go to Agatha Christie with an extract from ‘The Companion’:
“I had had a breakdown in health and was forced to give up my practice in England and go abroad. I practised in Las Palmas, which is the principal town of Grand Canaria. In many ways I enjoyed the life out there very much. The climate was mild and sunny, there was excellent surf bathing...”
So there we have it. If you are in need of a recuperative break, sun and relaxation, you know where to come!
From 'Expat Survival' by Barrie Mahoney