|Anthony Andrews and Greta Scacchi as Tommy and Tuppence in By the Pricking of My Thumbs (2006)|
I vaguely remember reading this Agatha Christie novel once, quite a few years back, and being surprised that she'd written something without either Poirot or Miss Marple. It didn't snag my interest for very long, possibly because I didn't have a visual to go with the story. Now I do, and I wish to high heaven that some genius had leapt to his/her feet and declared the necessity of a Tommy and Tuppence miniseries! Just a single season, possibly only 4 episodes, but each one casting this brilliant duo of Anthony Andrews and Greta Scacchi.
Now that you've had my prologue (although I confess that Anthony doesn't have nearly enough scenes for a die-hard fangirl like me!), we can move on to the meat of Tommy and Tuppence's relationship.
Most people marry relatively young, as did Tommy and Tuppence. You have adventures together, spend gads of time in each other's company, bear children together, and somehow settle into that daily grind of life where nothing new ever happens. Tommy isn't necessarily a bad husband. He has a job with the British government (my fangirling heart burst knowing that he works at MI6!) and he's away from home most of the time. In fact, it sounds like he's gone for months at a time every now and again, off on some diplomatic errand or other. He leaves Tuppence at home.
Now, that was all right, while they had children to occupy her, but their children are grown and gone now, leading lives of their own. The days stretch longer for Tuppence without her husband, and she starts remembering the times when she and Tommy spent time together, when they actually did a little detective work together in their younger days, when he considered her an equal partner in their marriage. Which, it appears, he doesn't anymore.
|Tommy finding out that the old biddy, Miss Marple, has one of the keenest minds in England!|
Like many husbands, Tommy is actually clueless about his wife's misery. When he's away, he sends her the same postcards that he sends to his aging Aunt Ada. In her mind, that translates to her being of the exact same importance to him as a relation he only sees once every few years. Which is why Tuppence drinks too much, and why she puts herself in harm's way during this case with Miss Marple. She believes that Tommy doesn't care, and she's bored from doing nothing with her life. She's one of those wives who still loves their husbands, but is absolutely certain that his affection for her has faded as she's aged.
|Tommy raising his eyebrows as Miss Marple states that a local couple has a passionless marriage.|
No, Tommy hasn't stopped loving his wife, but he doesn't know how to handle her bouts of alcoholism or her insecurity. He doesn't realize that his words of reproach cause deep, harmful wounds in Tuppence's psyche. He's trying, in his own bumbling way, to help her, but it isn't working. Which is why it takes Tuppence being two seconds away from death to snap him out of his confusion and reawaken the reality that he loves her, deeply, and the last thing he ever wants is to lose her.
Tommy needs to remember that his wife isn't a helpless child. She's the exact same woman she was when he married her, only a little more wrinkly around the eyes and a little less confident than she used to be, a fault we can actually lay right at his doorstep. Remember, though, that Tommy isn't perfect. He isn't a horrific, abusive husband. He's a husband who, in his attempt to shelter Tuppence from troubles, is accidentally stifling her. I think that, possibly, the near-death experience of his wife has actually awakened him to her needs.
|Le sigh. As Tommy and Tuppence realize how much they love and need each other.|
All Tuppence needed was reassurance of her husband's love for her, and a little self-confidence. I'm not such an idealist that I believe this will entirely solve her drinking problem. No, Tuppence is an alcoholic who drinks to drown her sorrows. She will probably drink less, but until Tommy retires from MI6, or unless she finds a productive way to occupy her time, she will still have drinking binges. But at least she is now assured in Tommy's love for her.
I adore happy endings. And this is one of the happiest, when Tommy acknowledges his fear of how he almost lost Tuppence, and she confesses how she thought she'd lost him long ago. It seems that they were both wrong. Tommy just needs to step back and let her help, and also, let her drive her car, which she will now do, which causes another set of delightfully arched eyebrows! No one arches their eyebrows like Anthony Andrews!
Their relationship is a fantastic example of how a marriage can grow stale. I'm not married, would like to be someday, and if the Lord ever brings the right fella along, I'm going to make sure we watch By the Pricking of Our Thumbs at least once a year, as a reminder of how marriages can fall apart, and there, but for the grace of God, go we.
|Look who still kisses like a pro!|
If you get a chance, check out this magnificent Miss Marple episode. It's well worth the effort to track it down. In fact, I'm 98% sure that your local library probably has a copy. Enjoy!
Next up is an Ivanhoe post scheduled for release on 2/10, Monday morning.