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The Burden

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The Burden First Edition Cover 1956

Dust-jacket illustration of the first UK edition

The Burden
is a novel written by Agatha Christie and first published in the UK by Heinemann on November 12, 1956. Initially not published in the US, it was later issued as a paperback by Dell Publishing in September 1963. It was the last of six novels Christie wrote under the nom-de-plume Mary Westmacott.

Explanation of the novel's titleEdit

The title of the novel is taken from Chapter 11, Verse 30 of the Gospel of Matthew. The full line, as quoted in the Epigraph to the novel, is:

"For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light."

Plot summaryEdit

When Laura Franklin's younger sister Shirley comes into the world, Laura instantly resents her, and soon begins wish and even to pray that her baby sister will die. But after saving Shirley's life in a fire, she experiences a complete change of feeling, and becomes very affectionate and protective towards her. Later, as the sisters grow up and fall in love, Laura begins to realise that the burden of her love for Shirley has had a dramatic effect on both their lives.

Literary significance and receptionEdit

Siriol Hart's review in the Times Literary Supplement of December 7, 1956, said, "The Burden is by a writer who has been Mary Westmacott for six books and Agatha Christie for more than anyone can count. In spite of the modern smart trimmings, this seems very much the art of story-telling that would be at home in the most staunchly traditional woman's magazine, where all the problems are resolved when the mousey heroine puts on some lipstick (called, in this case "Fatal Apple"), and finds the love of her life."

Vernon Johnson reviewed the novel in the November 20, 1956, issue of The Guardian when he called it a "fantastical novelette" and quoted several lines from the book in a disparaging fashion, stating that they were examples of "the style and the treatment".

Publication history Edit

  • 1956, Heinemann (London), November 12, 1956, Hardcover, 236 pp
  • 1963, Dell Books (New York), September 1963, Paperback, 223 pp
  • 1973, William Collins and Sons, Hardcover, 192 pp
  • 1973. Arbor House, (New York), Hardcover, 223 pp
  • 1975, Fontana Books (Imprint of HarperCollins), Paperback, 192 pp
  • 1979, Ulverscroft Large-print Edition, Hardcover, 321 pp ISBN 0-7089-0331-2

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