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The Rose and the Yew Tree

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Rose and Yew Tree First Edition Cover

Dust-jacket illustration of the first UK edition

The Rose and the Yew Tree
is a tragedy novel written by Agatha Christie and first published in the UK by William Heinemann Ltd in November 1948 and in the US by Farrar & Rinehart later in the same year. It is the fourth of six novels Christie published under the nom-de-plume Mary Westmacott.

The novel's titleEdit

The title of the novel is taken from Section V of Little Gidding from T. S. Eliot's Four Quartets. The full line, as quoted in the epigraph to the novel, is:

"The moment of the rose and the moment of the yew-tree
Are of equal duration".

Plot summaryEdit

Hugh Norreys, a self-described “cripple” watches John Gabriel run for parliament from his couch in the small Cornish town of St. Loo. Hugh’s invalid status seems to encourage his visitors to reveal their secrets and emotions. Hugh is mystified by Gabriel, an ugly little man who, nevertheless, is attractive to women. He is also intrigued by Isabella, a beautiful young woman from the castle down the road. So, Hugh and most of St. Loo are shocked when, shortly after Gabriel wins the election, he and Isabella run away together and Gabriel resigns as a member of parliament.

The novel explores love, caring for others, and a gothic tragedy of one woman and the men who love her.

Literary significance and receptionEdit

The Times Literary Supplement's review of 6 November 1948, by Sir Julian Henry Hall concluded, "Miss Westmacott writes crisply and is always lucid. The pattern of the book is too vague at one point – the later stages of the hero’s career – but much material has been skilfully compressed within little more than 200 pages."

Publication historyEdit

  • 1948 William Heinemann Ltd (London), November 1948, Hardback, 224 pp
  • 1948 Farrar & Rinehart (New York), 1948, Hardback, 249 pp
  • 1964 Dell Books, Paperback, 189 pp
  • 1971 Arbor House, Hardback, 249 pp
  • 1974 Fontana Books (Imprint of HarperCollins), Paperback, 192 pp
  • 1978 Ulverscroft Large-print Edition, Hardcover, 358 pp ISBN 0-7089-0180-8

The novel was first serialised in the US in Good Housekeeping in two abridged instalments, carried in the December 1947 and January 1948 issues.

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