The Burden

The Burden

Dust-jacket illustration of the first UK edition
Author Mary Westmacott (pseudonym of Agatha Christie)
Cover artist Kenneth Farnhill
Country United Kingdom
Language English
Publisher Heinemann
Publication date
12 November 1956
Media type Print (hardback & paperback)
Pages 236 pp (first edition, hardcover)
Preceded by Dead Man's Folly
Followed by 4.50 from Paddington

The Burden is a novel written by Agatha Christie and first published in the UK by Heinemann on 12 November 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 title

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 summary

When Laura Franklin's younger sister Shirley comes into the world, Laura instantly resents her, and soon begins to 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 reception

Siriol Hart's review in the Times Literary Supplement of 7 December 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."[1]

Vernon Johnson reviewed the novel in the 20 November 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".[2]

Publication history


  1. The Times Literary Supplement 7 December 1956 (Page 717)
  2. The Guardian 20 November 1956 (Page 4)
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