The Burden (1956) by Mary Westmacott is a wonderful romance with a touch of mystery and drama and a lot of family dynamics.
The novel follows the protagonist Laura Franklin who is unhappy when her younger sister Shirley is born. She can’t stand the new addition to the family but one night a fire breaks out in the house and she saves her younger sister’s life. After that, Laura becomes very protective to Shirley but finds that the love she has for her sister is obsessive and detrimental to the both of their growths and happiness. Then a man becomes interested in Laura. Can she throw herself into this relationship and give herself and her sister the freedom they need in their lives to find their own ways?
You probably gathered that this book is very psychological and it is. It is a portrait of human emotion and the elements that can make people react how they do. It’s a book about fear of yourself and the world wrapped in a family dynamic and romance story. It shows that being overprotective is not healthy for either but I love the backstory of why Laura is so overprotective of her sister. Everything in this book fits very well and there is no loopholes by the end. There is a touch of mystery to it where not everything is quite as it seems and I thought that was great. I didn’t see that coming at all. I think the pacing and build-up of everything is done very well. I think Westmacott managed to get across both the love between the sisters and the unhealthiness of Laura’s overprotective ways. Finding that balance I can imagine was a tough job and I think she done it very well. The romance element is there but it does very much play a secondary role to the relationship between the sisters.
I also love how there is a lot of debates and sections which are philosophical and deal with morals, religion, emotions and all sorts of issues. That was absolutely fantastic.
This is a great book, a must-read. And if you don’t know it already, Mary Westmacott is the pseudonym of the amazing Agatha Christie who wrote six romance novels under this pseudonym. I think maybe doing this gave her an opportunity to show other sides of her that she couldn’t as Agatha Christie and I’m very glad she did get that chance to because I love these sides of her just as much as her mystery writing.
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