Agatha Christie Wiki

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 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 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.


  • Laura Franklin
  • Shirley Franklin

Literary significance and reception

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

  • 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

International titles

  • Swedish: Två systrar (Two sisters), Bördan (The Burden)

Hercule Poirot novels The Mysterious Affair at Styles - The Murder on the Links - The Murder of Roger Ackroyd - The Big Four - The Mystery of the Blue Train -Peril at End House - Lord Edgware Dies - Murder on the Orient Express - Three Act Tragedy - Death in the Clouds - The A.B.C. Murders - Murder in Mesopotamia - Cards on the Table - Dumb Witness - Death on the Nile - Appointment with Death - Hercule Poirot's Christmas - Sad Cypress - One, Two, Buckle My Shoe - Evil Under the Sun - Five Little Pigs - The Hollow - Taken at the Flood - Mrs McGinty's Dead - After the Funeral - Hickory Dickory Dock - Dead Man's Folly - Cat Among the Pigeons - The Clocks - Third Girl - Hallowe'en Party - Elephants Can Remember - Curtain
Miss Marple novels The Murder at the Vicarage - The Body in the Library - The Moving Finger - A Murder is Announced - They do it with Mirrors - A Pocket Full of Rye - 4.50 from Paddington - The Mirror Crack'd from Side to Side - A Caribbean Mystery - At Bertram's Hotel - Nemesis - Sleeping Murder
Tommy and Tuppence novels The Secret Adversary - N or M? - By the Pricking of My Thumbs - Postern of Fate
Superintendent Battle novels The Secret of Chimneys - The Seven Dials Mystery - Cards on the Table - Murder is Easy - Towards Zero
Colonel Race novels The Man in the Brown Suit - Cards on the Table - Death on the Nile - Sparkling Cyanide
Other novels The Sittaford Mystery - Why Didn't They Ask Evans? - And Then There Were None - Death Comes as the End - Sparkling Cyanide - Crooked House - They Came to Baghdad - Destination Unknown - The Pale Horse - Endless Night - Passenger to Frankfurt
Published as Mary Westmacott Giant's Bread - Unfinished Portrait - Absent in the Spring - The Rose and the Yew Tree - A Daughter's a Daughter - The Burden