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BarbaraJean
The Burden | writing as Mary Westmacott, Agatha Christie
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Pickpick

I‘m finally catching up my last few reviews from February. This was the last book I read for the #MaryWestmacottBuddyRead, and while it was worthwhile, I think it was the weakest of the bunch. The Westmacott novels have all been so rich in their character development and examination of human nature, but here, the plot she chose to explore these particular characters didn‘t seem to serve her purposes well. (Cont‘d) ⬇️

BarbaraJean (Cont‘d) Her themes were a bit muddled—and the conclusion even more so. Her insight into human nature was masterful as always, but the plot elements just didn‘t work together coherently for me. This landed as a low “pick” for me. Thank you to @CSeydel and the #westmakittens for this fantastic buddy read! I thoroughly enjoyed reading the Westmacott novels along with the #LMWBR group. 3mo
Ruthiella My least favorite would be Unfinished Portrait, but this one would be a close second. 3mo
34 likes2 comments
blurb
CSeydel
The Burden | writing as Mary Westmacott, Agatha Christie
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CSeydel Here we go again with the “interfering always backfires.” I think she‘s right, but I also think it can be taken too far. 4mo
CSeydel I‘m also interested in what you all thought of the discussion between Llewellyn and Wilding about human nature. Wilding says, “To believe the best of someone is to call the best into being. People respond to one‘s belief in them.” Llewellyn disagrees: “To keep up being what someone expect you to be is to live under a great strain. Too great a strain leads eventually to collapse.” Which do you believe? Can they both be right? (edited) 4mo
Ruthiella Sure, they can both be right. I think everyone needs both, but in different doses and o 100% of one or the other would be harmful. The rehashing of previous themes wearied me a bit in this one, but maybe because we‘ve read them all back to back now. 4mo
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BarbaraJean I appreciate what Christie was trying to do here, but I don't think it was executed well. Her insight into human nature is masterful, but the plot elements just didn't work together coherently for me. I agree with the “interfering always backfires,“ to a point, but wasn't the opposite the problem in A Daughter's a Daughter? I don't think it's a universal rule, and I think Christie knows it. She had a hard time communicating that complexity here. 4mo
BarbaraJean @CSeydel @Ruthiella Yes, I do think Llewellyn and Wilding can both be right about this. It depends a whole lot on who the person is who's being “believed in.“ Some people will rise to the best that is believed of them, others will collapse under the expectations, and still others will resent and therefore want to go against those expectations. I agree about the repetition of themes--but it's also clear this was the first of these novels she wrote! 4mo
quietjenn I agree with what others have said - both can be true to an extent and the balance is the key here, as it is with so many things. Very often, interfering gets you nowhere, but Not Interfering is sometimes easier said than done. I wouldn't say that this book resonated with me particularly. It's probably one of my least favorites and I'm glad it was short. 😅 And I really liked Baldock. 4mo
Librarybelle Yes, I think both can be right about their human nature observations. And, I agree that this one seems to be the weakest of her non-mystery novels. I‘ve not read all of them as of yet - I plan to read those I missed this year! - but this one seemed not as polished, if that makes sense. @BarbaraJean is right that Christie had a hard time communicating the complexity of interference. @CSeydel @Ruthiella @quietjenn 4mo
36 likes8 comments
blurb
CSeydel
The Burden | writing as Mary Westmacott, Agatha Christie
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CSeydel Llewellyn and his visions were so strange to me. I‘m still ruminating on what he represents. I thought the religious overtones of Shirley “paying the price” for Laura‘s sin was discomfiting, but perhaps that was the intention. 4mo
CSeydel In this one she weaves in a religious dimension, using the story of Job to drive home the point that God has God‘s plan and we are really not capable of understanding God‘s priorities and purposes, only human ones. I think her point here is that when we “try to help” we inevitably fail because we only see from our perspective, not that of the recipient of the help. What do you think? 4mo
Ruthiella I think it was in interesting decision to include such a mystical character. I don‘t agree with his interpretation of Laura‘s actions or their results, personally. The story of Job makes me think more of Greek gods, toying with humans for their own amusement. 4mo
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BarbaraJean Other than providing a deus ex machina for Laura at the end of the book, and giving us an outside perspective of Shirley and Richard, I didn't think Llewellyn added much to the novel. I felt that last third of the book would have been better from Shirley or even Richard's perspective. I was troubled by the implications of the religious aspect: both Shirley “paying the price“ for Laura's sin, or our helplessness to understand higher purposes. 4mo
BarbaraJean I think the idea that help/interference is misguided, because we cannot understand another's perspective, isn't well-supported by the narrative. Mainly because I don't think the problem was Laura “helping,“ it was Henry being an ass, and with Richard, it was Shirley not understanding herself or what she needed. Maybe the problem was the plot Christie chose to explore these ideas! Overall, I thought the message was muddled. 4mo
quietjenn It was ... odd? I honestly found the book, overall, a bit disjointed and I definitely was not expecting a televangelist who has had visions of Laura his entire life swooping in to show her what love is! 4mo
CSeydel @BarbaraJean I was thinking of Laura killing Henry as her trying to help Shirley be happy, but it backfired. The premise seemed to me to be that Shirley would have been better off continuing to be unhappy caring for Henry rather than the soft, comfortable life she had with Wilding. It was definitely a hard message to accept. 4mo
CSeydel @quietjenn Definitely threw me for a loop as well. Not sure if it was just a device to allow a 3rd-party, objective view of Shirley‘s later life, but the visions went over my head - I didn‘t understand why that was necessary 4mo
CSeydel @BarbaraJean I agree, the religious angle in this one didn‘t sit well with me either 4mo
Librarybelle I was a bit confused as to Llewellyn‘s purpose. It seems to come out of nowhere, unless you consider Laura‘s prayers at the beginning of the novel. I‘m puzzled why Christie chose a religious discussion - it‘s a little out of character for her novels, at least to me. @CSeydel @Ruthiella @BarbaraJean @quietjenn 4mo
Ruthiella @Librarybelle It seemed out of character to me too. In her mystery novels, the few times spiritualism or the mystical comes up, it is always debunked. 4mo
Librarybelle @Ruthiella Yes! She gives many pages to the religious discussion in this one rather than her mysteries, except maybe Hallowe‘en Party (though I‘ve not read that one yet. I‘ve only seen the new Poirot movie very loosely based on it). 4mo
25 likes12 comments
blurb
CSeydel
The Burden | writing as Mary Westmacott, Agatha Christie
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#westmakittens #LMWBR

Our final selection for the #MaryWestmacottBuddyRead ! Who‘s up for discussion? What did you think? I‘ll put my question under a spoiler tag in case anyone hasn‘t read it yet.

@ruthiella @KathyWheeler @quietjenn @Librarybelle @kspenmoll @BarbaraJean @peanutnine @Roary47 @willaful @batsy @rubyslippersreads

CSeydel Laura longs to be loved throughout the book, and it‘s only at the end that she feels “the burden” settle on her shoulders - the burden of someone else‘s love. Do you think that‘s a fair description of love? How do you think the burden of Laura‘s love ultimately harmed Shirley? 4mo
CSeydel This was not as painful as A Daughter‘s a Daughter, but I still found it a fairly bleak representation of family relationships. 4mo
Ruthiella I think the burden goes both ways: the burden of loving and the responsibility of that care and of being loved and the expectations that come with that. I agree it‘s not as bleak as A Daughter‘s a Daughter, but it comes close. However, I think that many, many humans would see love as a privilege and an honor. I wonder how things would have turned out differently if Laura hadn‘t been saddled with a parental role at such a young age. (edited) 4mo
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BarbaraJean I'm not sure if I agree with this description of love--I think it's problematic as a description of healthy love! I do think it's a fair description when it's an unequal relationship. And honestly, I don't think the novel does a good job of bearing out the “burden of love“ as a thesis. Shirley supposedly bears the burden of Laura's love, but she doesn't seem stifled by it. She does seem stifled under the burden of Richard's love, but ⬇ 4mo
BarbaraJean (Cont'd) I think that burden is due to her own choices & lack of self-knowledge, not Laura's actions. Shirley didn't understand herself well enough to know what she needed when she turned to Richard. Shirley wasn't old enough/experienced enough to gauge Henry's character—I don't think that situation would have turned out any differently regardless of how Laura handled it. And I don't think Shirley would have been better off if Henry had lived! 4mo
willaful Sorry, I couldn't find a copy and participate. :-( 4mo
quietjenn Love is complicated and I do think that, even in the best of relationships, there are times when it can feel burdensome - especially in those moments that it feels unequal, as others have pointed out. But I think that's only a small part of it, and I think to define it just by that quality is an unfortunate and limited view of things. 4mo
Librarybelle This was definitely a bleak representation of family relationships, @CSeydel ! Love as a burden seems to be a pretty strong statement by Christie, but Laura‘s idea of love is a bit shady given what she went through at a young age. @BarbaraJean @quietjenn @Ruthiella 4mo
21 likes8 comments
blurb
CSeydel
The Burden | writing as Mary Westmacott, Agatha Christie
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Happy February, #westmakittens! This month we read the sixth and final Mary Westmacott novel. I haven‘t read this one yet and I‘m looking forward to discussing it with you all. I‘ve really enjoyed reading everyone‘s reviews and the good discussions! Thank you for going on this journey with me.
#MaryWestmacottBuddyRead

Librarybelle Got my copy ready to go! 5mo
CSeydel @Librarybelle Awesome! 5mo
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Ruthiella The last one! 5mo
CSeydel I don‘t know what‘s going on with my tag list 🤔 At first it didn‘t work. Now it looks like it showed up twice? Smh 5mo
CSeydel @Ruthiella Woohoo! 5mo
willaful I don't think I have this one. :-( 5mo
rubyslippersreads Looking forward to this. I‘ve enjoyed them all so much, I‘m going to go back and read any I‘ve missed. 5mo
BarbaraJean Thank you for organizing and leading this! I have enjoyed all of these so much. Looking forward to this final read and discussion! 5mo
40 likes10 comments
blurb
CSeydel
A Daughter's a Daughter | Mary Westmacott
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Happy Saturday #westmakittens! Sorry I‘ve dragged my feet on the discussion for this book. I have to share that I find this one incredibly painful for various reasons. I quite relate to Ann and her preference for self-sacrifice over conflict. Re-reading this book now that I‘m older, it strikes me how many of my worst regrets can be traced back to this tendency.

What about you? What did you see in these characters?
#LMWBR #MaryWestmacottBuddyRead

CSeydel I fiercely hated Sarah and her selfish, bratty behavior. But this time around, reading it as a mother of adult children, I felt more of the blame lay with Richard for forcing a confrontation rather than being patient, and with Ann for not working on Sarah in private to communicate her feelings and try to lessen to conflict or at least get to the real source of it. 5mo
Librarybelle I felt so bad for Ann, sacrificing so much. Sarah and Richard were terrible. They put Ann in a terrible position, and as someone who also tries to keep everyone happy, I can relate to the strain Ann felt as she tried to “referee.” 5mo
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rubyslippersreads @CSeydel Sarah was a brat, but Richard was the adult in the situation and could have behaved better. And Ann was an adult too, and could have communicated better, as you pointed out. An interesting book, but not a comfortable one. 5mo
willaful @CSeydel It was definitely different for me too, reading as the mother of an adult child now. A&R could have done a lot more to defuse the situation.

Personally, I think it was very wrong of Ann to make a sacrifice that she couldn't do without bitterness and anger. It wasn't a reasoned choice, but a desperate one and she really did it more for herself than Sarah, and then took it out on her. For years. (Not that Sarah wasn't cruel & awful.)
5mo
quietjenn If like to think that I couldn't really relate to any of them 😅, although that might be denying my worst tendencies. I think they all handled the situation terribly and deserved some blame. 5mo
Ruthiella Dame Laura! The reader can intuit where the plot is going but is powerless to prevent anything. 5mo
willaful @Ruthiella Yes, Dame Laura is a good audience stand-in. She sees it all but no one listens to her. 5mo
CSeydel @willaful she‘s dead-set against giving advice as well 5mo
BarbaraJean @Ruthiella @willaful Yes, I definitely related to Dame Laura as well. She could see all sides, and the inevitability of how it would play out. @CSeydel What did you think of her determination to NOT give advice? I could see why that was her approach, but it also frustrated me that she was so completely hands-off. I wondered how things would have gone with Ann if Laura hadn‘t been away for so long, and/or if she‘d have offered some direction. 5mo
BarbaraJean I unfortunately related to Ann a lot as well. The avoidance of conflict is strong for me!! But there was more going on there than just avoiding conflict. The lack of self-knowledge/failure to understand each other was universal! Sarah was awful, but her selfishness & lack of consideration for others stemmed from immaturity & inexperience. Neither adult seemed able to see her behavior for what it was. Richard‘s behavior was just as bad as Sarah‘s⤵️ 5mo
BarbaraJean I felt he was more culpable, as an adult who should have considered both the source of Sarah‘s behavior as well as how his own actions were exacerbating the situation. Then Ann needed to take responsibility for the choice she made—recognizing her bitterness and resentment and dealing with it rather than burying herself in the constant social whirl. Which is another kind of avoidance, I guess! 5mo
CSeydel @BarbaraJean Yes, I found myself getting very frustrated with Dame Laura! Even Ann was getting frustrated with her refusal to get involved! I agreed with her general principle about not giving advice - people don‘t want to hear it, even if they think they do - but I wish she had been a little less cryptic with Ann and Sarah when she was sharing her thoughts. Or a lot less. 5mo
CSeydel @BarbaraJean And yes, this time around, I felt much more annoyed with Richard for his lack of patience and perspicacity. 5mo
31 likes14 comments
review
Librarybelle
A Daughter's a Daughter | Mary Westmacott
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Pickpick

This has to be one of the most psychologically manipulative books I‘ve ever read - it‘s a 5 star read for me, yet it feels wrong to say I loved this. The things the characters do to each other in this novel is twisted and heartbreaking. There was one point in the book that I felt an anxiety attack coming on - it‘s that vivid.

Kudos to Christie for crafting such a memorable book. #LMWBR #MaryWestmacottBuddyRead #Westmakittens

Ruthiella Great review. I just finished it today and heartbreaking is right! 💔😢 5mo
Deblovestoread I haven‘t read any of Christie‘s written under a pseudonym. Your review makes it very intriguing. 5mo
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Librarybelle Thanks, @Ruthiella ! I just could not believe the manipulation…and the price paid for it! 5mo
Librarybelle @Deblovestoread They‘re a little different - no murders, of course! - but her dive into humanity and psychology has been quite enjoyable and really spot on. She makes the stories feel so real. 5mo
Librarybelle And, I just realized, this is my #BookSpin for #BookSpinBingo ! @TheAromaofBooks 5mo
TheAromaofBooks Great progress!!! I tried two of her Westmacott books and they didn't work for me. But now you have me wondering if I should try again haha 5mo
Librarybelle @TheAromaofBooks I‘ve liked the Westmacott books I‘ve read so far, but this one is probably my favorite of them. 5mo
Crazeedi @Librarybelle wow, sounds like a book that really gets to you, I'm rather afraid to even try, the stress may be too much right now, lol 5mo
Librarybelle @Crazeedi Some pretty anxious moments for sure! 5mo
CSeydel Great review. This is such a powerful novel. I had read it once before and I have to say, I was a little bit dreading going through all that again. But reading it a second time I‘m seeing different details as well. Heartbreaking 5mo
Librarybelle Thanks, @CSeydel ! I love how Christie‘s works, no matter how many times you may reread one of them, you always find new details missed from prior readings. This one is truly heartbreaking. 5mo
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blurb
willaful
A Daughter's a Daughter | Mary Westmacott
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Wow. Most of the foreign covers for this are on the sentimental/bittersweet side; I particularly like the one showing a couple getting married while a young child kneels forlornly nearby. But this one... dayum. The Daughter Wears Prada?

Like Absent in the Spring, this was a somewhat excruciating read, though ending on a note of hope. It's largely about how people in close relationships can influence each other, for bad or good.

rubyslippersreads I‘m not sure if this cover is supposed to depict Ann‘s frantic social whirl, or Sarah‘s shocking life with Lawrence. 😏 5mo
willaful @rubyslippersreads I was torn as well. 5mo
20 likes3 comments
blurb
CSeydel
A Daughter's a Daughter | Mary Westmacott
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#LMWBR #MaryWestmacottBuddyRead

Hey #westmakittens I have unfortunately been under the weather this week and I don‘t have questions prepared. But I wanted to go ahead and make a post for people to share their thoughts about the book. I found this one a very hard read. What did you think of Ann and Sarah‘s relationship?

Ruthiella Sorry you have been feeling unwell. ❤️ I‘m only 1/4 of the way in, but I‘m afraid for Ann. 😬 (edited) 5mo
CSeydel @Ruthiella you are not wrong to feel afraid. I‘m looking forward to your review when you finish! 5mo
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Librarybelle Hope you feel better soon! I‘m still reading this and will hopefully post my thoughts this weekend! 5mo
quietjenn Sorry you aren't feeling well! Hope you improve soon. I've finished and for sure have Thoughts, but will save since others are still reading. 5mo
willaful I have a feeling this book has lurked in my subconscious for decades, because I have a disabled adult child, which has a large impact on my life, but I try to never let myself to get to the point of resenting her for my choices.

5mo
rubyslippersreads I just finished this, and it struck me that, although Christie is synonymous with murder, some of her Westmacott characters can be as cruel as murderers. 5mo
34 likes2 stack adds7 comments
quote
Librarybelle
A Daughter's a Daughter | Mary Westmacott
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“But at forty-one, one had learned that one‘s whole future was very seldom at stake. Life was far more elastic and resilient than one had once chosen to think.”

As someone who is 41 and has gone through some pretty big things in this past year, this quote really got me. I actually exclaimed aloud! Good old Agatha for once again getting to me! #LMWBR #Westmakittens

IuliaC Very good quote! I'm 41 as well and feel I resonate with it 5mo
Librarybelle @IuliaC ❤️❤️❤️ 5mo
Ruthiella Totally. Perspective really changes as we age. 5mo
62 likes4 comments